A Symbolic and Historical View of Dream Catcher Meaning
We can thank the Anishinaabe for the original dream catcher meaning. Also known as the Ojibwe, the Anishinaabe are one of the First Nations of Canada. These are amazingly resourceful and vibrant people who established impressive traditions…including powerful symbolic connection with Nature. One of these connections established by this remarkable Native American people is…yep…you guessed it, the dream catcher.
Now, the Anishinaabe were prolific traders. They crafted their dream catchers, and these became highly coveted. Why? Because 1) They were known to have super powerful mojo (more on that later). 2) They were beautiful works of art, meticulously crafted by hand.
Because the Anishinaabe dream catchers were so prized, they caught on like wild-fire within Native trading ceremonies as well as Native-European trades. The dream catcher meaning and legend also spread with the trades, and so dream catchers were adopted and re-created by other Native clans and Europeans alike.
Today, dream catcher meaning has been watered down. In fact, many Native purists might shudder at the ‘New Age’ use of these glorious designs, and cringe a bit at how the dream catcher meaning has been muddled over time.
But, at the end of the day – if we honor and respect the origins of the dream catcher (as well as respect its evolutions over time), we can all benefit from this unique and powerful Native American symbol.
So what’s the story of the dream catcher meaning?
As with every legend, there is no simple answer.
At its core, the dream catcher was originally created for protection against evil spirits and bad dreams. That’s the simple bit.
The Ojibwe-Anishinaabe had a ‘Spider-Spirit’ that was very wise, her name was Asibikaashi. She loved people, especially children, and wanted to help the tribe to feel safe and protected.
When Asibikaashi noticed many tribal children troubled with nightmares, she scurried over to the wisest woman of the clan and shared some big spiritual tips with her.
Spider Spirit Woman told the wise Ojibwe clan-mother to craft a circle from a willow branch and weave horsehair and feathers through the circle. The weave was to imitate the look of a spider-web. Once tenderly crafted, the willow-weave must be hung over sleeping areas of children suffering from bad dreams.
Asibikaashi explained by doing this, evil dreams, spirits, and thoughts would be caught into the horsehair webs…then Bird Spirit energy would fly the baddies away through feather energy, and Horse Spirit would stomp on the bad thoughts too.
As you can guess, dream catcher meaning is closely connected with the original materials used to create it. Here are some basics about the symbolic meaning of Ojibwe dream catcher materials:
Willow: The circle of the dream catcher was traditionally made from a willow branch. Willow is symbolic of protection, flexibility, renewal, and cleansing. Because they grow quickly in wet environments, they represent making the most of soggy situations. Get more on willow tree meaning here.
Horsehair: The horse is a symbol of freedom, energy, power, and provision. They were essential in helping humans commute, hunt, win wars, etc. They were considered strong totems of progress and were highly honored. Get more about horse meanings here.
Feathers: As clothes for birds, feathers represent our fine friends of the skies. This means they are symbolic of the heavens, the celestial. They are the energy of the Great Spirits. Get more about the symbolic meaning of feathers here.
Combine all these elements, and you have an energetic power-punch of good energy. Plus, the spider and her energy is the guardian of the dream catcher. She is the one who catches the bad dreams in her web, and she is the one who granted this beautiful spiritual device to assist in protecting us all from night terrors and tortures of the mind.
On a far more grand theme, dream catcher meaning is a profound symbol of the inter-connectivity of all life. What? Yeah! Consider the following elements of the dream catcher as a deeper understanding of its deep relevance:
Circle: The circle is a symbol of community, tribe, wholeness, health, unity. It is a wholesome symbol that also represents protection. Get more about symbolic circle meaning here.
Web: The spider web of the dream catcher is also a symbol of the connection of physical, spiritual – earth, and heaven. It is a mirror image of the paths all life cross through our journey on earth, and also to the afterlife.
I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts about dream catcher meaning. Of course, this is just a snapshot. You will find tons more information about the dream catcher in your library or consult experts in Native American wisdom. Of course, the internet is always a resource..but please double-check what you find, because information varies wildly (and is not always accurate).
Thanks so much to Tom Coldwind for helping me with this article. He is an active historian of the Algonquin peoples, who have been allied with the Ojibwe-Anishinaabe for centuries.
And thanks, as always, to all of you for reading!
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