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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.”
Published on January 3, 2012 by Amy
According to the Native American people, dreams are messages that come from the sacred spirits. There are different stories pertaining to Native American dream catchers and these are variations of the legend as seen by different Native American tribes. One version states that the hole in the middle of Native American dream catchers allows the good dreams to be passed on to the sleeper, while the web traps all of the bad dreams, and then at the first light of morning the bad dreams would disappear.
Another version of the story about Native American dream catchers says that the web will capture all of the good dreams and let the bad dreams go out through the hole. Dream catchers were thought to have originated with the Ojibwe tribe, also known to many as the Chippewa Indians. And there are many stories about how the dream catcher came to be. The Ojibwe tribes used to tie strands of sinew in webs around a tear-shaped frame and then they would hang the dream catcher above a sleeping Native American child’s bed to help protect them from nightmares.
Normally Native American dream catchers are fairly small and are made by bending wood (originally birch) and sinew string tied together. A feather was usually seen hanging from the webbing. Today it is very common to see Native American dream catchers in many places. You can see them hanging from car mirrors, on people’s walls as decorations, and even in many modern day tattoo designs. Many are mass produced and sold as decoration but it is still possible to find real authentic hand made Native American dream catchers.
There are thousand of Native Americans that live on reservations and others that live on their own that are still Native American traditionalists, and among these Native people you can find these authentic dreamcatchers. Over time the dreamcatcher was also adopted by many other Native American tribes’ throughout the land and they gained a lot of popularity as beautiful decorations in the 1960’s and 70’s. When you find somewhere to obtain an authentic dream catcher nowadays it will usually come with a certificate of authenticity with the name of the Native American artist who made the dreamcatcher on it, this will help ensure you it is a real Native American dreamcatcher.
This is absolutely beautiful! You are very talented! Your dad should really love it!