Today dreamcatchers are more popular than ever, appearing in gift shops in various, but instantly recognisable forms throughout the world. But where do they originate from, what is their purpose and story behind them?
The Ojibwa are one of the largest indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande in North West US and South-West Canada. In Canada, they have the second-largest First Nations population and in the United States, they are the fifth largest indigenous group. Dreamcatchers, although now universally found in many Native American cultures, is believed to originate with the Ojibwa people. A true work of ancient art, dreamcatchers were originally quite small, only 3 inches in diameter, and made of bentwood, and a string or piece of leather attached to a feather. They were hung over a sleeping child or infant to prevent nightmares.
An ancient tale of the Ojibwa people tells us of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi. An old grandmother saw a spider near the place where she slept. For days she watched the spider weaving and spinning its intricate web. One day her young grandson saw the spider and was about to crush it with a rock. His grandmother stopped him and when he asked why she just smiled. When he left, the spider spoke to the grandmother and because she saved his life, he offered her a gift. For the period of one week, he showed her how to spin a web. The web would capture all the bad dreams, with only the good dreams being remembered.
Asibikaashi is viewed as a helper of the people and inspired mothers, or other close female relatives, to weave protective spider web charms. There are many variations in stories about the Spider Woman or Spider Grandmother throughout Native America. For instance, in the Hopi tales, the grandmother actually transforms herself into a spider. Today, though, people of all ages appreciate these ancient tales along with the beauty and design of a dreamcatcher. Many sleep with one or more dreamcatchers over their bed. They come in many sizes, colours and patterns. However, you use them, though, never forget the origin of the dreamcatcher.
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