Dreamcatcher

by Jennifer Busick

I bought a dreamcatcher from a Cherokee storyteller. He had just finished speaking in a small classroom at Brevard College, relating Cherokee legends and talking about how to listen like a Cherokee. Now he was answering questions and selling crafts from a table at the front of the room. I waited long enough for the crowd to thin, because there was a question I wanted to ask.

I knew a little bit about dreamcatchers already. They consist of a hoop, woven inside with the semblance of a spider's web. In the center of the web is a small, round hole. Beneath the hoop is a weighted bangle of beaded leather strips and feathers.

How a dreamcatcher works depends upon which tradition you consult. According to some, it catches good dreams in its web, permitting bad dreams to fall through the center hole into oblivion. Others say that bad dreams are caught, while good dreams are permitted through the center hole to reach the nearby sleeper.

I prefer the notion of a web rimed with an accumulation of good dreams, while evil ones pass through and away. I like the notion of capturing those dreams, hanging onto them until they become real.

This dreamcatcher would be for my daughter, six months old, too young yet to dream for herself. It was important to me that I choose the right one. When only a handful of listeners remained clustered around the table, I stepped up and asked, "Do the colors mean anything?"

The storyteller seemed taken aback, though I don't know why he should be. A dreamcatcher is a symbolic thing; why would I buy one without knowing what it symbolized? "Yes," he said at last. "Black is eternal life."

Most of the dreamcatchers were made of soft black suede, decorated with beads. I frowned at them, trying to dream forever for my baby girl. But black is an appropriate color for eternity; trying to imagine it is like standing in a vast cave with only a dim flashlight, everything outside that wan beam too dark to see. What lurks there? A banquet, or a basilisk? Just because the cave goes on forever doesn't mean she would want to stay.

If not eternal life, then, what could I dream for her? I asked the storyteller, "Is there a color for joy?"

He seemed truly surprised. "Yellow," he said, after a moment's consideration. "Yellow is happiness."

I thought of my daughter, and had to agree. Yellow was happiness.

When Ashley Rose was born, my husband and I couldn't tell what color her hair was. The fine fuzz looked almost black when it was damp, and could have been any lighter shade when dry. At six months, though, we were fairly certain. My husband and I, both with chestnut hair, had a golden-haired little girl. A child the color of joy.

I searched the dreamcatchers on the table, finally finding a small one formed from natural suede, in a light golden brown that was almost yellow, decorated with red and orange beads and pale, downy feathers. "This one, then." I said.

"Yes," the storyteller said. "Red is success," he added, pointing out the red beads woven into the web.

I handed him five dollars. "It's a Christmas present," I explained, even though I owed him none. "It's for my daughter."

He wasn't listening. Someone else had engaged his attention. No matter. I carried the dreamcatcher home, to hang beside my baby daughter's crib.

Sweet dreams, my baby child. And success. But most of all, may you have joy.


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All Content (c) 2002 Jennifer Busick