Apr 19, 2019 The Ojibwe word for dreamcatcher asabikeshiinh actually means spider, referring to the web woven to loosely cover the hoop. The patterns of the dream catcher are similar to the webbing these Native. The Ojibwe people have an ancient legend about the origin of the Dreamcatcher. Storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all.

Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwa Nation, the Clans were all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island. It is still told by the old Ojibwa storytellers how Asibikaashi (the Spider Woman) helped Wanabozhoo bring giizis (the sun) back to the people.
To this day, Asibikaashi will build her special lodge before dawn. If you are awake at dawn, as you should be, look for her lodge and you will see this miracle of how she captured the sunrise as the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there.
Asibikaasi took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so to this day. When the Ojibwa Nation dispersed to the four corners of North America, to fulfill a prophecy, Asibikaashi had a difficult time making her journey to all those cradle boards, so the mothers, sisters, and grandmothers took up the practice of weaving the magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants.

Why a dream catcher is round

The dream catcher is in the shape of a circle to represent how giizis travels each day across the sky. The dream catcher will filter out all the bad dreams and allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds. You will see a small hole in the center of each dream catcher where the good dreams may come through.
With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams would perish. When we see little asibikaashi, we should not fear her, but instead respect and protect her. In honor of their origin, the number of points where the web connected to the hoop numbered 8 for Spider Woman's eight legs or 7 for the Seven Prophecies.

The feathers represent the breath of Life.

Ojibwe Dream Catcher History

It was traditional to put a feather in the center of the dream catcher; it means breath, or air. It is essential for life. A baby watching the air playing with the feather on her cradleboard was entertained while also being given a lesson on the importance of good air.
This lesson comes forward in the way that the feather of the owl is kept for wisdom (a woman's feather) and the eagle feather is kept for courage (a man's feather). This is not to say that the use of each is restricted by gender, but that to use the feather each is aware of the gender properties she/he is invoking. (Native Americans, in general, are very specific about gender roles and identity.)
The use of gem stones is not something that was done by the old ones. U.S. Government laws have forbidden the sale of feathers from sacred birds, so using four gem stones, to represent the four directions, and the stones used by western nations have been substituted. The woven dream catchers of adults do not use feathers.

There is a difference between dream catchers meant for children and for adults.

Dream catchers made of willow and sinew are for children, and they are not meant to last. Eventually the willow dries out and the tension of the sinew collapses the dream catcher. That's supposed to happen. It belies the temporary-ness of youth. Dream
Adults should use dream catchers of woven fiber which is made up to reflect their adult 'dreams.' It is also customary in many parts of Canada and the Northeastern U.S. to have the dream catchers be a tear-drop/snow shoe shape.

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Ten years ago one of the most popular and marketable Native crafts items was the dream catcher.

It is still popular, as evidenced by a Jan. 29-31 workshop at the Alberta Aboriginal Head Start conference in Edmonton. It was run by Bev Longboat, the executive director at the Niwasa (Little Ones) Head Start Program at Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont., and by Alice Noah, originally from Walpole Island, Ont., but now living in Fort McMurray.

As the legend goes, according to Longboat, 'there was a very special woman who was responsible for the children. Her name was Spider Woman, a name likely given as was customary in Indian tradition.

'Her job,' said Longboat, 'was to web these dream catchers and hang them above a baby's cradle board while the infant was sleeping. As its popularity increased, however, it proved too much for Spider Woman to take on because she could not travel from one location to another and try to look after all of the children.

'So, at that time, she passed the webbing (technique) down to the aunties, grandmothers and the mothers, to look after the webbing for the children and the young.'

The dream catchers were made of willow.

'The little opening at the centre of the web allowed the good dreams to pass through and filter down through the feather(s) hanging from the dream catcher, and into the dreaming minds of the children. It was another stage of life that a child went through,' explained Longboat.

In constructing the dream catcher, she continued, 'significant was the number of points where the sinew was wrapped around the willow.

'In the original story,' she stated, 'there were eight points for her eight legs. Still others used seven points for the seven grandfathers or the seven prophecies. Some used five for the five sky shapes, some have used 13 as signifying the moons and some used 28 for the lunar months.'

Ojibwe Dream Catcher

As for the shape of the original dream catcher, 'it was made in a circle ? a representation of the sun that travels across the earth.'


But, it's not uncommon to find them in a tear shape.

'The traditional dream catcher,' she added, 'was between three-and-a-half and five inches in diameter. Any larger, it loses its significance, its traditional value or you could say, the power of the dream catcher itself.'

Over time, things about the dream catcher have changed. Things were added to it.

Noah mentions the significance of the three beads that were woven into a dream catcher. Bovada. 'The three beads stand for our three fires ? the Potowotami, Ottawa and Chippewa Nations. So, when I do crafts, I put three of them on my work.'

While the number of feathers attached to a dream catcher may vary, some crafts people only use one to symbolize knowledge or wisdom.

'It's entirely up to you on how many you add on,' said Longboat. 'Just about everything you put on there has a significance, depending on the person doing the webbing.'

But before picking any willow(s), one should make a tobacco or cloth offering to the spirit world.

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