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Are Dream Catchers Bad? History & Facts:
Are dream catchers bad (as in Devil’s Decor)? Or are they just harmless icons? Today, we’re going to discuss the truth about dreamcatchers.
A Native American Symbol:
If we are going to rate the most recognizable Native American symbol, dreamcatchers might be the one. Native Americans see them as a symbol of tradition comprising legends that have been handed down for generations. Some people see them as the symbol of Native American unity. And then, others see them as tacky tourist souvenirs made in China and sold as authentic Native American crafts. At the same time, many Native American tribes have contributed by crafting dreamcatchers from traditional materials.
So to answer our original question (are dream catchers bad?), we’ll have to take a look at what dreamcatchers are, their history, and how people perceive them.
The answer might not be pretty straightforward. But once we get to it, you’ll understand why.
Ojibway tribe of the plains are linked to the inception of dreamcatchers. However, other tribes such as the Chippewa and Lakota have their own versions of the dreamcatcher legend. Outside Native Americans, a scholar named Francis Densmore documented it first.
But what exactly is a dreamcatcher? It’s found in many variations. But essentially, it’s a small circle of wood, tied with sinew or thread to resemble a web with a small hole in the middle. The strings or sinews are tied at several points on the circle, with the number of points on the dreamcatcher having different meanings:
- 13 points – the 13 phases of the moon.
- 8 points – the number of legs on the spider woman of the dreamcatcher legend.
- 7 points – the seven prophecies of the grandfathers.
- 6 points – an eagle or courage.
- 5 points – the star.
There can also be a feather tied to the bottom and beads or animal tokens hanging on the strands. Traditionally, dreamcatchers’ diameter is only a few inches. But now, some variations are anywhere from a few inches to 1 foot across.
How Dreamcatchers Work?
Now let’s talk about the dream-catching part. The legend has it that hanging a dreamcatcher above a bed will catch the bad dreams on the web. But, at the same time, it will let the good dreams through the hole in the middle. Then, in the morning, when the sun rays hit the dreamcatcher, all of the bad dreams will evaporate.
As a symbol of renewed Native American pride, they got traction during the pan-Indian movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Now, you can find them at many locations in the US and Canada.
A similar dreamcatcher legend with a slight twist can be found in all tribes. Here’s one of them:
This legend is about Asibikaashi, the Spider Grandmother, bringing the sun back to the world’s people. After the Ojibway people spread across North America, Asibikaashi swore to continue to take care of the children but couldn’t get to each bed every night. So the tribe women made magic webs and hung them over the cradleboards to trap the bad dreams.
According to this legend, mothers made dreamcatchers to prevent children from waking up with the fear of the bad dreams still in their eyes. It involved weaving a web on a willow hoop while saying sacred words and thinking happy thoughts. Sacred feathers were attached to the centres of these hoops. The idea was that when the good dreams find their way to the centre, they will float down the feathers and sprinkle onto the sleepers. Different types of feathers were used for placing above the beds of boys and girls.
This is the story of an old spiritual leader having a vision. Iktomi, the great teacher and trickster appeared as a spider. He began to weave a web on the old leader’s willow hoop while talking about the cycle of life from infant to old age. And he told the old leader that listening to good ideas will guide him in the right direction and that listening to bad ideas will steer him in the wrong direction.
The old leader there was a hole in the centre because the good ideas will be caught in the web, but the bad ones will go through the hole and not stick as it sifts the dreams and visions of his people.
So, Are Dream Catchers Bad?
Cultural appropriation, particularly when non-Natives profit from selling Native-inspired crafts like Dream Catchers, might be called wrong. However, selling fake items as “genuine Native American” is definitely bad.
Whether dream catchers work or not is debatable. It depends on the individual’s beliefs. But disrespecting someone’s beliefs if you disagree with them is undoubtedly bad. Think about it…