Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Dreamcatcher Origin and Fun Facts

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Everyone has come across a dreamcatcher some time or the other. It has been very popular recently as a home décor accessory. But, not many know the huge history and legend behind dreamcatcher origin.

Dreamcatcher has traveled across a lot of regions around the world and has evolved in its way. After reading this article, you will know about the history and all the tits and bits about the dreamcatcher’s origin.


Where Did Dreamcatcher Come from?

As the concept of dreamcatcher spread in different regions, every tribe has its legend about it. The native Americans started making dreamcatchers, but it is believed that mainly it was started by the Anishinaabe, also known as Ojibwe Tribe. However, people are also bewildered about whether Lakota Tribe or Ojibwe tribe started the concept.

Grandmother spider woman
Credits- Lauren Raine/Wikimedia. Copyright @1998

The Ojibwe Tribe legends say that they had a lady known as “spider woman” who used to look after them as a guardian angel, especially the kids of the tribe. But as their population grew, they spread all across North America, so it was difficult for her to look after all of them. That is how dreamcatcher was invented; she made it to protect all of them.

The Lakota Tribe has a different folktale for it. It says that a spiritual leader of the tribe was on a mountain, then he had a vision. In the vision, he saw Iktomi in the form of a spider and started weaving the web from a red willow hoop that had feathers and beads, etc. During the process of weaving, he was telling the importance to the leader. He said it would protect their people from the bad forces that hinder people’s goals or dreams.

Dreamcatcher Origin
Credits- Durova/Wikimedia. Copyright @2009

The artifacts found from Ojibwe people are more like the spider webs, while the one found from the Lakota tribe is more like the modern-day. The first artifact of the dreamcatcher was collected in Minnesota, which had a spiderweb-like structure. Intermarriages are believed to be the reason for this, so different types of their skills mixed, and new versions of dreamcatcher were made. So, it is not possible to track who made the first dreamcatcher.

The anthropologists like Frances Densmore, who were dedicated throughout her life learning about different Native American cultures, said they couldn’t find a natural dreamcatcher easily because all the parts were made from natural products, traditionally dreamcatchers always consist of leather covering the hoop and natural feathers, and they would rot after some time if not used. The closest one can get to an original early dreamcatcher is a rope, twine, or sinew.


Expansion of Dreamcatcher

Native American Indian
Credits-Boston Public Library/Unsplash. Copyright @2020

During the 1960s and 1970s, the dreamcatcher was adopted in the Pan-Indian Movement in a secondary form to represent Native Americans or as a symbol of unity among Native American culture. This was when all the indigenous cultures kept dreamcatcher as their symbol showing their unity and cultural stability, and dreamcatcher was widely accepted across nations.

It extended in the western culture during the late 20th century when the dreamcatcher was said to be a “Native craft item” by their media. Different cultures also adopted it through intermarriages and trade.


Purpose of Dreamcatcher

The spider inspired the traditional dreamcatcher structure, and each tribe of Native American dreamcatchers had its own relation to spiders.

Both Ojibwe and Lakota Tribes have their importance and purpose of dreamcatcher related to spiders.

The Ojibwe Tribe

In Ojibwe Mythology, the spider symbolized patience and endurance. The “spider woman” known as Asibikaashi teaches people weaving and agriculture and is believed to protect the innocent and maintain peace in the tribe. She weaved the dreamcatcher, sometimes called “Sacred Hoops,” similar to the spider’s web. The bad dreams could not pass through the web, and good dreams would travel down through the feathers.

Dreamcatcher on baby cradle
Credits- Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin/Wikipedia. Copyright

Many anthropologists also see that mothers of the tribe would have a cradleboard to carry them easily. And they would weave small dreamcatchers to hang it on the board. It was believed not to let any negative energy reach the child. The child’s umbilical cord was also not cut after birth, and it was hung on the boards with the dreamcatcher, as they believed that removing the cord early will lead to the loss of wisdom of the child.

A wooden hoop carved in the shape of a snake was also retrieved, worn by warriors on the head to protect their scalp lock.  The indigenous tribe did not cut their hair because they believed it was sacred and had spiritual powers.


The Lakota Tribe

In Lakota mythology, a creature called “Iktomi” was believed to be a trickster and used to be mischievous. Though he was mostly seen as a human, he was seen in a spider form when he talked about the dreamcatcher. He said that there are both good and bad forces present during the cycles of life that interfere with nature’s harmony. So, with the help of dreamcatcher, the people of the Lakota tribe could protect their dreams and focus on their goals without being distracted.

Lakota Tribe family tipi
Credits- Wellcome collection/Wikimedia. Copyrights @2014

The Lakota people used to hang the dreamcatchers in their family tipi like a vision board. They used to attach their future hopes as what they wanted to be in the future, and the visual board would serve as a visual reminder to their future.


How is the Dreamcatcher Made: The Importance of Each Part

Typical Dreamcatcher
Credits- Frosty Ilze/Unsplash. Copyrights @2021
  1. Spider Web- The dreamcatcher is traditionally woven in the form of a spider web, inspired by the spider’s web. Many animals are considered sacred among the Native American culture, as they believe that animals are their teachers of life. Spider has a special place among the sacred animals is considered, and its web symbolized the cycle of life, infinite possibilities of creation.
  2. Beads-There are different kinds of stones or gems between the web, which represents spiders, and the spiders showed different personalities of different weavers. The beads were also sometimes believed to be a storage for the good dreams that stuck in between the path.
  3. The circle-The main body is in the shape of a circle, which symbolizes the circle of life that goes on, and there is no ending or beginning. Lots of stories of the Ojibwe tribe describes life and how it is related to the circle. There is a hole in the web center, which acts as a filter for good dreams to pass through.
  4. Feathers-The feathers hang down from the main body, assumed to be a path for good dreams or choices to descend to the person sleeping.
  5. Placement- A dreamcatcher is kept near the bed and somewhere where sunlight can hit it so that the next morning the nightmares can be burned by the sunlight.

Evolution of Dreamcatcher

In the late 20th century, the dreamcatcher was introduced to western culture. Since then, people have thought of it as a part of nice décor. Few people also believe that it helps absorbing good vibes in the house. The modern-day dreamcatcher is comparatively larger and also made up of cheaper, manufactured products. It is made prettier and is added with a lot of colorful elements to make it more eye-pleasing. Hence, making it more difficult for one to find an original dreamcatcher.

Dreamcatcher Tattoo
Credits- alleideen/alleideen. Copyrights @2019

It is used for various aesthetics as an inspiration like tattoos and jewelry to express protection. During the pan-Indian movement, native Americans and American Indians were considered a symbol of their tribe and unity among them.

An ascended, framed Dreamcatcher is held by the students of the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. It is a memorial for students who died and survived the Red lake shootings. They travel to different schools, share experiences and gift them dreamcatchers.

The artist, Nick Huard, is a true descendant of the native American tribe. Growing up, he spent his whole childhood in the tribe, so he knows how to make original ways to make a dreamcatcher. He exhibited in Paris and has a permanent museum in Montreal. One of the famous works is the “Blue Beaver,” and every dreamcatcher structure has its different meaning has been presented in his latest book on dreamcatcher. The blue beaver represents the past, future, and present.


Cultural Appropriation

The rate of product sales of dreamcatcher has increased a lot in the home décor and accessories genre. This has also led to various controversies revolving around the topic of cultural appropriation. Some people believe that having anything related to one’s culture by a non-native is cultural appropriation. If asked, there are different opinions by the natives; some believe it is not offensive, while some say it is.

The design of the dreamcatcher was said to be made by native American tribes, so legal issues were raised as the native American Indians claimed it to be their original art. Few native dreamcatcher makers say that it is not a sacred item; people use to have positive vibes in their house or have good dreams. And also, some natives think it is a positive thing that their culture is being spread globally.

Dreamcatcher as Home décor
Credits- Desti Nursinta/Unsplash. Copyrights @2020

They should have proper knowledge of whether something could be used in a way that non-natives are using it or not. He should also make sure not to use illegal feathers, which could result in legal problems. If someone wants to make a dreamcatcher himself, he should always honor mother earth’s “spider woman” who protects the earth and strive to protect her too.

It is okay to like any part of a culture and adopt it in your life, but one should be careful and respect the real meaning behind it.

To check out more such historical fun facts, click here.

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