Legend of the Dream Catcher
have always had many meaning to Native Americans.
One of the old traditions
was to hang a dream catcher in their homes. They believe that the night
air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher, when hung,
moves freely in the air and catches the dreams as they float by. The good
dreams know the way and slip through the center hole and slide down off
the soft feather so gently the sleeper below sometimes hardly knows he
is dreaming. The bad dreams, not knowing the way, get entangled in the
webbing and perish with the first light of the new day.
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) and 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 woven dream catchers of adults do not
The Legend of the DreamCatcher
spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the
sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother.
Each day, Nokomis watched
the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching
him, her grandson came in. "Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing
at the spider. He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went
to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered,
"don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?"
asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer.
When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for
saving his life. He said to her, "For many days you have watched
me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving
my life, I will give you a gift." He smiled his special spider smile
and moved away, spinning as he went. Soon the moon glistened on a magical
silvery web moving gently in the window. "See how I spin?" he
said. "See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good
dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it
so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become
hopelessly entangled in the web.
of the DreamCatcher
ago when the word was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high
mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster
and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke
to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up
the elder's willow hoop which had feathers,horsehair, beads and offerings
on it, and began to spin a web.
He spoke to the elder about
the cycles of life; how we begin our lives as infants, move on through
childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must
be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. "But", Iktomi
said as he continued to spin his web, "in each time of life there
are many forces; some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces,
they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the
bad forces, they'll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you.
So these forces can help, or can interfere with the harmony of Nature."
While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.
When Iktomi finished speaking,
he gave the elder the web and said, "The web is a perfect circle
with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their
goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe
in the great spirit, the web will catch your good ideas and the bad ones
will go through the hole." The elder passed on his vision to the
people and now many Indian people hang a dream catcher above their bed
to sift their dreams and visions. The good is captured in the web of life
and carried with the people, but the evil in their dreams drops through
the hole in the center of the web and is no longer a part of their lives.
It's said that the dream catcher holds the destiny of the future.
The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played.
Hung above the cradle board,
Or in the lodge up high,
The dream net catches bad dreams,
While good dreams slip on by.
Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread.
Good dreams slip through the center hole,
While you dream upon your bed.
This is an ancient legend,
Since dreams will never cease,
Hang this dream net above your bed,
Dream on, and be at peace.