Their shape is easy to recognize: they are circular wooden structures with feathers and beads hanging down in strands. Usually, you can see them hanging in people’s homes and in gift shops. Sometimes you might see them hanging down from the branches of trees. It seems that dreamcatchers are decorative. That's true a lot of the time: they are used for decoration in people’s homes. But their origins much deeper. As a matter of fact, dreamcatchers were originally developed by the many Ojibwe and Sioux peoples, who live in Canada and the United States. Artisans typically made them out of willow bark or red-twig dogwood. They would bend willow branches into the shape of a teardrop or a hoop. Then, they would weave a pattern that looks like a spiderweb using animal sinew, and string it with beads. Finally, they decorated the bottom of the dreamcatcher with feathers, often with those from hawks.
Mini dream catchers today aren’t just made out of willow bark.
Instead, artisans and companies use shells and colorful threads. They still use beads, too, just like they did in the past. Some artisans continue to use animal sinew, real feathers, and other products derived from animals. Another fun fact about dreamcatchers is that the weaving method resembles the one to make snowshoes by the same Native peoples. The structure of snowshoes and dreamcatchers even looks similar. This makes sense when you see that the Ojibwe used snowshoes to get through the deep snow. Because this group made both items, It makes sense that dreamcatchers and snowshoes would have similar patterns and structures.
But why did Native American artisans make dreamcatchers in the first place?
Well, these items are symbolically important: the hoop or teardrop shape is said to represent the circle of life. Meanwhile, the beads are like spiders, and the strings of the dreamcatcher are supposed to represent the spider’s web. But aside them this symbolism, we don't know a lot about the history of the dreamcatchers. A lot of this information has been from the time the Europeans came to North America in the 17th century, until now. What we do know is that there are legends about them in many of the Native American tribes in the continent. These legends all share the same themes: spirits and spiders, and, of course, dreams. We do know that they were first written about (that we know of) in 1929. It was then that Frances Densmore, an anthropologist, saw them while she was with the Ojibwe, observing their customs. She wrote that the items were hung from the cradleboards of children, so that they could catch any evil that came into contact with them. In particular, the mothers and grandmothers of Native American tribes often made dreamcatchers to hang over cradleboards.
This way, young babies had some defense against bad dreams, which they couldn't do themselves.
The dream catcher tradition and beliefs
In Ojibwe traditions, dreams both good and bad are in the air when you sleep. Bad dreams would get stuck in the “web” section of the dreamcatcher. They would then evaporate with the rising sun in the morning. Good dreams would pass through the web section, move down the feathers, and go entertain the sleeping child. When they feathers moved, this showed that the child was having a nice dream. Dreamcatchers also had a role in the coming of age of the child. Made out of organic materials, they were designed to disintegrate as the child grew up. Ms. Denmore also wrote that they were woven with red-dyed cord made from nettle stalks. Along with sinews, stalks are still used in the weaving today. The bark, Ms. Denmore wrote, came from the inner sections of plum trees. She wrote of a similar kind of hoop with netting, which represented Spider-Woman the spirit of the buffalo in Pawnee culture. (The Pawnees live in Oklahoma, and came from Nebraska and Kansas.) So the humble dreamcatcher was a good symbol of the Pan-Indian movement: it is echoed across different Native cultures.
Dreamcatchers became popular among non-native people in the 1960s and 1970s
When the pan-Indian movement was popular in North America all kinds of dreamcatchers - including big dreamcatchers, colorful ones, and the mini dreamcatcher became popular because they were used to show the union and harmony that existed between different Native peoples. Because they are so iconic, they also became a shorthand to represent Native American cultures in North America. Today, the mini dreamcatcher can be used for all kinds of decorating purposes. You can use it to decorate your bedroom, hallway, or living room. But you can also use it for special occasions, like for weddings, parties and galas, and family reunions. This kind of dreamcatcher can be found in a lot of colors, styles and materials, so it is good for all kinds of occasions. Because they're so small, they're also a good choice as wedding favors. You can give them to give to the guests of your wedding, so that they will always remember your special day. Along the same lines, you can give them to guests of your bridal shower, bachelorette party, or birthday party. No matter what you use it them for, the small dream catcher makes a great gift or decoration item for many occasions.
Appreciating the history of the dream catcher
You can appreciate the history and culture of dreamcatchers by buying some yourself. We already said before: all kinds of them are available, in different materials and colors. But we’d like to draw attention to the mini dream catcher. These are small dreamcatchers that you can put anywhere because of their convenient size. This kind of small dream catcher can be very small indeed: small as your hand, or even smaller. You can hang them up in your home so that they make your space look lovely and beautiful. You and your kids can play with them by dangling them from your fingers, and you can use them to decorate your car. This kind of small dreamcatcher is great: you can get a lot of them to add pretty colors and designs to your room. They are compatible with different styles of decorating, including boho and bohemian, New Age, and colonial.