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NOKOMIS AND THE SPIDER: STORY OF THE DREAMCATCHER "THE OJIBWE LEGEND"
Asubakacin Bwaajige Ngwaagan
(Ojibwe - White Earth Band (Ojibwe - Curve Lake Band
- meaning "net-like, looks like a net") - meaning "dream snare")
A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother.
Each day, Nokomis watched the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in. "Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing at the spider. He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered, "don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?" asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life.
He said to her, "For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift." He smiled his special spider smile and moved away, spinning as he went.
Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window. "See how I spin?" he said. "See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web."
The Ojibwe, whose traditional homeland is around the Great Lakes region, have ancient stories about the dreamcatcher, how it 'came to be', why it is used, and how it should be made.
One of the old Ojibwa traditions was to hang a dream catcher in their homes. They believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher, when hung, moves freely in the air and catches the dreams as they float by. The good dreams know the way and slip through the center hole and slide down off the soft feather so gently the sleeper below sometimes hardly knows he is dreaming. Both bad and good dreams were caught within the web, but only the good dreams were permitted to slide down along the feathers to the infants head. Thus, the bad dreams would become lost within the web and would not be able to find the way to the infant. By morning, when the sun rays would bring in light to the child’s room, it would destroy the bad dreams.
Dream catchers made of willow and sinew are for children, and they are not meant to last. Small dream catchers were hung on cradle boards so infants would have good dreams. The Ojibwe Tribe were the very first to design these decorations to protect their infants against bad dreams that could possibly come throughout the night. These originally were quiet small only about 3 inches in diameter and made of bent wood, and a string or leather attached to a feather. The pattern used for the webbing was similar to the snowshoes made by the tribe. The dream catcher was hung by a sleeping child to prevent nightmares. The originals were made of night whispering willow and night seeing owl's feathers by grandmothers in the tribe and given to new babies and newly married couples for their lodges. 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.
Within the Ojibwe Tribe, dreams, or visions in the night, were so vital that children were not given a name until a “namer” (an individual designated to name the child) after the individual had a dream about what name should be given to the child. This “namer” may have also given the child a charm that was woven in the design to resemble the web of a spider so as to protect the infant’s dreams. This, along with the remaining child’s toys, such as bells, shells and pouches made of leather, this “dream catcher” was hung on the child’s cradleboard by the hoop.
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 are more tear-drop/snow shoe shape The shape is of a circle as that is how the sun travels each day.. Other sizes were hung in lodges for all to have good dreams. Dream Catchers, also known as Spider Web Charms, are believed to trap unimportant or bad dreams that float in the air, pretty much the way a spider traps insects that flies into its web.
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) & 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. (Indian people, in general, are very specific about gender roles and identity.) The use of gem stones, as we do in the ones we make for sale, is not something that was done by the old ones. Other Government laws have forbidden the sale of feathers from the sacred birds, so using four gem stones, to represent the four directions, and the stones used by western nations were substituted by us. The Dream Catcher represents several meanings. All of the decorations and materials used to decorate them, all have a special meaning. A single bead in the middle may represent the spider that is on the web. Scattered beads throughout the web may represent good dreams that may have been caught throughout the night. The woven dream catchers of adults do not use feathers.
The Gifts of the Four Directions
Each of the four directions holds the promise of attributes important to the Native American. From the East comes the eagle with gifts of the color yellow, spiritual, Father Sky, dreams, and courage. From the West come the gifts of the turtle and bear; protection, the color black, and fire. Next, from the South come the gifts of the cougar: the color red, summer, Mother Earth, and nourishment. And finally, from the North come the gifts of the polar bear: the color white, winter, water, Grandmother Moon, and wisdom.
Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island. This is the way that the old Ojibwe storytellers say how Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) helped Wanabozhoo bring giizis (sun) back to the people.
Asibikaashi took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so this day. When the Ojibwe 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 Nokomis (grandmothers) took up the practice of weaving the magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. They are 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 bawedjigewin (dreams) and allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds when we are just abinooji (babies). You will see a small hole in the center of each dream catcher where the good bawedjige 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 the number of points where the web connected to the hoop numbered eight for Spider Woman's eight legs or seven for the Seven Prophecies.
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.
Frances Densmore conducted an extensive study of material culture of the Ojibwe/Chippewa living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada in the early 1900's and the information is presented in the book, Chippewa Customs, published by Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul) in 1979. Densmore describes that articles representing spider webs were usually hung from the hoop of a child's cradle board, and it was said that 'they catch and hold everything evil as a spider's web catches and holds everything that comes into contact with it'. These 'dream catchers' were wooden hoops with a 3 1/2 in. diameter, filled with a web made of nettle-stalk cord that was dyed red with bloodroot and wild plum inner bark. It is interesting to note that the 'weave' of the dream catcher photographed in Densmore's work is different from that usually done today. By the early 1900's, dark red yarn had been substituted for plant fiber in constructing the web by the Ojibwe. Densmore also mentions a similar netted-hoop made by the Pawnee to represent the Spider-Woman, a spirit who controlled the buffalo.
In the book, Chippewa Customs, (Ojiibwe) written by Frances Densmore and published in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1979 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press explains about the Ojibwe/Chippewa Tribe in the early 1900’s. In the book, the author describes how the articles that represent the spider webs were said to: “they catch and hold everything evil as a spider’s web catches and holds everything that comes into contact with it.”
An ancient Chippewa traditon
The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played
Hung above the cradle board
Or in the lodge up high
The dream net catches bad dreams
While good dreams slip on by
Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread
Good dreams slip through the center hole
While you dream upon your bed
This is an ancient legend
Since dreams will never cease
Hang this dream net above your bed
Dream on and be at Peace
Legend of the Spider and Grandmother What ties together a spider and a grandmother? In an ancient Native American tale, an old grandmother saw a spider nearby her sleeping spot. She had watched the spider for days while he spun his web. Her grandson entered one day and saw the spider. He picked up a rock and was going to crush it, but the grandmother stopped him. He asked her why. But the grandmother just smiled. After the boy left, the spider spoke to the grandmother who had been watching him spin his web for days and to thank her for saving his life he would give her a gift. He showed her how to spin a web. He said the web would snare all the bad dreams and only the good dreams would come through to be remembered. The bad would become entangled in the web. The legend is one explanation of the creation of a dream catcher. The Lokata Dream Catcher Legend Another legend of the dream catcher tells of an old Lakota spiritual leader who was on a very high mountain and had a vision. In this vision, Iktomi, who was a great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. As they were talking, the spider picked up the willow hoop which had feathers, beads on it and began to spin a web.He and the elder spoke about the cycles of life. We begin as infants, then on to childhood and then adults. As we enter old age, we need to be cared for like children, which complete the circle. Iktomi also spoke of good and bad forces that can alter the forces of nature. When he had finished speaking he gave the elder the finished web and told him that it was a perfect circle with a hole in the center. He instructed him to use the web to help people reach their goals, using their ideas and dreams. The web will catch the good ideas and the bad ones will go through the hole. The spiritual elder passed this information on to his people and many hung a dream catcher above their beds. It is said that the dream catcher holds the destiny of the future. The Lakota believe that good and bad dreams move freely about in the night winds. The dream catcher grabs the floating good dreams and holds them in the webbing until the light of day. At this point they pass to the mind of the sleeper so that he can follow his dream. The Origin of the Dream Catcher Found in Ojibwa Tribe As interesting as these legends are, dream catchers, a true Native American art, are attributed to the Ojibwa Tribe based on a long tradition of oral stories and legends passed on through the generations. The Ojibwa tribe, whose traditional homeland is around the Great Lakes, has ancient stories relating the tales of the use of these dream catchers with their spider like web to capture the nightmares of sleeping children. These originally were quiet small only about 3 inches in diameter and made of bent wood, and a string or leather attached to a feather. The pattern used for the webbing was similar to the snowshoes made by the tribe. The dream catcher was hung by a sleeping child to prevent nightmares. The legend was that the bad dreams would be caught in the dream catcher’s web.The ancient story told by the Objibwa tells of Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) who along with Wanabozhoo brought the sun to the people. Asibikaashi still takes care of her people today; however, since the Ojibwa nation has spread to the four corners of North America, it is difficult to make this journey. So mothers, sisters, and grandmothers took it upon themselves to make the weaving webs for the new babies.The shape is of a circle as that is how the sun travels each day. The web allows for the bad dreams to be caught and the open circle in the center permits the good thoughts to come through. It is traditional to put a feather in the center as it means breath or air which is essential for life. The baby watches the feather move in the flow of air is entertained as well as learning the lesson of the air. The type of feather generally used signifies different properties; the feather of an owl (a woman’s feather) is symbolic of wisdom and an eagle feather (a man’s feather) represents courage. Today the use of feathers of these birds is forbidden by the government, so sometimes four gems are used to signify the four directions. The Gifts of the Four Directions Each of the four directions holds the promise of attributes important to the Native American. From the East comes the eagle with gifts of the color yellow, spiritual, Father Sky, dreams, and courage. From the West come the gifts of the turtle and bear; protection, the color black, and fire. Next, from the South come the gifts of the cougar: the color red, summer, Mother Earth, and nourishment. And finally, from the North come the gifts of the polar bear: the color white, winter, water, Grandmother Moon, and wisdom. Frances Densmore’s Research Frances Densmore, after extensive research, published in 1929 a book, Chippewa Customs, in which she describes the dream catcher webs and their use of hanging over a baby’s crib to catch bad dreams. For thousands of years, the Native Americans used the dream catcher to provide only dreams of good for their children. The original dream catcher had a very tiny hole in the center and all dreams were caught in the web. Dreams have great powers according to the Old Ones and the web entangles the bad so that they do not reach the sleeper and disturbed his sleep. However, the good dreams float through the center down the trail of beads into the mind of the sleeper. The bad dreams entangled in the web would perish in the light of the sun at daybreak. Popularity of Dream Catchers During the 60’s and 70’s the dream catchers became accepted with other tribes such as Cherokee, Lakota and Navajo. These are not found in all Native American tribes. The popularity of dream catchers today is widespread. You can find jewelry such as earrings, and dream catchers dangling from mirrors in cars as well as the traditional catcher hung over the bed. You can purchase a true Native American made Dream Catcher from various stores along the roads and in towns near the Reservation Lands in Arizona and New Mexico. In addition, on line sites sell this Native American craft item. Some people want to make their own dream catcher and can find instructional internet sites and books. For many believe the legend of the dream catcher and enjoy peaceful and beautiful dreams by sleeping under its power.
Wind chimes are popular decorations throughout the world. In the spring and summer, wind chimes are heard ringing across suburban lawns and city streets. Elegant and expensive or festive and cheap, wind chimes are readily available in home stores and gift shops. Wind chimes serve other purposes beyond being decorative noisemakers and have had various uses throughout history.
People have enjoyed wind chime music since the earliest days of civilization. Archeologists unearthed evidence of ancient wind chimes made of shells and bone at dig sites in Southeast Asia. Various forms of wind chimes were also discovered in ancient Greece and Egypt. The Chinese perfected the tonal precision of their bronze wind chime bells around 1100 BC. The Chinese connected the chimes to the ancient art of feng shui--the arrangement of objects to achieve peace and harmony. The Chinese believed that wind chimes connect people with nature and the body, creating a greater awareness of living in the moment that leads to a sense of well-being.
Wind chimes were often hung around Asian temples and thought to attract peaceful spirits while protecting against evil forces. Early on, Buddhists adopted wind chimes and wind-bells into various rituals and the chimes were hung in large numbers on temples, shrines, pagodas and caves. Later, the chimes became popular for secular and decorative purposes and were popular in homes and places of business. In many cultures, a prime purpose of wind chimes is to recall listeners to a seemingly contradictory state combining appreciation of the moment with a feeling of transcending the everyday world.
Prior to modern weather forecasting and technologies, wind chimes were used to detect early, minor changes in wind speeds that signaled oncoming storms. Wind chimes were used on ships and in farmer's fields to determine wind direction.
Wind chimes were, and still are, used to scare away evil spirits and hung in doorways and windows to dissuade bad luck from entering a home. The warning aspect of wind chimes is translated into modern culture through the movies. A common film motif is the ringing of wind chimes to signal imminent danger. For example, sounds of urgently ringing wind chimes are heard at tense moments in Martin Scorsese's 1991 version of "Cape Fear."
Farmers use wind chimes to frighten away birds and other pests. Farmers in Bali place bamboo wind chimes throughout rice fields to scare pests and bring the farmer good fortune and healthy crops. Hanging wind chimes near a bird feeder is counter-productive since few birds will brave ringing chimes to get a snack.
Wind chimes are usually constructed of a set of hanging rods of bamboo, metal, wood, and even ceramic and glass. A ringer hangs down in the center of the set and makes noise when wind causes it to contact the chimes. Wind chimes come in many sizes from tiny tubes worn as necklaces and earrings, to bronze bell chimes weighing hundreds of pounds. The most popular varieties are several feet in length and made of metal and bamboo tubes. They are hung indoors and outdoors on porches and decks. Wind chimes gained in popularity the 1970s when wind chime companies began developing the sophisticated, precision-tonal musical chimes available today. Contemporary metal wind chimes are available in tunable musical pitches. Some precision wind chimes also have specific cultural tunings including Japanese, Balinese and Hawaiian.
Wind chimes have a long and varied history. Their development spans cultures, continents and uses. As one of the world's first musical instruments, wind chimes have long been known for their soothing, meditative and sometimes earthly sounds. As a result of their unique sound, wind chimes have served as a way of shaping the atmosphere of natural environments for millennia.
The wind chime can trace its lineage back almost 5000 years. The first evidence of wind chimes, found at archeological sites in South East Asia, dates them to about 3000 B.C. Primitive constructions of bone, wood or bamboo, stone or shells, the earliest wind chimes were thought to be used to ward off evil spirits. However evidence exists that wind chimes had a more practical use as well; digs in Bali, Indonesia show that farmers used the sound wind chimes and wind clappers make to scare birds and other animals from their cultivated fields. By 2000 B.C. the wind chime had been developed independently along the shores of the Mediterranean and was being cast in bronze by the ancient Egyptians.
It wasn't until around 1100 B.C., when the Chinese started casting bells, that the wind chime found its more modern, musical and artistic evolution. Highly skilled metal workers created the forefather of the wind chime, a clapper-less bell called yong-zhong, which was used as an accompaniment for religious ceremonies. After that the Chinese developed what is essentially the modern wind bell, called the feng-ling. This they hung from the eaves of shrines, temples, pagodas and in caves as wind bells were considered religious talismans thought to repel evil demons and ghosts and attract benevolent spirits. This practice was adopted in the secular world and wind chimes became common adornments in the home as a way to protect against spiteful supernatural influences.
The use of wind chimes in the home spread from China to Japan and from there to the western world in the 1800's when Asian art, design and philosophy started to show a distinct influence in Europe and America. The practice of feng-shui helped to spread the knowledge of a wind chimes calming and balancing influence in the home. An ancient system of using arrangement maximize the flow of life energy, or Chi, feng-shui often uses wind chimes as a means of shaping an environment and influencing chi. The tones and materials of a particular wind chime can affect energy and change the mood and feeling of a living space.
From uses in pagodas to ward of evil spirits to their employ by ancient Celtic tribes as a means of tricking their enemies into thinking the woods were haunted, the wind chime has had long and diverse role throughout history. In its modern incarnation the wind chime is a wonderful accent to any home or garden. The soothing tones echo the music of the breeze and bring a relaxed, meditative feeling to an environment; creating a place of peace and balance.
These are arel so beautiful. I would love to learn how to make them!
Tis easy enough to do so. Many art/craft stores carry 'kit' starters. Which have a metal ring, leather cord, web cord, plastic beads and feathers. I prefer to use natural material beads. IE wood, shell, bone, stone, seed. As well as 'natural feathers' vice the commercial ones.
Thank you I try to get foundational historical lore of things as I do them as well. And even have listed one for sale. Someone had a few extra parts from other projects which I claimed. Hence the combo catcher chime idea.