What Do Dreamcatcher Tattoos Represent?
Dreamcatchers (handmade willow hoops with strings woven into nets or webs that incorporate other sacred items like feathers or beads) are a very popular tattoo symbol. Some Native American cultures use dreamcatchers as protective charms from negative spirits. They hang them above sleeping places (especially children's) to catch the negative spirits before they bother the sleeper.
The dreamcatcher is believed to originate from the Anishinabe, who were also called the Chippewa and Ojibwa. They lived in America and Canada and believed that the dreamcatcher had mystical powers. The tribe believed that Spider Woman would travel and visit the cradles of all newborns. She had the power to weave her magical web which would give the infants protection from everything that was bad. When the tribe eventually expanded, and Spider Woman began to have trouble getting to all the infants, the women of the tribe began to weave dreamcatchers for the infants.
In certain tribes, the web of the dreamcatcher has eight points. These tribes associate the eight points to the eight legs of Spider Woman. The Anishinabe created colorful dreamcatchers that would catch the eye of the infant and help them sleep. It was also thought that it would protect the babies from bad dreams, which is the most well-known meaning of the dreamcatcher today.
What Do Dreamcatcher Tattoos Represent Today?
- Dreamcatchers represent protection and safety. Some people that choose this design feel like the tattoo will protect them from anything that is bad, since they have always been associated with protection from bad dreams and negative spirits, bad dreams and bad omens.
- They might also represent the Native American culture and heritage. I know a few people who chose it to show respect for the Native American culture; I know others who chose it because of their love of animals that are associated with Native Americans, such as the wolf, bison, hawk, and horse.
- Although many people do choose this tattoo for symbolic purposes, others choose it just for its beautiful design and colors.
Design Variations for Dreamcatcher Tattoos
- There are many ways to play with the design, but most have a web centered inside a hoop. Feathers, beads, arrowheads, stones, crystals, and jewelry are also incorporated, woven into the web or added on the fringe that dangles down from it.
- Important spirit animals might also be included, like horses, hawks, bison, bears, and huskies.
- You could have designs woven into the web, like a face, a heart, a landscape, or a bear paw print in the center of the loop. You could have it rendered in black ink only, or use any combination of colors.
- Instead of choosing a traditional circle, the webbed hoop itself could be any shape—yin yang, heart, or whatever you choose.
- You could have the artist depict the negative spirits you fight against there, so that your tattoo reflects your own desire for protection.
Before You Tattoo
Before you choose a tattoo, you need to make sure that you know what it means. You don't want to get a tattoo and find out later that it means something extremely different from what you wanted it to represent. Make sure you do your research. Although some tattoos can be removed, others can't.
Of course, before you choose a tattoo, you always want to make sure you understand fully what you're choosing. To Native Americans, the dreamcatcher can be a symbol of their culture and heritage. They wear this symbol as a tattoo with rich tradition and pride. If you don't share that tradition and culture, consider what you are saying when you choose their traditional design.