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Although dreamcatchers have been around for many years, they have become more popular in recent times and are regularly seen hanging in people’s homes, gardens and porches, as well as from trees.
A dreamcatcher comes in many different sizes, patterns and colors. Traditionally, a dreamcatcher is made up of a hoop that is covered in a web-type netting and has colorful feathers and beads hanging down from the hoop.
A genuine, authentic dreamcatcher is handcrafted and made from 100% natural materials. Originally, dreamcatchers used red willow branches to make the hoop, yarn for the web, real feathers from wildlife, and handcrafted beads.
It is believed that the dreamcatcher originated from Native American tribes in the Ojibwe and Lakota regions. Traditionally, spiders are considered to be insects that many people and cultures are scared of, but people from Ojibwe considered them to be protectors.
One legend that has been shared over the years tells the story of a Spider Woman who was once the spiritual protector of her tribe and took special care of the young. As her tribe from Ojibwe expanded and grew, the people spread out across the land and the Spider Woman could no longer look after all of them. This gave her the idea to create the first-ever dreamcatcher to protect the children when she wasn’t there. The tradition was passed down the generations, and the women continued to make and hang the dreamcatchers, believing it would protect their children.
Dreamcatchers protect people from bad dreams. When they are hung up high, it is believed the web catches the bad dreams and thoughts, letting only the good dreams make their way to anyone below. The bad dreams are then burned and destroyed by the sun during the day. People still believe this to be true today, and children and adults alike sleep with a dreamcatcher above their bed.
The shape of the dreamcatcher is no coincidence and has a meaning related to the natural world. The circle shape represents the moon to catch the bad dreams at night and the sun to destroy them in daylight.
The hanging feathers allow the good dreams to escape softly and gently to whoever is sleeping below, while the beads have two meanings, depending on which legend you believe. Some say the beads are not the good dreams that couldn’t get through the web; instead, they say they are sacred charms. Others believe the beads are a symbol of the spider.
Today, dreamcatchers can be bought in stores around the world. Many are large and made of plastic and unnatural materials and are used more as decorations or home accessories. It is still possible to buy authentic, real dreamcatchers, but those who want the real thing will have to shop around and go to stores that specialize in real Native American craft.
Dreamcatchers can also be found on jewelry and clothing. The Ring-Spun Cotton Dream Catcher T-Shirt comes in a variety of different sizes and dreamcatcher colors. It is made of heavy, high-quality cotton and features a traditional dreamcatcher design on the front.
In Minnesota, the dreamcatcher is used to represent hope and healing by a dance troupe from the Red Lake Indian Area in Minnesota. The group used the symbol to express their feelings and experiences in relation to the Red Lake shootings in 2005. The group have since shared their stories with other students who have suffered similar trauma and gifted these groups with a dreamcatcher.
As the dreamcatcher legends have been passed down the generations, the beliefs have changed and evolved. In Lakota culture, dreamcatchers are believed to represent "the web of life" and life’s good and bad. They believe the dreamcatcher can catch the bad from society and release only the good, allowing people to live good and rewarding lives.
While no one can deny that dreamcatchers are beautiful and intricate works of art, some sellers have sold what they said were genuine Native American catchers, but they had actually been made locally. This resulted in the Indian Arts and Crafts Act being passed by Congress in 1990, making it illegal to claim anything had been handcrafted by Native Americans unless it was indeed made by Native Americans.
Many people today appreciate and value the dreamcatcher and respect and honor its history and meaning.