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What are Dream Catchers?

Dream catcher.
Dream catcher over a woman's bed.
Dream catchers are important in Native American culture.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2014
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Dream catchers are based on the Native American tradition of hanging a symbolic web over a sleeping person to protect him or her from bad dreams. They consist of a circular wooden hoop containing a handcrafted web design with a center hole. The bottom of the hoop features two or more dangling feathers. Hung above the dreamer, the web filters dreams from the night air, letting only the good dreams or important messages through.

There are many beautiful legends tracing the origin of dream catchers, which can have a bearing on how one works. The Lakota, for example, believe good dreams are caught to become part of the web of life, while the bad dreams slip through the center hole. The Navajo, Ojibwe and Chippewa legends hold that the web catches the bad dreams, preventing them from passing into dreamtime, while the good dreams slip through the center. In these legends, morning sunlight purifies the web of bad dreams. Children's versions, fashioned with the latter legends in mind, have a feather at the center hole so that the good dreams can slip down the feather into dreamtime.

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Traditional dream catchers have eight points where the web attaches to the circular hoop, representing the eight legs of the spider. The spider is symbolic of female creative energy, wisdom and learning. In Native American culture, It is particularly important to hang one of these hoops over cribs in order to protect babies from bad dreams or "bad air" (bad energy). They are made of all natural willow hoops and sinew webs, and are not intended to last. By the time the child is grown, it is customarily replaced with a new one for his or her next cycle of life.

Though the idea of dreams has been stressed in these devices, their ultimate meaning appears to be broader. The Lakota legend holds, for example, that during the course of a lifetime, many forces come into play that can block awareness of the Great Spirit. Faith in the Great Spirit causes the dream catcher to hold not only good dreams, but also good visions, ideas, and opportunities to help people achieve their ideals and goals. These hoops are not just for sleeping, therefore, but are totems believed by some to concentrate good energy and neutralize negative energy.

Today, dream catchers have been adopted and popularized in Western culture as New Age tools and decorative objects. They can be found online and in specialty gift shops.

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anon351030
Post 15

I make dream catchers myself. I have given many children dream catchers and they have all told me that they no longer have nightmares. When given to others, I always include a card with the story of the dream catcher. This story should be read to the child or whoever, so the person will know what the dream catcher is really about. I also bless all my dream catchers and other items with sage.

anon347840
Post 14

I have been selling dream catchers for over 12 years now. Customers tell me ofter just how wonderfully the dreamcatchers work. I have never had anyone complain about them not working.

anon320111
Post 13

Has anyone heard of a stand or older to make dream catchers with?

giddion
Post 12
I am most familiar with the feather and wooden hoops. I was surprised to find some beaded dream catchers in a gift shop.

They were gorgeous! Each one had a color scheme, and my favorite was the purple, orange, yellow, and white one.

The beads were all over the dream catcher. Instead of feathers, strings of beads hung down, and the hoop was encased with them. Even the web was strung with beads.

shell4life
Post 11
I don't know how easy dream catchers are to make, but it seems like the process would be rather complicated. Weaving the web would be a challenge for me.

I have one that a friend gave me that has strips of leather all around the hoop. Is this a common way of wrapping dream catcher hoops?

seag47
Post 10
@kylee07drg – Yes, I know how you feel. The black feathers on my dream catcher came apart after many years, and fluff went everywhere. I had a sneezing fit!

You might want to see if you can buy a dream catcher with artificial feathers. I'm not sure if this would affect how it works or not, but if they are available to buy, it could be worth a shot. Obviously, you are not going to get very much sleep or very many dreams of any kind if you are sneezing all night long.

kylee07drg
Post 9
I did not know all this about dream catchers and their legend. All I had ever heard was that they were supposed to keep your bad dreams away.

I have one, but I'm afraid to hang it up in my bedroom because of my allergies. I can't be around big feathers without sneezing.

anon178964
Post 8

I have a dream catcher and it's huge. i have it hanging up on my celling in my bedroom, so when i lie down, it's on top of me. Are these things really weird because i got told by a lot of people that it is true and so the internet also told me too. I'm freaking out because i had a dream and it was of my boyfriend but like i could see what was happening so i don't know what to do.

anon136918
Post 7

I use Red Dogweed or waxweed and have gotten many compliments on how beautiful they look.

anon127774
Post 6

it really works.

anon116024
Post 5

I got a dream catcher when I was 10 and I still have it today. --Anonymouse

anon104374
Post 4

@skayleah: I never use metal hoops. Willow hoops can last for years, if prepared correctly, although it is much more time-intensive than ready-made hoops.

Willow is preferred because it is quite flexible. Soak your willow strips in water for a few days, then form your circle and tie it in a round circle. Set aside to dry completely for a couple weeks until it is completely dried (longer when possible).

Note: The willow must form as perfect a circle as possible in order for your weave to turn out best (this is very important for round hoop dream catchers).

Next, in a very well ventilated area, and never near flames, spray the willow circle with clear polyurethane and let dry 24 hours (available anywhere paint is sold). This will preserve and protect your willow from rotting, usually for years, unless your willow was still wet or already rotting.

Once a dreamcatcher collapses, it should be buried with respect in the woods (your yard will do). Remember, it has been long absorbing negative energy. Good luck, and enjoy!

anon24678
Post 2

I have a comment for skayleah. When dreamcatchers were originally made by the Indians they used the materials that were available to them at that moment in time or that they were GUIDED to use. Because everything, Everything, in our universe was derived from one infinite source, I believe you should let your own spirit guide you to the proper materials to use in your dreamcatcher, and follow methods you can find in any source of instruction to make the perfect one for your gift.

skayleah
Post 1

Hi! I would like to make a dream catcher for my mother for Christmas but I want to make one as real as I can and not an imitation. I have read that you can make the hoop out of red willow but that is for a child as the willow will give out at some point. What do you use to make the hoop for the second life cycle, or something that will last? Are there any other tips you can give me to keep it as authentic as possible? Never made one before. Thank you for your help! Tanya :)

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