Whether you make your own, purchase a ready-made one, or receive one as a gift, you must put your own thoughts and energy into a dreamcatcher. It is then that the essence of the dreamcatcher becomes your own spiritual tool.
The traditional dreamcatcher has a basic design and concept. Creator gave the task of weaving the world for the first people to live in to Grandmother Spider. This is represented in the dreamcatcher by placing a bead in the web, usually on the right side, which represents Grandmother Spider. Smaller beads, or other finds (such as arrowheads for warrior spirit) can be woven into the web also. They have their own special meaning to the weaver or the person receiving the dreamcatcher.
Hanging from leather strips on the bottom of the dreamcatcher are feathers, often with beads at the top of each feather. The type of feather used has significant meaning.
Eagle feathers are considered sacred pieces of spirit, a reflection of a vision. They represent freedom and courage. Eagle is the Protector and Carrier of prayers, an Emissary to and from Creator. Falcon assists in soul healing and accompanies the soul to the soul world. Hawk is the Great Messenger and observer of the sky. Owl represents departed souls and can bring wisdom from the Ancestors. So the choice of feathers will play a very meaningful and symbolic part of the dreamcatcher. It is important to know and remember that there are certain feathers, like the Eagle feathers, that can only be owned and used by Native American tribal members — this is a federal law.
There are two versions of the dreamcatcher legend. The Ojibwe believe that dreams come from the spirit world, through the dreamcatcher. The good dreams pass through the center hole and slide down the feathers to the dreamer. The bad dreams get caught up in the web and fade away in the morning sunlight. The Lakota believe that good dreams are caught by the web and are carried with the dreamcatcher’s owner for the rest of his or her days. Bad dreams, however, pass through the hole in the center as completely harmless. With either version, one must believe in the purpose of the dreamcatcher for it to work properly.
Dreamcatcher Legend (Ojibwe)
According to Ojibwe legend, long ago, Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) brought the sun back to the sky each day. However, as the Ojibwe Nation spread to the ends of Earth, her task became more laborious and Spider Woman began to find it difficult to make the trek for all of her people. Rather, she directed mothers, sisters, and grandmothers to weave magical webs for new babies using hoops made from willow twigs. These hoops were called dreamcatchers and they would allow only pleasant dreams to enter the babies’ minds as they slept.
The circle of the hoops represents the sun. The web’s connection with the hoops in eight places represents the eight legs of Spider Woman. When the web only connects in seven places, this represents the Seven Prophecies (a prophecy marking the seven epochs of Turtle Island, North America). Feathers in the center of the dreamcatcher represent the spirit (breath) and life. Adults kept a feather in their possession rather than on their dreamcatcher.
The Ojibwe believe that a dreamcatcher filters a person’s dreams. Bad dreams are caught in the web, to be burned away by the morning sun, while good dreams are guided through a small hole in the center, and then to the feathers and into the sleeper’s head.
Dreamcatcher Legend (Lakota)
Long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.
As he spoke, Iktomi took the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life — how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of like infants, completing the cycle.
“But,” Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, “in each time of life there are many forces — some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But if you listen to the bad forces, they will hurt you and steer you in the wrong direction.”
He continued by saying that there are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the Great Spirit and all of His wonderful teachings.
All the while Iktomi spoke, he continued to weave his web starting from the outside and working towards the center.
When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the Lakota elder the web and explained that the web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. The web is to be seen as a way to help yourself and your people to reach goals and make use of ideas, dreams and visions. Iktomi told the elder that if one believed in Great Spirit, the web will catch the good ideas — and the bad ones will go through the hole.
The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Sioux Indians use the dream catcher as the web of their life.
It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.
The good in their dreams are captured in the web of life and carried with them. But the evil in their dreams escapes through the hole in the center of the web and are no longer a part of them. They believe that the dream catcher holds the destiny of their future.
Having a dreamcatcher in the home is comforting and a lovely piece of Native American artwork.