The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

In Your Dreams

By Media123 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally a Native American beauty, the dreamcatcher has woven its way into bedrooms worldwide.  A delicate web set in willow hoop lures wandering consciousness while dreamers lie peacefully snoring; the concept is very attractive and has been adopted by extraneous cultures.  Like many Native American cultural traditions, the dreamcatcher has been misappropriated by non-native people.  Nonetheless, it is a valuable collectible today.

The legend of the dreamcatcher begins with Asibikaashi, the Spider Woman who once captured the morning sun for the Ojibwe people. In fulfillment of a prophecy, the Ojibwe people spread to the four corners of North America making the journey for Asibikaashi difficult and thus caring for her children and the land near impossible.  To carry on her wise undertaking, the Mothers, Sisters and Grandmothers began weaving magic webs for the children to protect them in the night and greet them with the morning sun each day.

According to Ojibwe legend, dreamcatchers filter out all bad dreams, only allowing the passage of positive thoughts to enter consciousness.  With the rising sun and evaporating of the morning dew, bad dreams confusedly caught in the web would perish while good ones would pass through the center hole, sliding down the feather to the sleeper.  The dreamcatcher possesses the great power to change and control dreams, regardless of the sleeper’s cognizance.

Dreamcatchers were woven of twigs, sinew and feathers since ancient times, utilizing the profound teachings of nature.  Thread from the stalk of stinging nettle compromised the eight points of the web, in respect for Asibikaashi and her eight legs.  Once the twigs were gathered fresh, they were left out to dry into a circle form.  The circle represents strength and unification of life for the Native American people.  Then sacred feathers, gemstones and bits of everyday life such as arrowheads and beads were given to each web to complete it’s spiritual function.

Not only beautiful arts and crafts, dreamcatchers carry a specific cultural heritage and act as a teacher of the natural world.  A feather set into the center teaches an infant the importance of good air, which is essential for life.  Even the slightest movement of the feather signals the passage of another good dream.  Their material is not created with permanence, to signify the precipitous passing of youth.  The care and meaning by which dreamcatchers are made is all part of their significance to the Ojibwe people.

Very specifically belonging to Ojibwe culture, it was not until the 1960’s or so that they were adopted by Native Americans of a number of diverse nations.  Through intermarriage and trade, the dreamcatcher made its way across an expanding America.  In this sense, they have become known by many as a symbol of unity and identity among Indian Nations.  Though creating positive connections among First Nations, many Native Americans view Western cultures’ hollow misunderstanding and manufacturing to be disrespectful and offensive.

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Of course in the history of America, respect for other cultures hasn’t always been at the top of an expansive priority list.  Dreamcatchers are sold today in abundance as cheap home decorations and as collectibles.  With tacky tag lines and denominating sales tags, some people have forgotten their value as objects of spiritual wisdom and art.  They have been widely commercialized as seen through the popularity of dreamcatcher tattoos and earrings.

On eBay, dreamcatchers are now manufactured from the Middle East to China, coming in a variety of shapes, styles and price tags.  Later Ojibwa dreamcatchers can even be found for sale.

Have you ever owned a dreamcatcher?  We’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below or on our social media!
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