Skip to main content

What Do Dreamcatcher Tattoos Represent?

A simple dreamcatcher tattoo.

A simple dreamcatcher tattoo.

Dreamcatcher Tradition

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 with 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 Native American culture and heritage. I know a few people who chose it to show respect for 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 to 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.


Tooraloo on March 21, 2019:

they represent originality and lack of independent thought.

Jakommo on April 16, 2018:

Honestly I like the dreamcatcher as a real object.

But I hate how every second chick has huge tattoo on their body..

Isn't the purpose of dreamcatcher to "suck out bad dreams from you" ???

Which mean as a tattoo, it just keeps all that negative energy inside you anyway? ...

Jon Egan on July 31, 2017:

I've have one on my arm for the love of the Native American Indians

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on May 06, 2013:

Loulou, thanks for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed this article. Glad you finally found that meaningful tattoo my friend. AWESOME!!

Loulou on March 16, 2013:

Hi I have just had a dream catcher tattooed on my back, the artist has done a great job and it has captured everything I wanted and everything on it has meaning to me.... I fully agree you should research everything about your tattoo and make sure it has special meaning to you as it is with you for life. I have always wanted one but it has taken 20 years for me to find something that is special to me, love my tattoo and love your web page.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on March 13, 2012:

Donna, thanks for taking the time to ask a question. Absolutely not. Although it is an Native American symbol, it is also a symbol of protection, security, and many other things. Yes, it is a great way to show someone's Native American pride and heritage, it is also a great tattoo for the other meanings also. If it is what you want, get it by all means.

Donna on March 08, 2012:

Would it not be insulting to native culture for me to have a dream catcher tattooed on my body?

I would hate to offend anyone

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 17, 2012:

Landscapeartist, thanks for coming by and checking this article out. I appreciate your kind words. They are a great detailed tattoo that looks good on both men and women.

Roberta McIlroy from Ontario, Canada on January 16, 2012:

i love dreamcatchers that are simple yet beautifully detailed. awesome hub.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

Frank, thanks for coming over pal and checking out another tattoo article. HA HA HA, lol. Well, now you really have me thinking. I will have to keep reading about you and see what kind of info I can get on you I guess. But in due time, such an article may pop up:)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

Gypsy,thanks for coming by again and for all your time on my articles. I just want you to know I appreciate your friendship very much. See you soon.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

AE, I appreciate you taking the time to read this article and thanks. Roses are one of those designs that go any many different tattoos. Appreciate the visit and talk to you soon.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

Acaetnna, thanks for dropping by and reading the article. I can see your point, tattoos are not for everyone. I do appreciate your time and thoughtfulness. Hope you have a great day and best wishes.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

B Malin, thanks for taking the time to drop by and check out this article. I am glad you enjoyed the history. Thanks for noticing the hard work. Take care.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

Hyp, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this article. I agree with your choice, I really like the design on that one. I am pleased that you enjoyed it. Best wishes and catch you in a little bit.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

Austinstar, thanks for taking the time to come by and for adding your comment. Very good advice and thank you so much for adding that information. Well put. I appreciate you checking out this article and I will return the favor. Best wishes.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2012:

MM, thanks for taking the time to drop by and read this article and many more. I really do appreciate all your time. This is one of my favorite designs. I really like them. So much color to work with, good for men and women both.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on January 12, 2012:

You got me caught up in your tattoo movement.. and If I think about getting one it'll be because of you.. so Ill read and wait I'll wait for the right one.. damn I hope it doesn't come.. Thanks for these wonderful shares :) Frank

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 12, 2012:

One fascinating read. These tattoos are just lovely. Great info.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 11, 2012:

The tattoos are beautiful. I especially liked the one with the roses..Thank you..

acaetnna from Guildford on January 11, 2012:

I hate to be a prude but I am simply not a one for tattoos. Some are truly beautiful but I prefer to see them frame and hanging on a wall!! Great hub though and I appreciated your research.

b. Malin on January 11, 2012:

Such an Interesting Hub on Dream Catcher Tattoos "LyricWriter". The pictures are really Breathtaking works of Art and the History so very Exciting. Well researched Hub!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on January 11, 2012:

I really like that third one and also the one with pink roses. You really did your research on this one. I learned a lot about dream catchers and tattoos. Very interesting!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on January 11, 2012:

As a creator of dream catchers, I found these designs to be quite interesting. I would offer that dream catcher tattoos should only be applied during the waxing moon and not the waning moon. When the moon is increasing in size the web absorbs more of the moon's dream power.

It is true that traditional dreamcatchers are supposed to have 8 anchors to represent the spider, but their webs actually contain any number of anchor points so it is not a strict requirement. The web itself is a reminder of the spider spirit.

Great tattoo photos!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on January 11, 2012:

Hi Ricky, the history of the dreamcatcher is fascinating.

These designs are so colourful, the details in the feathers are quite exquisite!

Thank you for sharing another fantastic hub, you put so much work into your articles! voting up and awesome.