January 29th, 2018 Last Updated on: July 18th, 2021
In many Native American tribes, a dream catcher is a handmade willow hoop woven to a web or literally, a net. They can include feathers and beads, and they're traditionally suspended on cradles as a form of armor and protection.
Dream catchers can be traced back to the Ojibwes. The Ojibwe people started the phenomenon and over time, they were adopted by other tribes, cultures and even nations. This adoption was made possible through the process of either intermarriage, trade, or both. Dream catchers became widely adopted by Native Americans in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of the Pan-Indian movement.
In this post, we'll cover the history, meaning and symbolism of the dream catcher, the legend of the Spider Woman, plus the different types of hoop designs, beads, feathers, and tons more!
Related Article – How to Make a Dream Catcher
Dream catchers are considered as a symbol of oneness among numerous indigenous cultures and regions. It is also seen to be a general indication of Native American identity. However, some Native Americans see dream catchers to be misused and offensively exploited by non-Native Americans.
History & Origin of the Dream Catcher
It is believed that dream catchers originated with Asibaikaashi who was known as the Spider Woman. She was a custodian of all the infants and the adults. It became a difficult task for her to take enough care of all the Ojibwe people as they started spreading geographically even to the hooks and crannies of North America.
The women were in charge of weaving the magical webs for the infants. The women made this possible by using willow hoops and sinew to weave them. The children were provided with charms as a medium of protection. These charms hung above the children's beds to catch any bad dreams or other harm that might be present.
Dream Catcher Meaning
Each part of the dream catcher had meanings tied to the physical world. One notable meaning is the dream catcher has a round shape that represents the earth's spherical character.
The web absorbs bad dreams at night and discharges them during the day. The feathers act like ladders allowing good dreams to descend on the infant or adult who is sleeping.
While dream catchers have become widely popular phenomena outside the Ojibwe indigenous people, and even extended beyond the Pan-Indian communities, there are multiple types of dream catchers. When one takes a good look at these dream catchers, you can still see that they bear some resemblance to the traditional ones—even the ones with feathers.
However, these resemblances are few and far between. There is still a sizable gap between originals and modern ones. These new styles are made, sold, and exhibited by the modern era which is considered, by some, to be a violation of the culture, beliefs, and traditions attached to the traditional dream catchers.
This has made it very daunting to find authentic dream catchers with real beads and feathers. In recent times, they have been said to be more American than Native American. They are made of cheap materials, and usually oversized.
More recently, dream catchers are being used as a shared symbol of hope and healing. For instance, the Little Thunderbirds Drum and Dance Troupe from the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota have traveled to other schools that have experienced loss and school shooting and gifted them with a dream catcher. The dream catcher has now been passed from Red Lake to students at Columbine, Colorado; Sandy Hook, Marysville; Marysville, Washington; Townville, South Carolina; and Parkland, Florida.
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