These days everyone "knows" what a dream catcher is. It's that hoop with webbing and feathers that people use to decorate their homes or put on their keychains. Actually it is a Native American craft with meaning attached to its existence and all its parts. If you would like to own an personalized version of this Native American protective symbol, we'll be creating dream catchers at the Downtown Main Library in the Creation Station on Saturday, December 14 at 3:00PM. Your dream catcher can be traditional or more of a holiday decoration.
All the sources consulted believe or claim that dream catchers originated with the Ojibwa tribe, also known s Chippewa and calling themselves Anishinaabe. The belief that the Ojibwa originally created the dream catcher is based on the similarity between the web design of the dream catcher and the webbing the Ojibwa used for their snowshoes. Dream catchers moved from that tribe to other tribes, such as the Lakota, through trade and marriages.
The Ojibwa considered spiders to be a symbol of comfort and protection. Their original legend of the dream catcher talks of "Spider Woman" or Asibikaashe, a maternal figure who takes care of her children and the people of the land. At one time all the Ojibwa were in one area and it was easy for her to watch over them but then the Ojibwa dispersed and so she created the first dream catcher. The female relatives of babies were encouraged to weave the magical webs to help her watch over the children.
The Lakota legend of the dream catcher is somewhat different. Iktomi, the trickster and searcher for wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider to a Lakota spiritual leader. Iktomi spoke to the elder about the cycles of life and while he did he began to spin a web on the willow hoop the elder had with him. Iktomi said there are many forces, some good and some bad. He finished the web and told the spiritual leader to use the web to help his people make good use of their dreams, visions, and ideas. The web will filter good ideas and trap bad ones. The elder passed his vision on to his people.
Traditional dream catcher hoops measure just a few inches across and are made of red willow wrapped in sinew. Red willow signifies the eastern direction and the mind. The circle stands for Mother Earth and the cycle of life. The web imitates a spider's web and the circle in the center is the heart where good dreams and visions are filtered through. Bad dreams get caught in the webbing of the dream catcher and the light of day destroys these bad dreams.
The feathers are like ladders allowing the good dreams to descend to the sleeper. Owl feathers signify wisdom and are regarded as female while Eagle feathers denote courage and are considered male. Today, these features may may only be used by registered Native Americans in religious ceremonies, not for the creation of dream catchers. Beads may symbolize Spider Woman or good dreams that have become sacred charms.
A number of resources, both paper and digital, on the native peoples of the Americas exist at the Abilene Public Library. The collection includes several books on the Ojibwa people. The Ojibwa Indians by Bill Lund, The Ojibwa by Helen Hornbeck Tanner, The Ojibwa by Raymond Bial in paper format and The Sacred Harvest by Gordon Regguinti in electronic format in the library collection among others.
Please join us as we honor the Native American tradition of the dream catcher on Saturday, December 14 at 3;00PM.
Article Contributed by Marie Skufca, Information Services Librarian