Native American Technology and Art

A Three-Part FAQ on Dream Catchers
July 26, 1995 submission to the soc.culture.native Newsgroup
by Jim Shupe

Application and Purpose

Origins of the Dream Catcher

There was a time in Anishnabe history when the people were being tormented by nightmares. The elders and "medicine people" all tried to solve this problem on their own, but not a one made progress against the dreams; so a council or all the people was called. During this council one elder had a vision of a spider's web in a hoop with a feather and bead attached that would catch the bad dreams while letting good dreams pass through. The elders went to work fashioning dream catchers in the manner prescribed by the vision and when the people started using them, the bad dreams went away. ...Anishnabe as remembered by WayaGola

Application and Purpose of the Dream Catcher

The dream catcher is hung above a sleeping area in a place where the morning light can hit it. The nature of the Dream Catcher will attract all sorts of dreams to its webs. When bad dreams come, they do not know the way through the web and get caught in the webbing where the first light of day causes them to melt away and perish. The good dreams knowing the way go through the center of the web and slide down the feather to the sleeper below. ...Anishnabe as remembered by WayaGola

I have also been taught that the web catches bad/unimportant dreams and allows the good/important dreams to come through the middle and slide down the feather into the sleeper's head. Bad dreams are malicious in intent, or simply unimportant fleeting images. Bad dreams may be very disturbing, but still have a very important message for the dreamer, so that the dream catcher doesn't necessarily get rid of bad dreams in the sense of nightmares, but bad dreams in the sense of distracting dreams that have no significance or meaning to the dreamer. I have also been told that they were always hung on cradleboards. ...Cary Miller

I have often seen many people driving down the Highway with a dream catcher attached to the rearview mirror. Although the dream catcher is very pretty, the place for it is in a bedroom or over a bed, not a moving vehicle (unless a baby carriage). Please stay alert when you drive!! ...Charles P. Whitecoyote

Structure of the Dream Catcher

The dream catcher is fashioned from a hoop of red willow with a webbing of animal sinue which takes the form of a web (like a spider's web). Attached at the bottom of the loop are a bead (usually seed or carved wood) and a feather. ...Anishnabe as remembered by WayaGola

They must be made with all natural materials - the hoop should be made with willow, preferably red willow. The web should have at least seven points for the seven grandfathers, and may have other numbers with various meanings - 13 for the moons, 28 for the lunar month. ...Cary Miller

Also, the traditional Dream Catchers are only 3 to 5 inches across. Webs that are 2 to 6 feet (I actually saw a 6 footer at a truck stop!) are beyond the scope of tradition. ...Charles P. Whitecoyote

Origin of the Dream Catcher

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