The Legend of the Dreamcatcher
There are over 500 First Nations on Turtle Island (North America) and many have their own legends of the dreamcatcher but it is commonly recognized that dreamcatchers were a tool passed down from the Ojibway through intermarriage and trade. The Ojibway word for dreamcatcher asabikeshiinh actually means "spider," referring to the web woven to loosely cover the hoop. The patterns of the dreamcatcher are similar to how some First Nations tied the webbing for their snowshoes.
According to the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Planning Program, the story tells us that long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web.
He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life; how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. "But," Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, "in each time of life there are many forces; some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they will steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. So these forces can help or can interfere with the harmony of Nature." While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.
When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, "The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the centre. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good ideas and the bad ones will go through the hole." The elder passed on his vision to the people and now many Indigenous people hang a dreamcatcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good is captured in the web of life and carried with the people, but the evil in their dreams drops through the hole in the centre of the web and is no longer a part of their lives. It is said that the dream catcher holds the destiny of the future.