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Origin of the Dream Catcher

Updated on May 27, 2012

The dream catcher has long been a part of Native American culture. According to several legends, they were originally, designed as protection from bad dreams. They captured bad dreams and allowed only pleasant ones to filter through. It was also supposed to teach the natural wisdom of nature.

Dream catchers today are made by many Indian Nations but were first designed and used by the Ojibwe, also called Ojibwa, Ojibwayor, Chippewa or Chippeway. In earlier times they were known as the “Anishnabe,” who inhabited the Great Lakes region. An Anishnabe story tells how the dream catcher came to be.

At one time their people were being tormented by nightmares. Many elders and medicine men tried to solve the problem, but failed. A council was called during which an elder had a vision of a spider's web in a circular hoop with feathers and beads attached. It was supposed to capture bad dreams, while letting good ones pass through to the feather and navigate its way down to the sleeping recipient.

The tribe commenced fashioning the object described by the elder. When they were finished and used as prescribed by the elder’s vision, the bad dreams went away. It’s thought stories about the dream catcher spread quickly to neighboring tribes and eventually became a part of their culture as well. Some Native Americans revere the hoop, because it symbolized strength and unity.

In the beginning they were constructed by weaving sinew strands into a web around a small round or tear shaped bent wood frame, usually on twigs of red willow. Some are wrapped with leather. It’s said all bad dreams would get caught in it. The dream catcher was to be hung above a sleeping person’s bed, preferably where it would catch the morning sun. The bad dreams caught in the web would then be destroyed by the light. Often a semi-precious gemstone would be added. Only one, since there is only one creator.

Another legend comes from long ago the Lakota, when an old Lakota spiritual leader had a vision on top of a high mountain. In his vision, a spider appeared and began talking to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, the spider picked up the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, beads and other offerings on it, and began to spin a web ion it. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, explaining there were good and evil forces in life. Listen to the good and ignore the evil was the spider's message.

When the wise spider finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, “This is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. If you believe in the Great Spirit, it will sift your good thoughts and the bad ones will be trapped.

Today, people buy and make dream catchers practically everywhere. They are seen in many places, like on people’s porches, hanging from rearview mirrors or as miniature ear rings. There are even those who elect to have one tattooed on their body. However, if you decide to buy one, beware. Some are mass produced by sweatshops in some far off corner of the world and cheaply made…basically knockoffs of the real McCoy.

There are good instructions on how to make your own dream catcher at:


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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted awesome. What a nice hub. Thank you for giving the legend to us all.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      It's good to know you found it helpful.

    • Matthew Maktub profile image

      Matthew Foreman 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Interesting information. I bought a dream catcher a few years back when i was driving through Arizona, its been above my bed ever since. Glad to finally know the origin and meanings.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      galleryofgrace, thanks for commenting.

    • galleryofgrace profile image

      galleryofgrace 5 years ago from Virginia

      Wonderful information. Thanks a lot. I've made many of these myself, they never seem to go out of style.