What Is a Dreamcatcher and What Does it Mean?

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When people shop for souvenir dreamcatchers, they usually rely on color, design, and size preference. However, dreamcatchers are more than just a beautiful object to hang in your home. They hold great significance to the Native Americans and are viewed by some as protective amulets.

The design of the dreamcatcher, its number of points made from tied-together strings or sinews, represent different histories and various strokes of luck. Let’s take a look at what a dreamcatcher does and what it symbolizes.

History Of ‘Catching’ Dreams

Dreamcatchers are regarded as good luck charms everywhere in the world, and are thought to literally catch nightmares, only letting positive dreams enter the subconscious mind of a sleeping person.

The tradition of hanging up webbed dreamcatchers originated from Native Americans. It’s difficult to find a reservation in the U.S. or in Canada that doesn’t have dreamcatchers all around, but different tribes have different accounts of the lucky dreamcatcher’s legend.

  • Ojibway Spider Woman Legend

According to the Ojibway, a spider woman named Asibikaashi wanted to continue caring for the children of the tribe despite the gentrification of America. She told the older women of the tribe that she couldn’t possibly watch over every bed each night.

To help Asibikaashi, the women of the tribe wove magic webs to symbolize the spider woman and her protection. Just as she trapped insects and bad omens in her sticky web, the dreamcatcher webs trap negative dreams and thoughts overnight, which are thought to perish when the sun finally shines upon the dreamcatcher every morning.

  • Lakota Dream Legend

Meanwhile, the Lakota believed that one of their old, spiritual leaders had a dream where the great teacher Iktomi appeared as a spider. In this curious vision, Iktomi took some willow and began spinning a web as he discussed the cycle of life – from infancy to old age.

According to the seance, he showed the spiritual leader how the web was a perfect circle, but with a hole in the center. Iktomi allegedly told him that good ideas will be caught in the web, while the bad ones will slide right through the hole in the middle.

dream catcher

Dreamcatchers staged a major comeback in the reclamation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, as a symbol of renewed pride for Native Americans despite the continent changing by the minute. It’s also associated with the New Age movement, and became popular as a spiritual symbol.

Meaning and Symbolism of Dreamcatchers

Despite the stark difference between the legends of the dreamcatcher’s origin, the central idea behind the use of dreamcatchers as a lucky charm is consistent: it wards off negativity and retains the positive to achieve peace of mind.

The dreamcatcher also represents unconditional love, as it is usually made and given by someone who deeply cares about another. Even in Game of Thrones, Lady Catelyn Stark wove her own version of the lucky dreamcatcher to hang over the sickbed of her youngest child, Bran Stark.

Over the course of history, dreamcatchers have always been a symbol of someone caring enough to pray and wish for your protection. Even though dreamcatchers have become commercialized and many don’t know its significance, Native Americans have worked hard to preserve what it really means in their culture.

Every part of a traditional dreamcatcher contains meaning.

  • Round frame – symbolizes the never-ending flow of life, since a circle doesn’t have a beginning or an end. It also signifies Mother Earth and everything in it that sustains life
  • The web – represents the spider’s web that filters the bad and lets the good right through.
  • Amulet/bead – certain types of dreamcatchers contain beads in between the webs or an amulet right in the middle. These are thought to contain the prayers and well wishes of the person giving the dreamcatcher

As mentioned earlier, even the number of points created by the interlocking of strings or sinews in dreamcatchers are said to hold special meaning:

  • 5 points – the lucky star
  • 6 points – represents an eagle, which in turn symbolizes courage
  • 7 points – the grandfathers’ seven prophecies
  • 8 points – represents the number of legs in the spider legends
  • 13 points – the phases of the moon, which is also considered a symbol of protectionism and safety in the dark night

Regardless of the number of points in dreamcatchers, though, they are said to symbolize the following values:

  • Good energy – Native Americans believed the air contains both good and bad energy, and dreamcatchers can act as some sort of ‘filter’ to boost the good energy and hamper the bad.
  • Protection from harm – As discussed earlier, all the legends agree that dreamcatchers provide protection to the person whose bed it is hung over.
  • Mother Earth’s good graces – Native Americans have an incredible affinity with nature, so owning a dreamcatcher is thought to put you on the good side of the Earth, especially with one that directly came from the hands of a Native.

Dreamcatchers in Jewelry and Fashion

Because of its fascinating history and magnificent symbolism, dreamcatchers have made their way not just into homes, but even to people’s jewelry and fashion. Dreamcatchers make meaningful gifts, especially if the receiver understands the significance of the symbol.

Necklaces with dreamcatcher pendants are a staple in most souvenir shops in the U.S. and the rest of the world, and so are dreamcatcher earrings. Some are made from precious metal like silver or even stainless steel, while others are more traditional, using actual threads and amulets. These tend to have a bohemian, rustic look and are ideal if you want to dress down.

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Last update was on: October 18, 2021 11:41 pm

Bohemian dresses and shirts also incorporate the design and symbolism of dreamcatchers. Aside from the lucky symbolism, dreamcatchers make wonderful patterned designs that are fashionable to wear, even for those who don’t believe in its symbolism.

Some Frequently Asked Questions About Dreamcatchers

How do you make a dreamcatcher?

If you’re somewhat artsy, making your own dreamcatcher is a nice way to create a symbolic and meaningful object that’s also highly decorative. This video is a step-by-step guide on how to make a dreamcatcher. Turns out it’s much easier than it looks.

Are dreamcatchers good luck?

For some people, dreamcatchers represent good luck and are believed to ward of bad energy, replacing it with good energy.

Where do you hang a dreamcatcher?

Because these objects are meant to protect you from bad dreams, it makes sense to hang them near your bed. Some people hang dreamcatchers in their car and workspaces. However, if you’re not superstitious and you simply want the dreamcatcher as a beautiful, decorative motif, you can hang it wherever you prefer.

Is it bad to throw away a dreamcatcher?

For the superstitious, throwing away a dreamcatcher will bring bad luck and release the bad dreams that have been caught in the dreamcatcher. They believe its best to dispose of the dreamcatcher in a respectful way.

Can a dreamcatcher become full of bad dreams?

Some believe that a dreamcatcher can become full of bad dreams to the point that it will become clogged and stop protecting the sleeper. Again, if you’re not superstitious, this won’t be an issue. If you are, you might want to clear the dreamcatcher of the bad dreams.

In Brief

Native American legends have consistently depicted dreamcatchers as a symbol of good, positive energy. To this day, elders are known to weave their young ones a dreamcatcher or two to protect them from bad dreams and negative energies in the air while they sleep.

Needless to say, anyone who receives a dreamcatcher is considered lucky for having someone care about them so much to actively hope they are protected all the time, even when they’re asleep.