Friday, September 5, 2014

Relics 'n' Cultures : The Dreamcatcher

Try to imagine a small ethnic shop in your town, maybe in a not frequented area. While you’re inside you find yourself in front of various trinkets, but one particular thing attracts your attention. A circle made ​​of light wood, a web and plenty of colorful dangling feathers and beads. You feel attracted to that object, to the point of buying it without thinking too much. That's why more than half of the world's population have one of these in the house, even if you don’t belong to one of the oldest cultures in history.

Noone can deny that the Dreamcatcher is well known all around the globe, and there isn’t only one story behind its creation. Native American had different version, according to their different populations, but everybody knows its power: they use a special wood, very flexible, to create a circle that represents the universe and interlace inside a net, like a cobweb, which has to catch and keep all the dreams that the children have. If positive, the dreamcatcher will entrust them to the pearls (the force of nature), and the dream will surely come true. If there is a Nightmare, it will be handed over to the feathers of a bird, which will take them far away, dispersing all these negative thought in the sky. Although today is widespread among all Indians of North America, it is believed the first dreamcatcher was made  in the lands of the Oneida. Then it would have spread among the other native tribes with variations and enrichments.

According to Cheyenne Tribes,  long before the arrival of the white man, in a village there lived a little girl whose name was Fresh Cloud. One day the girl said to her mother, Last Breath of Night: "When night falls, a black bird often comes to feed, picking pieces of my body and eating until you arrive, light as the wind and threw it away. But I do not understand all of this. " With great maternal love Last Breath of Night reassured the little saying, "The things you see at night are called dreams, and the black bird that arrives is only a shadow that comes to your rescue". Cloud fresh replied, "But I'm so afraid , I would only see white shadows that are good. " Then the wise mother  knew in her heart it would be unfair not to listen to his child’ fear, so she invented a web “to fish the dreams in the lake of the night”, then she gave it a magical power: to recognize the good dreams, that are those useful for the spiritual growth of her child, from the bad, meaningless and misleading. Last Breath of Night built many dreamcatcher and hung them all around the small village. As the children grew up, their dream catchers became adorned with objects from their loved ones in order to empower the magic power, making it grew with them ... Every Cheyenne retains his catcher throughout his life, as a sacred object carrier of strength and wisdom.


According to the Dakota cultures, an old Dakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher 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 WAKAN TANKA, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass. The elder passed on his vision onto the people and now many Indian people have a dreamcatcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good will pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The evil in their dreams are captured in the web, where they perish in the light of the morning sun. It is said the dreamcatcher holds the destiny of the future.

The last legend (the Ojibwe one)  has a lot in common with the Dakota interpretation. In fact, storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. The dreamcatchers would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter our mind. Once the sun rises, all bad dreams just disappear. American ethnographer Frances Densmore writes in her book Chippewa Customs: “Even infants were provided with protective charms. Examples of these are the "spiderwebs" hung on the hoop of a cradle board. These articles consisted of wooden hoops about 3½ inches in diameter filled with an imitation of a spider's web made of fine yarn, usually dyed red. In old times this netting was made of nettle fiber. Two spider webs were usually hung on the hoop, and it was said that they "caught any harm that might be in the air as a spider's web catches and holds whatever comes in contact with it."
Traditionally, the Ojibwe construct dreamcatchers by tying sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame of willow (in a way roughly similar to their method for making snowshoe webbing). The resulting "dream-catcher", hung above the bed, is used as a charm to protect sleeping people, usually children, from nightmares. The Ojibwe believe that a dreamcatcher changes a person's dreams, just like the other tribes . According to Konrad J. Kaweczynski, "Only good dreams would be allowed to filter through… Bad dreams would stay in the net, disappearing with the light of day."
Native American Tales are always amazing pieces of an ancient tradition, involving Gods and Nature. And maybe that’s why people (I’m now including myself because I have one of those) have a dreamcatcher, even a little one. KEEP CALM AND HAVE SWEET DREAMS.

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