Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chippewa Dreams

Today was a slow day at work due to the heat and humidity. Who wants to be outside and in the state parks during 90+ degree weather? No one who is smart, I guess, and there were a lot of smart people today in Minnesota. This gave me time to read a part of one of the books we sell at the registration center.

As we have sacred grounds of a local Indian tribe near by, we stock books with historical information about several tribes. The book I decided to take a peak at was about the Chippewa people. One section that caught my interest was about the meaning and importance behind dreams. Dreams were used to name people, to recognize where their power lies, and sometimes would see objects or people they had never seen before and later in their life, see them. Great importance was put on dreams.

From a young age, Chippewa children were encouraged to remember their dreams, taught about the importance of dreams and how to obtain a meaningful dream later on in life. Both boys and girls were taught this importance. Dreams were significant as this is where they gained their knowledge of their world and also the divine.

Naming was a big deal within Chippewa community. One might have several names – one for everyday use, one that was known to few people, and a name given by their parents. There were those within the community that got a reputation as a namer from the dreams that they had. These people would use aspects of their dream to name the child. It seemed as though this type of name could be given at any point in the childhood, and sometimes was given to a child when they were sick. This was to help aid the child in recovery, with the aspect of the namer’s dream giving strength to the child. The namer would not necessarily tell the meaning of the name in relation to the dream. It was his option to do so.

I had been reading about the concept of “magical or pagan names” recently and didn’t find much appeal in the concept. I guess it was being presented in many places, as everybody’s-doing-it-so-should-you, so I disregarded it on some level. This book made the idea of names more important in regards to how to approach naming. The ceremony surrounding naming was an important part of community life and very meaningful to the Chippewa. Thanks to this book, I can now see the importance of taking on a name that is meaningful to your life and your beliefs.

Another aspect of dreams was to learn where a person’s power lies. The book used the example of a man who had a dream about “the Spirit of the Water”. He had dreamed of smooth, quiet water when he was younger. He used the knowledge gained from the dream to quiet stormy water way so that his group could return to their homes. If he had not, he said that they would have had to wait out the storm to be able to cross.

The Chippewa people sometimes had clairvoyant dreams. One woman in her youth had a dream about a sailing ship, but had never seen one before. When she saw one in real life, she recognized it from her dream. This aspect of dreaming was not covered in detail, as I think the author had a little trouble with believing in this concept.

One thing that I really liked about this section of the book was the mention of dream representations or dream subjects. They would represent the dream subject (bears, wolves, stars, moon) outlined in beads on a garment or house decorations, woven into beadwork such as belts and headbands, and through paintings. The use of the dream subject in this way was said to loan the power of the dream subject to that person. That was why it was important to have some kind of representation. This got me thinking about some of my recent dreams, and maybe creating some of my dream subjects in beadwork. A laborious, but worth-while task.

Another thing that I picked up on was that the individual came up with their own dream meanings; that there wasn’t a “master list” of what items in a dream meant. That makes sense to me, as, for example, snow has a different meaning to someone who lives in Florida than someone who lives in Minnesota. We all have to find own meanings based on our life path.

Source: Chippewa Customs

(I will update with the author's name tomorrow)

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