dream catchers

What Are Dream Catchers and What Do They Do?

Native Americans have many symbols of spirituality and all-inclusive connections that might seem weird and old-school.

However, these symbols play a critical role in preserving the North American ethos and customs. One such symbol is the dream catcher. The question we want to address in this article is: What are dream catchers and what do they do?

What Are Dream Catchers?

willow hoops

In Native America and some other “First Nations”, dream catchers are handmade willow hoops with woven nets or webs. Some dream catchers are also decorated with holy items like special feathers or blobs.

The name dream catcher is the inorganic form of the term spider. These willow hoops are hung over cradles or beds to protect people from bad dreams. Traditionally, dream catchers were considered the “spider web charm” or “dream snares” because people believed they would catch the spirits that brought bad dreams.

That’s why they were made with woven strings or sinews that were meant to resemble spider webs. Dream catchers were mainly used as protective charms for infants. These hoops became part of the pan-Indian movement between the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1980s, dream catchers gained a lot of popularity in the world and were widely marketed as “native craft items.” Although these charms are believed to be native to North America, some historians claim that they originated in Ojibwe – an Algonkian-speaking tribe that constitutes the largest community of Indians in Northern Mexico.

This community stretches from the current Ontario in Canada to Montana in the United States. The legend insinuates that the protective spiderwebs originated with the Spider Woman who was commonly referred to as Asibikaashi. She was known as the magical woman who took care of children, as well as the people of the land.

Therefore, women, especially mothers and grandmothers weaved these artificial spiderwebs as a way of protecting their little ones. They used willow hoops and sinews to craft the dream catchers.

Others used cordages obtained from plants. The main purpose of these charms was apotropaic and not directly linked to dreams. Although some communities in North America are still using these charms for their traditional purpose, they aren’t as popular as they were 8 or 9 decades ago.

The term “dream catcher” appears in many literary works, with its first appearance in mainstream, contemporary media occurring in the 1970s. It’s also important to mention that many forms of dream catchers have come up, some of which bear little or no resemblance to the original dream catchers.

Most of the modern dream catchers are made with materials that traditionally wouldn’t have been used. These items are mainly made for exhibition and business purposes. Although some people view this modernization of dream catchers as harmless, some native North Americans condemn their over-commercialization, claiming that it erodes their original cultural significance.

Others claim that the dream catchers have completely lost their intended meaning and are now being misused and embezzled by non-natives. Some Americans are using these traditional items to offer hope and healing to victims of tragedies like the Red Lake shootings.

Currently, the Little Thunderbirds Drum and Dance Troupe in Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minnesota, is using a mounted and framed dream catcher figurine to comfort the victims and survivors of the Red Lake shootings.

A typical dream catcher contains several shapes and patterns that have significant meanings. For instance, the circular shape signifies the circle of life while the web inside the circular shape symbolizes the spiderweb that is meant to trap and restrain bad dreams, energies, and spirits.

The feathers symbolize good dreams, energies, and spirits that are allowed to pass through the web and slide down gently to the feathers where they can comfort the person sleeping. Beads symbolize the spider that weaves the web.

The beads can also represent the good dreams, spirits, and energies that pass through the trap. Although dream catchers are specifically designed to catch and snare bad dreams, spirits, and energies, you can create your catcher and give it your preferred meaning.

For example, you can create a dream catcher to catch your life goals and dreams. This way, it’ll help you to keep your dreams and ambitions close to you so that you can achieve them. In short, modern dream catchers can be used to catch good dreams and destroy the bad ones.

What Do Dream Catchers Do?


As mentioned above, dream catchers were traditionally used to protect sleeping people from bad, particularly children. Other people claim that they were meant to catch negative energies and evil spirits that attacked people at night while asleep.

Some people believe that we are vulnerable to soaking up negative energies from our surroundings when we are asleep. So, they hung dream catchers in different places around their houses to filter these energies and ward off any evil spirits that may want to harm us.

In other cases, it has been reported that dream catchers protect people from bad dreams and nightmares. You can hang your dream catchers above your bed and let the morning sunshine hit them for purification from the evil spirits they absorb at night.

This purification is necessary to create space for the dream catcher to absorb more bad dreams, evil spirits, and negative energies. Therefore, you should ensure that your dream catchers are strategically positioned in and out of the house where they can access sufficient sunlight.

You should also make sure the webs in your dream catcher aren’t broken. Remember that these charms catch all kinds of dreams and energies into their webs. Therefore, any broken web should be repaired immediately to keep your dream catcher effective.

4 Facts about Dream Catchers


If you ask any native American about dream catchers, they’ll tell you that these are important cultural items and great additions to their homes. However, the current generations don’t much about dream catchers, which leaves them to speculate and come up with all manner of stories about these charms, most of which aren’t true.

So, what do you know about dream catchers? Is it factual or a fallacy? Here are some of the main facts about dream catchers.

1. Parts and Meanings

Each part of a dream catcher carries a significant meaning as indicated above. From the circular ring to the web, feathers, and beads, they all have special meanings that you should be aware of. The hole at the center of the circle is left uncovered to allow good dreams, spirits, and energies to filter through.

2. Where You Hang Your Dream Catcher

Native Americans claim that where you put your dream catcher matters a lot. For instance, you should place it where it’ll access enough sunlight for purification. As mentioned above, the dream catcher needs to be purified every day to remove the bad things captured at night so that it can continue to catch more bad dreams.

So, the best place to hang your dream catcher is your bedroom next to the widow where it can access sunlight. Ensure that the room where you keep your dream catcher has enough natural light. Furthermore, choose the brightest spot in your bedroom for this special object.

3. Origin of Dream Catchers

The origin of dream catchers is the Ojibwe tribe. It’s believed that the feathers and beads used in traditional dream catchers came from the spider woman. Although dream catchers are native to the Ojibwe tribe, they are now part of many cultures.

4. Dream Catchers Aren’t Mere Decorations

Many people today believe that dream catchers are for decoration purposes and for catching bad dreams and spirits. However, some cultures around the world are now using them for healing and other spiritual purposes.

Others use them to promote positive energies and keep negative energies and spirits off their homes. It’s also common to find some people using these traditional charms for treating certain ailments and conditions like insomnia.

It’s also important to note that while these objects may appear to be mere decorations for some people, they are considered powerful spiritual tools with ancestral airs that must be respected, especially by non-natives.

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