A dream catcher is a type of mobile made by Native Americans of the Great Plains. It is a beautiful object and is associated with an interesting legend.
The idea of the dream catcher originated within the Ojibwa Nation and was later adopted by other Native American Nations during the 1960s and 1970s. A dream catcher is a handmade object based on a hoop with a woven web of sinew strands in it that has feathers, beads, and crystals attached. It is hung in the tipi or lodge. Dream catchers are often used to keep children from having nightmares and are intended to gradually dry out and fall apart as the child gets older.
The belief is that the air is filled with dreams. These dreams are full of meaning and may be either good or bad. There are different versions of the dream catcher legend and how it works. Some say that good dreams pass through the hole in the center of the web while bad dreams are caught in the web. The good dreams will flow down the feathers to the person while the bad dreams dissolve in the daylight. Another version says that only good dreams can filter through the net. Yet another says that good dreams are caught in the web while bad dreams flow away through the hole in the center.
Because dream catchers are beautiful and also because the idea of protection from nightmares is compelling, dream catchers have become very popular. You may have even received one in the mail as part of a fundraiser for an Indian school. In addition to those made by Native Americans, you may find others made by New Age groups or by craftspeople who produce them to sell at markets and fairs. This is not accepted by traditional Native Americans as a legitimate use of the dream catcher. While many appreciate the idea of the dream catcher, some forget to respect the Native American culture from which it came.
The dream catcher reminds us how important the dream world has been to people throughout time. Dreams have provided medicine men, shamans, and prophets a portal to another realm. Even though today most of us tend to focus on the physiology of the dream state, we can still appreciate the power of our nightly visits to that other world.