155. Dream Catchers

The dream catcher is made by a grandmother figure, and the child takes it with them through the stages of life as a part of their “medicine”, their power in this lifetime.

We made dream catchers in Scouts and as crafts, but through my mentoring program, I learned about the spiritual representation.  This is my story of understanding.  Starfeather Marcy, who was taught by Pacific Northwest Cherokee Grandmother, White Horse Woman, retaught the careful steps of creating one. 

The dream catcher is made by a grandmother figure, and the child takes it with them through the stages of life as a part of their “medicine”, their power in this lifetime.

The time and energy devoted in creating the Dream Catcher is part of its beauty and energy.  There is a lot of love involved in making the sacred gift.

I usually begin with a handmade cedar ring from trees in the yard.  The cedar is the sacred wood of the Pacific Northwest, used for housing, clothing, canoes, nets and many other life sustaining purposes by the original Indigenous people.  Cedar is special; well, every tree is special.  Cedar smudge is used to represent and send messages to the North, the elders and teachers, Buddha, Jesus, White Buffalo Calf Woman, your ancestors and more.

Leather lacing is also about the people in your lineage.  Think of each strand as a grandmother and grandfather, a great grandmother and grandfather, on back to the beginning of man. The lacing is cut by hand, and is not a simple task.  The time and concentration put into it are love incarnate.  Most of the leather for sacred dream catchers in the Pacific Northwest are gifted from deer or elk.  The animals evoke connection and stories from people individually, but I see them universally as symbols of abundance, peace, and our intertwined existence with nature.

Right now, we are visiting Ocean Shores for a week.  Deer literally roam the streets.  Shante counted more than thirty on a trip from town to the condo.  So for us, the deer leather could be a reminder of joy with our family, or time at the ocean, or the tranquility that comes from a visit to the area.  You have your own stories and can look for the individual meaning in a dream catcher.

Numbers have meaning.  Groups of three convey the trinity, or three stages of being, Father/son/spirit (divine Mother/daughter/spirit).  Four is the four directions, North, South, East, and West, the balance in the medicine wheel, the cycles in all existence.  Seven is also about the medicine wheel, adding Earth, Sky and Creator to the four.  Eleven is both.  Count the beads. Count the strands of leather.  There is meaning.  You may notice a number on one strand in particular.  You can use the internet to check for hints from the spirit. 

The feathers are gifts from the birds.  The particular bird might have meaning to the family, could be a spirit animal coming with messages, and most certainly adds a characteristic beauty.  Sometimes, feather quantities can convey meaning too.

Colors also share representation.  White is purity, innocence, and spiritual elevation.  Purple can be the highest self, fulfillment, alignment with the whole universe.  Blue is another representation of high level self, fluid like the water, evoking clear and truthful communication. Brown is nurturing, earth connection, peace and stability. Green can be seen as growth, hope, harmony, and life. There are so many possible connections.

The center is created of threads or artificial sinew.  It is woven to catch the negative “dreams”, or the negatives in the life journey.  The beads in the weaving are where the negatives are caught and transmuted, sent back out into existence as beauty and light.  

The hole in the center of the web is important.  When I see a dream catcher without a gap in the middle, I am truly confused.  The center is a sacred space where the good dreams, the positives, travel through the dream catcher, down a leather or sinew strand, and pass to the dreamer through the feather at the end.

I am honored to have learned the spiritual messaging, and so grateful to Starfeather, White Horse Woman, and the ancestors of the art.  A dream catcher delivers beauty and hope to our lives.

35. Spiritual Ancestry

White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the People, and taught them as Jesus did. She taught the mystical, the spiritual, and the practical. And she left an assignment to continue her legacy.

Anytime I talk about religion, I feel compelled to mention that I do not have “one”.  

Oxymoron: a figure of speech where apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.  Am I devoutly nonreligious? That causes confusion.  The devout part is definitely true when standing alone.  I am not devout in being nonreligious, I am non religiously devout.

In the last couple of years, I have had the honor of stepping into the lineage of the Cherokee ancestors.  As I have studied and learned and cried with deep humiliation for my part in white ancestry. I have also embraced my connection to the same Great Spirit that has always been my God.  And with that has also been a grounding to this existence, being on this planet, a part of the intertwining of all life.

A Cherokee who lives in the Pacific Northwest, White Horse Woman, sought to teach her children and grandchildren the path of their elders, but they showed little interest in the ways of the medicine woman. Starfeather appeared, willing, excited, and ready to absorb a Truth that already ran through her veins.  

The ancestry evolves like this:  White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the People, and taught them as Jesus did.  She taught the mystical, the spiritual, and the practical.  And she left an assignment to continue her legacy.  Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren continued the practices and passed the teachings.  White Horse Woman is still living, but is close to transitioning from the planet.  Starfeather is her spiritual child.  And, in effect, I am White Horse Woman’s grandchild.  Anyone who learns a “native principle or teaching” from me, if we sat somewhere as I told the story of the dreamcatcher and we wove the threads on the cedar ring, that classifies you as White Horse Woman’s spiritual Great Grandchild.

“Sacred Buffalo” by Gretchen Del Rio, original watercolor, 2013

It’s a construct.  I made it up.  But I think it honors the tradition.  It honors the legacy of White Horse Woman.  It connects the ancestry; it connects the cultures.  There is a gift that is begging to be received.