Thursday, May 17, 2012

dream catcher

Quite a long time ago now, I mentioned that we made a dream catcher for Beezus. I'm not the kind of person who ever owned a dream catcher. It's not that there is anything wrong with them, but there are certain Native American objects that new age people, I guess I include myself in that category, co-opted as part of their spirituality. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that. I am a pluralist, and I believe that bringing in many spiritual practices is part of what makes American religion unique, and what works for our family. But I suppose the idea that people played at being Native American by hanging a dream catcher on a rearview mirror made me uncomfortable for a long time. Granted, I also lived in Arizona, which seems to be the place where dream catchers, turquoise, Kokopelli, and El Caminos go to die. And people come to dress up like cowboys and Indians. It is a strange place indeed.

At any rate, when Beezus began having nightmares and ending up in our bed a few months ago, I felt stumped on how to comfort her. Holding her all night was incredibly beautiful the first night. My baby still needs me. And I can give this to her. After that night, perhaps after a week, my numb arm, and bruised thighs needed a break. She needed a break. We both needed our sleep. I was plagued with nightmares and insomnia as a child. Being awake and afraid many nights is a terrible way to grow up. And I can only hold my children so long, they need to soothe themselves, and find their own path of turning their fears over to God, or the universe, or the angels, or the fairies, or whoever and whatever gives them comfort.

I did a little research for a ritual to help her manage her nightmares. I explain, which I always explain, how important sleep is to our health, how vital it is for our body to have its own space to rejuvenate. When I thought  about a dream catcher, I had to stop and wonder if this is reappropriating a Native ritual for something exploitative, but I came to a place of peace. This gift of the Lakota and Ojibwe people is this sacred object. We can use it to pretend we are Lakota, which we are not going to do, or we can use it for its intended purpose--to protect our sleeping children from nightmares. We treat it with deference as a sacred object.

The Ojibwe believed that the dreamcatchers filtered out the bad dreams, allowing only good dreams in through the hole, and slide down the feather into the child's dream. The bad dreams would evaporate in the light of the next day. Another way to see it is that the bad dreams drift up and through the hole, and the net keeps the good dreams around the child. Either way, it is supposed to allow only good dreams.

I made this object from simple instructions on the internet. There are a ton of places to find how-tos. I can't quite remember where I got the one I used. First thing we did was buy an embroidery hoop. Traditionally, dream catchers are made out of willow. The intention is for them to wither as the child grows and outgrows their need for a nightmare catcher. But I thought Beezus might like one that is pink. We also bought some pink, brown and white yarn for the web. The Chippewa think you should use red yarn. My photographs suck, I'm sorry.

To tie the yarn onto the hoop, and begin weaving.

You really need to cut a length of yarn, because you cannot weave your dream catcher with the ball. It is too big. So, first you tie, then you basically go under the hoop, over the top, and through the yarn hoop you just created. Leave some slack, but not too much. Try to leave an even amount of slack in each yarn hoop. Do this all the way around the hoop, when you get back to center, link to the first row.

Then you continue until you have gotten to the center. I used the last string to hang the feather, so it would have some weight. I haven't decided if that works or not.

We cut some other lengths of string to tie beads, and a feather on it. We told the story of the dream catcher to Beezus. We also made a dream pillow with lavender and rosemary.

Anyway, here is the final dream catcher. It hangs above her bed. Beatrice claims it helps her catch her bad dreams. Now, she just comes into bed in the middle of the night because she likes to be with everyone else, she says.


HereWeGoAJen said...

I love that! We are definitely going to have to do one of those. And I love that she still comes to your bed anyway.

Curls O Fred said...

You are very intentional with your children and what you create. You instill them with thoughtfulness and I love that about your projects with them. This is very beautiful. I hope her dreams are peaceful and beautiful.