Friday, October 18, 2019

The History of Dream Catchers ~ by Kristine Raymond

When I moved to Arizona in the early 90s, one of the first things that captivated me, aside from the glorious expanse of blue sky and feeling of openess, was the Native American influence that infused every shop and roadside stall.  Now, I know what you're thinking; what did I expect relocating to that part of the country?  Truthfully, I hadn't given it much thought.  All I knew of the region I'd gleaned from watching T.V. westerns and reading historical romance novels.  Neither had prepared me for the wonders I discovered.

Visit any tourist shop in the Southwest and you'll find the same items - turquoise rings, bracelets, earrings, and bolo ties; Kachinas in varying sizes; colorful, hand-loomed rugs; and dream catchers.  It was this last item that sparked my interest.  Aside from their beauty, the meaning behind them captivated me.

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According to belief, Asibikaashi ('Spider Woman'), as she was known by the Ojibwa Chippewa tribe, was a spiritual protector of both adults and young children and babies.  As the tribe spread across the nation, Asibikaashi instructed grandmothers and mothers to weave webs made of willow and sinew to protect their loved ones from harm.  Feathers, beads, and other embellishments were added to further enhance the web's apotropaic magic.

©Deposit photos
It wasn't until the 1970s that the name 'dream catcher' became mainstream, appearing in non-Native media.  By the early 90s, around the time I made my trek west, they were considered one of the most popular and marketable craft items available; though oversized and made of plastic and synthetic fabrics, they bore little resemblance to the hand-crafted charms of the Ojibwa. 

The most accepted meaning of the dreamcatcher's shape is that the round circle represents the earth and moon, although makes reference to the hoop representing the sun.  The web's eight connections to the circle symbolize a spider's legs, and the feathers are thought to allow good dreams to float gently to the sleeping individual while any bad dreams get caught in the web, evaporating like dew when the morning sun hits them.

©Deposit photos

While many believe that the dreamcatchers of today are a violation of the culture, beliefs, and traditions of Native Americans, I must admit - I still find them charming.


Julie Lence said...

I love Dream Catchers and have 4 in my bedroom and 2 in the laundry room. They add class to that space.

Alicia Haney said...

Thank you so very much for this very interesting and informative post. We have had a dream catcher for a long time, and it is very pretty, it was given to us as a gift. I have read things on dream catchers and all is good about them. I didn't know about the legs of the spider were represented by the connections, that is really interesting and it makes sense. Thank you so much for sharing your information. Have a Great weekend. God Bless you.

Kristine Raymond said...

Julie, at least you know your laundry won't have bad dreams 😉 I agree with you, though; they pretty up a room nicely!

Thanks for your comment, Alicia. I love learning about the origins of different customs and why they're important. So much is commercialized these days - it's nice to go back to the beginning. You have a wonderful weekend, as well ❤