They can be decorated with beads and leather, fabric and feathers. Sizes can range from just a couple of inches to more than a foot across. They are called dream catchers, and they can be traced back hundreds of years.
The circular ring of the dream catcher is significant to Native Americans. It imitates the shape of the Earth and mirrors the orbital path of the planets around the sun. It represents the circle of life--a circle of which all living things are a part. With no beginning and no end, it is a metaphor of the belief that life also has no beginning and no end. Death, Native Americans believe, is a part of life; even after a body turns to dust, the spirit continues on.
Many people believe the webbing of the dream catcher is intended to look similar to the weaving of a spider's web. Occasionally, dream catchers have only a single bead woven into this webbing; this bead represents the spider. According to the stories told by Jamie Sams and David Carson in the book Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, the spider wove the first alphabet, thus teaching humans how to read and how to keep track of their history. The spider is also commonly called the Weaver of Fate and is thought to be the bearer of creative energy.
Traditionally, Native American infants were strapped tightly to cradleboards while their mothers worked. The ornaments kept the babies quiet and entertained them with their colored beads and swaying feathers. Children kept their dream catchers throughout their lives, adding beads, feathers, and other personal fetishes as they grew older.
The most well known purpose of these ornamental circles of webbing, beads, and feathers is to catch dreams. When hung above a person's bed, the dream catcher is supposed to be able to trap bad dreams in its web; only good dreams are allowed to filter through a small opening in the center of the circle.
Making Dream Catchers
This website contains free information detailing how to make dream catchers. It describes the types of materials needed and provides step-by-step instructions. This dream catcher uses a flexible branch or vine for the hoop. It tells exactly how to achieve the correct shape, and explains the types of weaving used in the dream catcher's web.
Pictures of Dream Catchers
Many pictures of dream catchers are available on the World Wide Web. Here are a few: