|All Natural Dream Catcher with Beaded Green Leaves by Tiny Tipis|
According to Wikipedia dream catchers originated with the Sioux Nation but spread among the other nations to represent many things. They have also been said to have originated from the Chippewa tribe (also Ojibwe or Annishnabe). Some tribes considered them to be a symbol of unity between peaceful nations while others thought of it as protection from night terrors. Still, present day popularity presents a challenge for the Native American dream catcher as certain people consider it too commercialized.
The legends surrounding dream catchers vary greatly from tribe to tribe. According to Soul Tones:
"An ancient Chippewa tradition
The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played
Hung above the cradle board
Or in the lodge up high
The dream net catches bad dreams
While good dreams slip on by
Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread
Good dreams slip through the center hole
While you dream upon your bed."
"A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother. Each day, Nokomis watched the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in. "Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing at the spider. He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered, "don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?" asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life. He said to her, "For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift."
He smiled his special spider smile and moved away, spinning as he went.
Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window. "See how I spin?" he said. "See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web."
Most tribes have similar variations of these legends. The reason for the name dream catcher is apparent in the legends as the spider's web catches only the bad dreams but lets the good dreams float on by. The heart-warming qualities that make people love them can be seen in the nurturing side that personifies the spider as a gracious and kind being.
When dream catchers originally started being made the Natives didn't have access to glass beads, metal hoops and the likes so they would use what nature provided. Willow branches were the most common since they were so easy to bend into a circle. The original dream catchers were all natural and as a result they broke down over time. Modern dream catchers use manufactured materials for cost reasons, to extend the life expectancy, and also because it is easier to produce a consistent product. These man made material products lack the feel of a real dream catcher even though they may be more visually appealing to the consumer in some cases.
Dream Catchers symbolize many different things to people. The legends that surround them and the meanings are almost as varied in history as they are today. Each person must find the meaning that fits them best for we are each as unique as the dream catchers that catch our dreams.