Dream Catcher: Mystic Gateway - The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Dream Catcher: Mystic Gateway
The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

Although not traditional in most tribal practices, dream catchers are thought to have their roots in the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Tribe. (This was documented by a scholar named Frances Densmore in 1929.) An Ojibwa dream catcher had strands of sinew woven around a round or teardrop-shaped object (often made from small willow branches) into a kind of web thought to be similar to the webbing used for their snowshoes. It was placed near sleeping children to protect them from nightmares. The hole in the center was a kind of mystic gateway to let bawedjigewin, or good dreams, through, and the webbing around the hole was to catch the bawedjige, bad dreams. It was believed that the bad dreams caught in the webbing would disappear at first light.

The tradition caught on in the 1960s and early 1970s, and now almost every Native American reservation has people who make and sell them. They come in assorted sizes and all manner of decoration. Some people use them in a more expanded way than just for dreams; they place them somewhere where they can catch the sunlight and say that they help prevent negative thoughts from entering while at the same time ushering in positive thoughts. Here are instructions for making your own dream catcher:


· Hoop: You can use dried willow or grapevine. Every plant carries different energy. For example, if you use grapevines, think of the sturdy vine with roots that go deep and that survive often in the harshest soils and climates. If you use willow, think of its flexibility. Alternatively, a wood or metal hoop can be used. Be creative. You can even use a shower ring or a circular bracelet. Somewhere between three inches and nine inches in diameter is a good rule of thumb.

· Lacing: You can use suede lacing to wrap the circle; you can also use cotton sinew, cording, twine, or ribbon. The length should be at least eight times the diameter. For example, if the diameter is 6 inches, then your wrapping should be at least 48 inches long. The lacing should be no wider than a shoelace.

· Decorations: Any kind of decoration can be used. You might want to hang feathers from your dream catcher or add beads to the weaving.


1. Shape your hoop. If you have dried willow or grapevine, soak it in warm water for 30 minutes, or until it is supple and can bend without breaking. If the material is fresh, potentially you can make the circle without soaking it.

If you have thin grapevines, then you can wrap them a few times and then tie in several places with twine or strong thread so it will dry in a circle. Place this under a stack of books or something heavy to make sure it dries flat.

2. Wrap the hoop. If you’re using grapevine, willow, or other natural branches, it’s not necessary to wrap it with leather or ribbon. However, if you’re using something not natural, then you might consider wrapping it. You may need a few drops of glue to secure the ribbon or suede to your hoop. Make sure each wrap is tight and try not to overlap too much. If you are using sinew or cording, you likely won’t need any glue.

When you’ve completed the circle, take the end of the suede and tuck it under the second-to-last loop to secure in place (illustration 1). When you’re finished, you can also make a loop for hanging your dream catcher with the last bit of the cording, ribbon, sinew, or suede.


3. Choose the string to create the webbing. Make sure that it’s thin but very strong. Cotton sinew and thin cording that doesn’t stretch both work quite well.

4. Decide what decorative objects you will use. Pay particular attention to the meaning (for you) of each item. For example, feathers on a dream catcher can represent flight, soaring to greater heights, and the Spirit of Air. Beads made of natural stones each carry the energy of that stone. Amethyst beads, for instance, may represent relaxation and spiritual attunement. Colored glass or plastic beads can carry the energy of their color: red beads activate physical life-force energy and represent passion and grounding.


5. Weave the first row (see illustration 2). As a guide to the number of loops, if your hoop is three inches in diameter, then eight loops will give you the best shape. (There is no required number—do what works for you.) Don’t pull the string too taut as it will be pulled tight while you continue to weave. Make sure that the loops are equal distance.

6. Continue to weave (see illustration 3). You can put beads in between every hitch knot if you desire.

7. Continue around the circle. As the circle gets smaller, pull the thread tighter (see illustrations 4 and 5). A bead is often included somewhere close to the center to symbolize the good dreams being caught.

8. When you’re finished, make a double hitch knot and cut the string. If you choose, add something to hang your dream catcher on, and you can also incorporate feathers or beads as decorations (see illustration 6). Often one feather is hung from the center, but do whatever that feels right to you.