In the simplest terms - a dream catcher is here to catch bad dreams but these intricate feathered hoops actually have a lot more going on. Originating from Native American cultures, the dream catcher serves as a powerful protective talisman, hanging above the bed and stopping any bad air or bad dreams that want to seep in. Here, we take a closer look at all there is to know about dream catchers - exploring the history, the symbolism, and all the bright and burning questions you may have.
Native American Dream Catchers: Origins and History
Dream catchers have long played a part in Native American culture and they are considered to be talismans and charms that protect from bad energy. This isn’t even just reduced to when you are sleeping. Different cultures do have their own slightly different meaning behind the dream catcher - some tribes believe the web captures bad energy and filters the good through, whereas others believe the reverse of that to be true. Either way, all elements of the dream catcher play a role and they share the same meaning of protection against evil influences.
The dream catcher is believed to originate from the Ojibwe Tribe. It would be called an Asibikaashi which translates to ‘spider’. According to a local legend, it was believed that the Spider Woman named Asibikaashi was responsible for all the people in the tribe. But as the tribe branched out across the land - it became tricky for the Spider Woman to keep watch over everyone. To protect and keep the tribe safe no matter how far they roamed, she enlisted the help of the Ojibwe women to help weave dream catchers that could hang over the beds and keep bad energy out.
The Lakota Tribe also have a history with dream catchers only their legend and lore are a little different. It is believed that the leader of the Lakota Tribe had a vision and in this vision, a great trickster and teacher by the name of Iktomi took the form of a spider and began to weave a web over the leader’s willow hoop - all while talking of the good and bad forces that danced through life. When Iktomi had finished weaving, there was a web with a hole in the middle and it was believed that the bad ideas would fall through the hole while the good ideas would get caught in the web. The leader took this vision back to their people and the dream catcher came to fruition.
Dream catchers tend to be used to capture bad dreams and negative energies while you sleep. When we sleep we may be more vulnerable or susceptible to soaking up the energies that are present in the air. The dream catcher acts as a filter for this.
What Do Dream Catchers Look Like?
Visions of dream catchers can be found everywhere - from tiny trinkets on market stalls to tattoo designs, many cultures now find the circular frame, feathers, and decorative details a familiar sight. Dream catchers may vary in style but all share similar qualities and each of these forms hold its own unique meaning. Many dream catchers tend to have a circular frame or wooden hoop with thread webbing in the middle. The dream catcher also may be adorned with beads, feathers, and other details. Traditionally dream catchers would be relatively simple whereas today, you find dream catchers in a variety of rainbow shades and with lots of extra detail. We take a look at each aspect of the dream catcher and explore the symbolism of every magic part.
Dream Catchers: Symbolism
The main job of a dream catcher is to protect the sleeper from harm and to filter through good energy while leaving the bad energy caught in the webbing. As it was believed that good energy and bad energy and dreams could be found in the air, it makes sense that these talismans would be hung above cots and beds to keep those sleeping soft and safe from negative visions and vibes. Understanding the symbolism behind dream catchers is an important part of cultural appreciation, recognizing, honoring the origins, and respecting the legends.
The frame or the hoop of the dream catcher is always a circle and this represents the circle of life and is a symbol of unity. It also represents the moon and the sun and how they move across the sky in an endless circle. Circles are a continuous loop and the center of everything.
The web is another integral part of the dream catcher as this is what does the heavy lifting. The web is woven in a way that represents a spider’s web and it has a similar purpose - to trap unwanted things with a circle in the middle to let the good pass through.
The meaning of beads woven into the design of the dream catcher can change depending on different interpretations from cultural tribes. Some believe that the number of beads has significance - a singular bead can pay homage to the ‘spider’ that spun the web whereas several beads in the web can be a physical representation of good dreams that failed to pass through but instead have been crystallized into sacred charms.
A feather dream catcher is a beautiful sight but rather than just being an adornment, the feathers actually bring their own purpose to the party. The long light feathers are believed to help good dreams gently slide down and enter the mind of the sleeper.
Number of Web Points
The number of web points also holds symbolism. Nothing is random when it comes to the careful design of the dream catcher. If your dream catcher has 5 points it represents a star, 6 points represents an eagle and courage, 7 points pay homage to the 7 prophecies, 8 points celebrate and honor the spider woman - a sacred figure for the Ojibwe tribe. 13 points acknowledge the 13 phases of the moon.
How Do You Use a Dream Catcher?
First of all, consider carefully where you get your dream catcher from. To truly honor and celebrate the deeply spiritual and protective work of the dream catcher you should purchase yours from an authentic Native American source.
A dream catcher should be hung above the bed (preferably above the pillow area) as this makes it easier for dreams to filter through and either be caught or sent through to your mind. As dream catchers do the work of trapping bad energy this means that they should be cleansed and cleared on a regular basis. You can energetically cleanse your dream catcher by using sage or another favorite herb for smudging. You can also use a microfiber cloth and a smidge of water if you want to give it a clean. Its recommended that you cleanse your dream catcher every couple of months to ensure it has plenty of space for snatching away those dark energies.
Dream Catcher FAQ
What does a dream catcher actually do?
Dream catchers are protective talismans that hang above the bed and capture bad dreams and energies before they get to you. They usually have a hole in the middle so they can filter the good dreams down and let them pass through.
Is it OK to have a dream catcher?
Dream catchers have become commercialized over the past few decades and some may see them as a symbol of cultural appropriation. However, if you make the effort to buy your dream catcher from an authentic Native American source, it can be a good way of honoring the culture and true meaning and supporting Native American craftsmanship.
Do dream catchers protect you?
Yes, dream catchers are designed to protect you from bad energy and bad dreams while you are sleeping. They let the good energy filter through and tangle the bad vibes on the web. When the first rays of light come, these bad vibes diminish.
What is the spiritual meaning of a dream catcher?
The spiritual meaning of the dream catcher is protection. It acts as a talisman while you are sleeping and can collect bad thoughts and dreams before they enter your subconscious.
Dream catchers have been commercialized and mass-produced as home decor items in recent history but by understanding the symbolism and purchasing dream catchers from Native American sources, you can honor the authentic meaning behind these talismans.