The History, Origin & Meaning of Dreamcatchers, Macramé, and the Art of Knot Tying
Dreamcatchers: History and Legend
Dreamcatchers can be traced back to the Ojibwe tribe about 1,500 years ago. The Ojibwe (pronounced O-Jib-Way, also known as the Chippewa), are a group of Algonquian-speaking bands who united as a tribe in the 1600's. As they migrated westward from the Atlantic Coast, they brought with them an abundance of knowledge, traditions, and skills including hunting, fishing, maple sugar & syrup making, and of course, the dreamcatcher. Over time Dreamcatchers have been adopted by many tribes, cultures, and nations through intermarriage, and/or trade.
The Ojibwe word for dreamcatcher is "asabikeshiinh", meaning "spider". It refers to the legend of the "Spider Woman", custodian of the Ojibwe people. A maternal figure serving as spiritual protector over the tribe. As the tribe began to migrate and disperse westward, she found it difficult to protect all the members of the tribe, so she made the first dreamcatcher. They were then recreated by women for their own children.
Meaning & Symbolism
Often referred to as "Sacred hoops", traditional dreamcatchers were used as protection for sleeping people (children in particular) from bad dreams and nightmares. When placed above a bed, where the morning sunlight can hit it, the good dreams pass through the small hole in the center of the web, and climb down the feathers to comfort the sleeper beneath. The bad dreams get caught in the web, and are dismantled by the light of day.
ꎿ The round shape • symbolizes the earth, Grandfather Sun as he traverses the sky, the moon as it travels the night, and the circle of life.
ꎿ The web • often with eight points that connect to the hoop that symbolizes Spider Woman's eight legs. The center hole let's the good dreams through, while the web catches the bad dreams, and annihilates them with daybreak.
ꎿ Feathers • act as soft ladder for the good dreams to climb down.
ꎿ Beads • some believe them to represent the spider, the weaver herself. Others believe them to represent the good dreams in sacred tangible form.
Macramé: History and Origin
Some believe the word Macramé comes from the Arabic word "migramah", meaning "to fringe". Generally Macramé can be attributed to Arabic weavers in the 1200's, using decorative knots to tye up loose ends of hand woven textiles. It can also be traced back to third century China where they used decorative knots on ceremonial garments, and wall hangings.
Knot Just By Land
Though the origins of Macramé are hard to pinpoint, sailors are a large reason why Macramé is still alive today. Knots not only had practical uses aboard their ships, but decorative knot tying kept idle hands busy. They would make things such as belts, and hammocks, then sold their knotted goods in port. Sailors brought the skill from North Africa to Spain. The Spanish then introduced the craft to the French in the 15th century, and then the French took it to the Italians in the 16th century. From there it spread throughout Europe. In the late 17th century, Queen Mary II of England took an interest in the art, even teaching it to her ladies-in-waiting.
It was Victorian England that gave rise to Macramé as we know it today. Many young women were taught Macramé as part of their education. Most all homes in this time period had a form of Macramé. From table runners, to linens, to curtains.
Macramé fell by the wayside in the 20th century until the 70's when it made a huge comeback as the favored fabric. Plant hangers, wall hangings, belts, hats, vests, furniture, even bikinis burst into society. But by the 80's, Macramé made another exit.
That brings us to today! Macramé is coming out of retirement and stepping on to the stage in a big way, battling crochet and knitting for the top spot. All the classic items are back, but some new versions are hitting the scene. Just like what we offer here at Catcher & Cord! I have taken different art forms from around the world, and combined them not only to celebrate them, but to shine a fresh new light on these ancient skills. I want to introduce them to a new generation, so they too can love & appreciate them. It's Macramé for the modern age 🖤
As with the original versions, I feel like it's important to use the most neutral and natural materials in each of my products. 99 percent of the materials used at Catcher + Cord comes from the earth.