Make a Traditional Dreamcatcher With This Simple DIY Tutorial
Seeing so many dreamcatchers in folks’ decorations these days might leave you wondering, but in case you were curious, yes, they are an authentic American Indian tradition from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe. These native people would tie sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame and hang this as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares. Famously, the legend is that the bad dreams will get caught in the dreamcatcher’s web.
During the pan-Indian movement in the 60’s and 70’s, Ojibway dreamcatchers grew in popularity in other Native American tribes, even among the Cherokee, Lakota, and Navajo. Today, they’re highly popularized among the younger set for their trendy aesthetic value. This increased fame doesn’t lessen the tradition and history the dreamcatcher possesses, however.
In long-held custom, the dreamcatcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and die when the first rays of the sun struck them.
Whether you believe that the dreamcatcher has these powers or not, when used properly, it can be a wonderful charm of positive energy and a way to honor the metaphysical traditions of Native Americans. Rather than cheapening the tradition, you can use this powerful symbol for yourself, rather than selling it as kitschy souvenirs. It can also have a subconscious effect on your mind, which can lead to more restful nights.
Either way, they are a beautiful symbol worthy of respect.
Here’s your guide to making your own, customizable dreamcatcher. Traditional dreamcatchers use feathers, bone, and beads, but you can see what works for you. Try stringing beads of power crystals that you resonate with the most, or leaves of herbs that have a strong, positive effect on you. Be careful when experimenting, however, as this traditional dreamcatcher can be rather delicate!
- Start with a 2-6 foot length of fresh red willow (red osier dogwood) or soaked grapevine (you can find this in most arts and crafts stores).
- Carefully bend the vine around to form a circle with a 3-8 inch diameter. You can adjust the diameter to whatever length you want, but note that traditional dreamcatchers are usually no bigger than an adult’s hand.
- Once you have made the circle, twist the remaining length around the circle to reinforce the hoop.
- Use 4-16 feet (depending on the diameter of your hoop) of strong, thin string to knot a loop in one end from which you will hang the dreamcatcher. Tie the hanging loop around the top of your dreamcatcher, or at the weakest point of your hoop.
The First Stitch
- The dream catcher repeats the same stitch from start to finish. To start, hold the string and place it loosely over the top of the hoop. Move the string around to the back of the hoop (forming a hole) and pull the string back through the hole you just made.
- Pull each stitch taught, but not too tight or it will warp the hoop of the dream catcher, and it will not lie flat when it is done. You can also add decorations that either tie or loop into the stitches, such as beads.
- Continue the same stitch for the first round around the hoop of the dream catcher. Space the stitches evenly, about 1 ½ to 2 in. apart (making 7 to 13 stitches around the hoop).
- The last stitch of the first round should be placed about a half inch away from the hanging loop.
The Second Stitch
- On the second and subsequent stitching rounds, place the string around the center of each stitch from the previous round (rather than around the hoop).
- As you pull each stitch tight, the string from the previous round should bend towards the center of the hoop slightly, forming a diamond shape. You should see the spider web beginning to form.
- On the third or fourth round add a bead to represent the spider in the web. Simply place the bead on your string and continue stitching as usual.
- Continue stitching towards the center of the hoop. Eventually, the stitches become so small that it is difficult to pass the string through. Make sure you leave a hole in the center of the dreamcatcher.
- Stop stitching at the bottom of the hole in the center of the dream catcher. End by stitching twice in the same place, forming a knot, and pull tight.
- You should have 6 – 8 in. of string to tie 2 or 3 feathers which dangle from the center of the dreamcatcher. Tie on 2 or 3 feathers and knot.
- Wrap a 1 in. square of felt or fabric around the knot of string and over the base of the feathers. Tie two 4 In. pieces string around the wrapped felt.
- Hang over sleeping place. Sweet dreams!
Samhain Rituals - How to Celebrate Samhain
Samhain is a time-honored tradition followed by witches, Wiccans, ancient druids, and countless other modern pagans across the world, celebrated as October turns to November. Samhain is a festival of the Dead, meaning “Summer’s End,” and though you’re probably tempted to pronounce it “sam-hane,” it’s actually pronounced saah-win or saah-ween.
What is a Samhain Celebration?
Tradition holds that Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year, and with this transition, it’s also celebrated as the beginning of the spiritual new year for practitioners, which is also why it’s nicknamed “The Witches’ New Year.”
How to Celebrate Samhain
Samhain is typically celebrated by preparing a dinner to celebrate the harvest. The holiday is meant to be shared with those who have passed on as well as those still with us. Set a place at the table for those in the spiritual plane, providing an offering for them upon every serving throughout the meal. In addition to those who have passed, invite friends and family to enjoy the feast with you. Typical beverages include mulled wine, cider, and mead, and are to be shared with the Dead throughout the meal.
Despite occurring at similar times and containing similar themes, Samhain and Halloween actually are not the same holiday. Halloween, short for All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated on and around Oct. 31 and tends to be more family-focused. On the other hand, Samhain is more religious in focus, spiritually observed by practitioners.
There are some more light-hearted observances in honor of the dead through Samhain, but the underlying tone of Samhain is one of a serious religious practice rather than a light-hearted make-believe re-enactment. Today’s Pagan Samhain rites are benevolent, and although they are somber and centered on death, they do not involve human or animal sacrifices as some rumors may claim. Another difference between Samhain and Halloween is that most Samhain rituals are held in private rather than in public.
If you want to start honoring this pagan tradition, you might wonder when to start. Well, the timing of contemporary Samhain celebrations varies according to spiritual tradition and geography. Practitioners state to celebrate Samhain over the course of several days and nights, and these extended observances usually include a series of solo rites as well as ceremonies, feasts, and gatherings with family, friends, and spiritual community.
In the northern hemisphere, many Pagans celebrate Samhain from sundown on October 31 through November 1. Others hold Samhain celebrations on the nearest weekend or on the Full or New Moon closest to this time. Some Pagans observe Samhain a bit later, or near November 6, to coincide more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. Most Pagans in the southern hemisphere time their Samhain observances to coincide with the middle of their Autumn in late April and early May, rather than at the traditional European time of the holiday. In the end, it’s really up to you!
Samhain isn’t necessarily a creepy, morbid holiday obsessed with death, as some may conclude. Instead, it reaches for themes deeper than that, tying in with Nature’s rhythms. In many places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season. Vegetation dies back by killing frosts, and therefore, literally, death is in the air.
This contributes to the ancient notion that at Samhain, the veil is thin between the world of the living and the realm of the Dead and this facilitates contact and communication. For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them. However, it’s also a way to appreciate life, when you get right down to it.