Dream Catcher Legend; Ojibwe Dream Catcher History
Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were
all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island.
This is the way that the old Ojibwe storytellers say how Asibikaashi
(Spider Woman) helped Wanabozhoo bring giizis (sun) back to the
people. To this day, Asibikaashi will build her special lodge before
dawn. If you are awake at dawn, as you should be, look for her lodge
and you will see this miracle of how she captured the sunrise as
the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there.
Asibikaasi took care of her children, the people of the land, and
she continues to do so to this day. When the Ojibwe Nation dispersed
to the four corners of North America, to fill a prophecy, Asibikaashi
had a difficult time making her journey to all those cradle boards,
so the mothers, sisters, & Nokomis (grandmothers) took up the
practice of weaving the magical webs for the new babies using willow
hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. It is in the shape
of a circle to represent how giizis travels each day across the
sky. The dream catcher will filter out all the bad bawedjigewin
(dreams) & allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds
when we are just abinooji. You will see a small hole in the center
of each dream catcher where those good bawadjige may come through.
With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams would perish. When
we see little asibikaashi, we should not fear her, but instead respect
and protect her. In honor of their origin, the number of points
where the web connected to the hoop numbered 8 for Spider Woman's
eight legs or 7 for the Seven Prophecies.
It was traditional to put a feather in the center of the dream
catcher; it means breath, or air. It is essential for life. A baby
watching the air playing with the feather on her cradleboard was
entertained while also being given a lesson on the importance of
good air. This lesson comes forward in the way that the feather
of the owl is kept for wisdom (a woman's feather) & the eagle
feather is kept for courage (a man's feather). This is not to say
that the use of each is restricted by gender, but that to use the
feather each is aware of the gender properties she/he is invoking.
(Indian people, in general, are very specific about gender roles
and identity.) The use of gem stones, as we do in the ones we make
for sale, is not something that was done by the old ones. Government
laws have forbidden the sale of feathers from our sacred birds,
so using four gem stones, to represent the four directions, and
the stones used by western nations were substituted by us. The woven
dream catchers of adults do not use feathers.
Dream catchers made of willow and sinew are for children, and they
are not meant to last. Eventually the willow dries out and the tension
of the sinew collapses the dream catcher. That's supposed to happen.
It belies the temporary-ness of youth. Adults should use dream catchers
of woven fiber which is made up to reflect their adult "dreams."
It is also customary in many parts of Canada and the Northeastern
U.S. to have the dream catchers be a tear-drop/snow shoe shape.