To sleep, perchance to dream . . .
'Ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come' - Shakespeare
There's no doubting the popularity of dream catchers but there is sometimes confusion surrounding their origin. Clearly, these gorgeous pieces have something to do with dreams but exactly what?
Traditionally made from a willow hoop decorated with sacred items, such as feathers and beads, the dream catcher was believed to possess the protective powers of Asibikaashi or Spider Woman. No, I'm not talking about a Marvel Comics superhero, but a powerful Native American entity that protects the children and people of the land.
Native American Legend
According to Ojibwe legend, as their people spread far and wide it became difficult for Asibikaashi to protect them all. So mothers and grandmothers would make dream catchers to hang over the cribs.
When native arts and crafts became popular in the 1970s and 80s, dream catchers found their way into homes all over the world.
There's a wonderful story about a Native American chief whose child became very sick with a fever. As the child started experiencing nightmares, a medicine woman crafted a dream catcher. She used a spider's web as inspiration, telling the chief that instead of catching flies, the dream catcher would catch bad dreams.
The great thing about the design is that good dreams are able to pass through the web and travel down the feathers to the person sleeping below.
Of course, not everyone wants to use animal products so it's great to hear that cruelty-free dream catchers are now available. Using no leather products or real feathers, this is a great alternative that still looks stunning and, hopefully, gives you good dreams.
Why We Dream
As well as being a beautiful addition to your home, dream catchers remind us of the importance of our dreams. All humans dream and it's believed that most mammals and birds do, too, as they also experience REM sleep.
There are a million and one theories about why and how we dream, and some people remember them better than others. Did you know that during an average lifetime, a person spends a total of six years dreaming!
What's interesting is that most people dream in colour, whilst others dream in black and white. All types of emotions crop up in our dreams but the most common is anxiety. Perhaps our dreams are simply a way of coping with situations in our days.
What you may not realise is that while you're in a REM state and dreaming, your body basically becomes paralysed. Known as REM atonia, this is to stop us acting out our dreams while asleep. Hang on, you say, what about sleepwalking? Well, that's another story altogether!