The first “dream catchers” were tiny, round handcrafted net charms that were suspended from the top of an Ojibwa infant’s cradle board. Intended to “catch” bad dreams and defend children against illness and evil spirits, the protective charms represented the community’s hope for the next generation. In this book, anthropologist Cath Oberholtzer engages readers in a wide-ranging discussion about the origins of this symbol of Native spirituality, the diverse designs and the meaning it has assumed among Native American peoples throughout North America. But Oberholtzer also explores the explosion of the dream catcher as a worldwide marketing venture, sparked by a growing appetite for spiritual meaning and by its appropriation by the New Age movement. Available in airport gift shops, shopping malls, and the Internet, the dream catcher has gone mainstream. Here, Oberholtzer thoughtfully considers the past, present and future of a cultural icon.
- Author: Cath Oberholtzer
- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Firefly Books; First Edition edition (September 6, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 1770850562
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches
Cath Oberholtzer, an anthropologist, taught at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and published many academic articles about dream catchers, their origin and meaning.
In Ojibwe (or Chippewa in the United States) culture a dream catcher is a hand-crafted willow hoop with woven netting that is decorated with sacred and personal items such as feathers and beads. Although the exact genesis of this intriguing artifact is unknown, legend has it that a medicine woman forms a circle from a willow branch and, with sinew, borrows the pattern from a spider, weaves a web, and hangs it over the bed of a sick child who recovers by morning. In some versions dream catchers catch good dreams and let bad ones through, while others catch bad dreams and let good dreams through. This legend accompanies dream catchers offered for sale across North America and beyond.
These themes, among others, are carried throughout this book which explores the appropriation of dream catchers by Native Americans of different nations, as well as the New Age movement. Dream Catchers also discusses the blending of two religious philosophies whereby Native and Christian icons are mixed. More than 40 color photographs feature contemporary dream catchers and artifacts with informative captions that identify and comment on the different patterns, their significance and history. Dream Catchers features the work of Native artist Nick Huard who creates dream catchers in his studio in Kahnawake outside of Montreal.
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