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Understanding the Dream Catcher Legend

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Understanding the Dream Catcher Legend

Post  MISPLACEDBUCKEYE on Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:18 pm

Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.

The dream catcher has been a part of Native American culture for generations. One element of Native American dream catcher relates to the tradition of the hoop. Some Native Americans of North America held the hoop in the highest esteem, because it symbolized strength and unity. Many symbols started around the hoop, and one of these symbols is the dream catcher.

Dream Catcher Lore:

Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher when hung over or near your bed swinging freely in the air, catches the dreams as they flow by. The good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming. The bad dreams not knowing the way get tangled in the dream catcher and perish with the first light of the new day.


How the Dream Catcher is made:

Using a hoop of willow, and decorating it with findings, bits and pieces of everyday life, (feathers, arrow heads, beads, etc) the dream catcher is believed to have the power to catch all of a person's dreams, trapping the bad ones, and letting only the good dreams pass through the dream catcher.

Dreamcatchers originated with the Ojibwe people and were later adopted by some neighboring nations through intermarriage and trade. It wasn't until the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, that they were adopted by Native Americans of a number of different nations. Some consider the dreamcatcher a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures. However, many other Native Americans have come to see dreamcatchers as over-commercialized, offensively misappropriated and misused by non-Natives.[3]

The Ojibwe people have an ancient legend about the origin of the dreamcatcher. Storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. The dreamcatchers would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter our mind. Once the sun rises, all bad dreams just disappear.[4] American ethnographer Frances Densmore writes in her book Chippewa Customs (1929, republished 1979, pg. 113):

Even infants were provided with protective charms. Examples of these are the "spiderwebs" hung on the hoop of a cradle board. These articles consisted of wooden hoops about 3½ inches in diameter filled with an imitation of a spider's web made of fine yarn, usually dyed red. In old times this netting was made of nettle fiber. Two spider webs were usually hung on the hoop, and it was said that they "caught any harm that might be in the air as a spider's web catches and holds whatever comes in contact with it."

Traditionally, the Ojibwe construct dreamcatchers by tying sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame of willow (in a way roughly similar to their method for making snowshoe webbing). The resulting "dream-catcher", hung above the bed, is used as a charm to protect sleeping people, usually children, from nightmares.

The Ojibwe believe that a dreamcatcher changes a person's dreams. According to Konrad J. Kaweczynski, "Only good dreams would be allowed to filter through… Bad dreams would stay in the net, disappearing with the light of day."[5] Good dreams would pass through and slide down the feathers to the sleeper.

Another explanation of Lakota origin, "Nightmares pass through the holes and out of the window. The good dreams are trapped in the web, and then slide down the feathers to the sleeping person."[5]
Dreamcatcher Parts

When dreamcatchers were originally made, the Ojibwe people used willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. The shape of the dreamcatcher is a circle because it represents how giizis- the sun, moon, month- travel each day across the sky.[6] There is meaning to every part of the dreamcatcher from the hoop to the beads embedded in the webbing.[7]
Popularization

In the course of becoming popular outside of the Ojibwa Nation, and then outside of the pan-Indian communities, various types of "dreamcatchers," many of which bear little resemblance to the traditional styles, are now made, exhibited, and sold by New age groups and individuals. According to Philip Jenkins, this is considered by many traditional Native peoples and their supporters to be an undesirable form of cultural appropriation.[8]

The official portrait of Ralph Klein, former Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta and whose wife Colleen Klein is Métis, incorporates a dreamcatcher.[9]

The idea of a dream catcher was used by Margaret Salinger, daughter of J. D. Salinger, in her book of memoirs about her father, Dream Catcher: A M
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