Where the Dream Catcher came from--based on several Indian legends, mostly Lakota
Long ago in another time the people had no horses and lived more on rabbits and birds than they did on buffalo. They were aimless and wandered over the plains close to the high mountains. The Lakota wise man Pejuta Waukhean (Medicine Thunder) was an old man of opawinge wikcemna nunpa (120 years). Pejuta Waukhean knew he was near the end of his life and wanted to go one last time on the high mountains to pray. Pejuta Waukhean hoped that finally, as an old man he would be accepted and counseled by one of the great spirits. It was these spirits he had believed in and prayed to his entire life, but never had he met, seen or heard from one of these spirits.
It was on the mountain top, after a nearly three day climb for the old man, that Iktomi appeared to Medicine Thunder and spoke to him in the language of the Lakota Religion, a language that only Pejuta Waukhean, in his tribe, could understand. Iktomi, ever the trickster, appeared to Medicine Thunder as a spider. Iktomi sat down on a dry piece of pine fire wood as Pejuta Waukhean stood chanting the ancient thanks songs to the four great directions then offered tobacco to the earth and sky. After taking care of this age old ritual the old man, his frail, stooped frame only a memory of what it once was, stepped back ready to talk or listen or just sit. Medicine Thunder, in all his years, had never been honored by a visit from someone as wise as Iktomi. He leaned back against the warm, south facing rock wall stretched his weary legs and crossed his arms across his chest, in the Lakota way and ran a leathery hand across his wrinkled face and sat a stare from his deep gray eyes on the spider as Iktomi began to speak.
Iyotaka (sit down) Pejuta Waukhean, said Iktomi the trickster spider.
Anagoptan Pejuta Wicasa (listen medicine man).
Iktomi now switched from Lakota to the ancient scared language. Some is his tribe had warned the old medicine man for many seasons to be afraid of the magical spider, but there seemed to be nothing to fear, after all the old Medicine man was so old, what would he fear, death? The trickster spider looked like the spiders that Pejuta Waukhean had caught and played with as a boy, brown and black same eight legs and the same creepy twitchy way of walking. The weathered face of the medicine man relaxed as he realized he was in little or no danger in this place of the Gods on the mountain. Iktomi spoke of many things of the earth and sky and of life, death and the after life with the spirit world people. As he spoke Iktomi reached over and took the old mans willow hoop, the hoop that Pejuta Waukhean carried every day to help make the medicine, a hoop long in the making, decorated with rabbit fur, eagle feathers, rodent hair and colored bone beads, a hoop made in the ancient way.
Iktomi spoke of the circle of life from birth to death and reminded Pejuta Waukhean that Lakota teepees and cooking fires were always in a circle, the same circle that was life--- too death. “Every time of life to the people is part of a circle from helpless infant to the young, to warrior age to the age of the wise and finally the circle completes itself when we become such as you, the very old, and soon to be helpless like a new child.” The old medicine man could only smile as he listened and nodded his head in agreement to the spiders’ assessment of everything, especially of old age.
“And,” the spider said as he started to spin a web inside of the old chiefs’ willow hoop, “every time of your life, you face many forces, some good, and some bad. You must listen to the good and continue to steer away from the bad. If you listen to the bad forces, bad things will happen to you and take your life in the wrong direction. These forces meddle with nature and attempt to change the great teachings of man-in-the-sky.”
All the time that Iktomi spoke he continued to weave his web from the outside working toward the middle of the willow hoop. Iktomi finished speaking and handed the hoop back to Medicine Thunder and said.
“Your hoop is a perfect circle and now with many webs leading to the center, some for good, and some for bad. But at the very center of your hoop I have left a hole. Use this web to guide your chiefs, so that they may guide the people in a good way; a way to reach their dreams so that your tribe’s ideas and visions can come true . You must believe strongly in the man in the sky, and pray often so that the hoop and the web will catch the good and let the bad ideas flow through.”
Medicine Thunder went back to his tribe, the Lakota of Wyoming and Dakota Territory, and passed the wisdom of the spider on the mountain top on to his tribe and to the rest of the Lakota Nation and they lived in peace and harmony with much feasting and much happiness for many years.
The Dream Catcher
The dream catcher became the web of life to the Lakota (Sioux) and many other tribes of today and centuries past. Today many people, not just the Sioux, hang Dream Catchers above their beds or from the rear view mirrors of their vehicles and in windows of their homes. The Dream Catcher sifts through dreams and thoughts letting the good stay forever as part of their lives web to be carried with them, but the bad dreams and the evil of their life escape through the hole in the center of the hoop and become lost forever.
The dream Catcher, above all else, holds the future of the owner in its web.
Today dream catchers, mostly made in the far eastern part of the world can be purchased in nearly every souvenir shop in the great American west. If you belief strongly enough maybe you can let go of the bad and hold onto the good and live the first Americans idea of the great life.