All About Dreamcatchers: From the Legendary Origins, the Stunning, Ethereal, Complex Construction, to How to Choose the Best Location

“In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.” ~Albus Dumbledore

Nightmares, vivid dreams, and sleep paralysis have been an ongoing battle for me since childhood. Recently, a friend recalled I mentioned this and thoughtfully gifted me a dreamcatcher to hopefully alleviate these at times disruptive sleep experiences. Quality sleep is crucial to maintaining wellness and is a good self-care practice to master. Oftentimes, sleep is sacrificed or not prioritized because of our fast paced, busy lives. Growing up, my grandmother used to humorously utter “I will sleep when I am dead”. Sleep is a very curious experience that we know the effects it has on our physical, mental, emotional states, but we don’t actually know why our body rejuvenates in that specific way or how we came to learn that we needed sleep. Me being me, upon receiving a gift of a dreamcatcher, I of course had to research all about dreamcatchers- the history, construction, uses, where to put them, etc. As it turns out, there is a lot more to a dreamcatcher than just a lovely decoration fabled to keep away bad dreams from the dreamer. Keep reading to learn more about these ethereal, legendary objects.

Native American Legends about Dreamcatchers

Ojibwe Legend: dreamcatchers trap bad dreams

A grandmother watched patiently each day as a spider spun his web above her sleeping place until one day her grandson noticed the spider and tried to kill it.

“Don’t hurt him,” she told the boy in a soft tone, surprising him. “But grandmother, you should not protect this spider.”

When the grandson left, the spider thanked the woman for her protection and offered her a gift. “I will spin you a web that hangs between you and the moon so that when you dream, it will snare the bad thoughts and keep them from you.”

Lakota Legend: dreamcatchers trap good dreams

While receiving a spiritual vision high on a mountain, a Lakota leader met Iktomi, a trickster with great wisdom. Appearing in the form of a spider, Iktomi made a hoop of willow and spun a web inside of it. He told the Lakota man that many forces, both bright and dark would attempt to enter peoples’ dreams and that the dream catcher he was making would catch the light forces and allow the dark ones to slip away and burn up. Iktomi instructed the old man to make dreamcatchers for his people so they could all achieve a bright future by capturing the good dreams that are blown about by the winds of the night.

Components of a Dreamcatcher

The Hoop

The round hoop that serves as the frame is the first identifiable characteristic of dreamcatchers. The round shape represents the circle of life. It signifies that life is constantly going round in a circle, without any real beginning or end. Circles are also the center of everything. Dreamcatchers were originally made from red willow wood, which was extremely pliable. Modern versions may be made from other pliable materials.

The Web

The web created within the frame is the second identifiable feature of dreamcatchers. The web is in the same pattern as a spider’s web. The spider’s web pattern is significant for two reasons. One it is a tribute to the spider women who is also the spiritual protector of the Ojibwe tribe. Secondly, it is intended to serve the same purpose as a spider web, which is to trap unwanted things. The circle in the center of the web is considered the dreamcatcher’s heart. It allows good dreams and visions to pass through. The web is made with either thread or wool.

Beads

Dreamcatchers have one or more beads woven into the web pattern. There are various interpretations about the significance of the beads. Most believe that when a single bead is used it represents the spider that spun the web. Several beads represent the number of dreams captured that have transformed into sacred charms.

Feathers

The light, airy feathers help the trapped dreams from the web glide gently down to the person sleeping below.

Gemstones

Some artists use gemstones instead of beads. Others use them to replace feathers as it is against the law to obtain feathers in some areas. The type and number of gemstones and their placement is artistic expression by the artist.

Arrowheads

Some dreamcatchers referred to as ‘medicine wheel dreamcatchers’ contain a cross made of arrowheads in the center of the web. This symbolizes the four corners of the Earth or the Four Sacred Directions from which the wind blows. This arrowhead cross protects from misfortune by drawing strength and good fortune from the four corners of the universe. 

Number of Points on the Woven Web

Every dreamcatcher has a specific number of points to signify something specific:

  • 5 points represent a star in the sky.
  • 6 points symbolize an eagle.
  • 7 points are a call to the seven prophesies.
  • 8 points represent the spider women who is held sacred in Native American culture.
  • 13 points denote the thirteen moon phases.

Significance of Color in Dreamcatchers

White: symbolizes meditation, relaxation, cleanliness and order.

Black: counteracts the effects of white, that is, to balance the energy in a space. Combine with colors such as pink or lilac. Black is a color that suits everything and adds elegance wherever it is placed.

Black and White: opposite colors that together have an energy balancing effect. Represents yin and yang within the world of dreams.

Red: stimulate appetite and mood. Placed in environments where greater socialization takes place, such as terraces, kitchen or dining room.

Yellow: intellect, vital energy and joy. Also foster relationships or improve mood.

Blue:  success, strength and determination. 

Green: promoting peace of mind and helping us reconnect with the natural environment. Green is the color of hope, prevents nightmares and negative thoughts.

Orange: stability and warmth.

Brown: color of the earth, helps us to make good decisions and not to be so indecisive.

Where to Place a Dreamcatcher

  • Usually at the head of the bed. The highest and brightest point in the room.
  • On the ceiling or a very high location so no other objects interfere with it.
  • Somewhere that receives lots of natural light. Sunlight is believed to purify the dreamcatcher to refresh it each night.
  • White dreamcatchers in bedrooms, the work rooms or the dining room; places of rest and silence.
  • Yellow dreamcatchers in places where creativity is practiced such as studios or artists’ workshops. They can also be used to foster relationships between people and improve their mood after a fight when placed in the kitchens or in a dining room.

Share in the Comments:

Do you use a dreamcatcher?

Share your experiences with dreamcatchers or other tidbits

Do you prefer the Ojibwe or Lakota Legend?

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