Folklore and Science?

15 Jun

I am a big fan of Folklore. There are a lot of books written about the Folklore of the early settlements in North America.For instance, I find it curious that farmers believed certain moons held sway over fertility of crops and other moons affected hunting and fishing success. This is best illustrated by tales of furrow dancing under planters moons and harvest moons.  Likewise, a significant amount has  written about the history of the North American Indian. One of the traditions that I am fond of is the story of the Dream Catcher. Dream Catcher stories were a fad in the sixties but remain a charming story when told in the original.  Their history began with the Chippewa Tribe and spread to several others. A big piece of the remnants of this history was captured by Margret Densmore at the turn of the nineteenth century. I captured a few of her thoughts on a website called There are other sites but I thought this captured her thoughts succinctly.

The Native peoples of the Ojibwe/Annishnabe/Chippewa tribes were the first to make dream catchers to scare away bad dreams. The history of the dream catcher has nearly been lost in the turmoil of cultural mixing and destruction that followed on the heels of the European invasion. Dream catcher history is known with some credibility due to the dedicated field work of Frances Densmore at the beginning of the last century. She conducted a careful and extensive study of many Native American cultures including that of the Ojibwe (also known as Chippewa) living in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario, Canada. many tribes claim the origin and it’s possible that the Dream Catcher has been around since all of the aboriginal Native Peoples of North America have been around. The story is as follows:

DREAM CATCHER Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island. This is the way that the old Ojibwe storytellers say how Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) helped Wanabozhoo bring giizis (sun) back to the people. To this day, Asibikaashi will build her special lodge before dawn. If you are awake at dawn, as you should be, look for her lodge and you will see this miracle of how she captured the sunrise as the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there. Asibikaasi took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so to this day. When the Ojibwe Nation dispersed to the four corners of North America, to fill a prophecy, Asibikaashi had a difficult time making her journey to all those cradle boards, so the mothers, sisters, & Nokomis (grandmothers) took up the practice of weaving the magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. It is in the shape of a circle to represent how giizis travels each day across the sky. The dream catcher will filter out all the bad bawedjigewin (dreams) & allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds. You will see a small hole in the center of each dream catcher where those good bawadjige may come through. With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams would perish.

We twentieth century types like to think that we have overcome all the fantasy and ritual in our everyday lives. That is probably true to a large extent. However, it seems to me that a little fantasy scattered within our science and technology can bring back just a little sense of adventure and mystery. I see no harm in allowing an allegory to develop that suggests that perhaps a modern antenna may be the 21st century equivalent of a say, an old Chippewa Indian’s legendary “Dream Catcher”? There is certainly more to the theme than coincidence. The central hole through which Good Dreams pass is like a feedline through which only good contacts arrive. I beg anyone to define a bad contact. Without an antenna we can hear no contacts at all and further, not having an antenna is like darkness without any dreams at all. So where is the harm? I came to invent my own allegory when my antenna blew down this past week. The symbols are similar and useful. Just recall that one is folklore and one is science.

Chippawa Dream Catcher

Chippewa Dream Catcher

Hex Dream Catcher?

Hex Dream Catcher?

In the great scheme of things, real or imagined, there appears to be room for a little legend and fantasy along with the science. The  fantasy mixed with science  can overcome shortfalls in performance when technology lets you down and grist or porridge  is needed to keep the chinking between the logs of our imagination going. For, after all is said and done, it is imagination and dreams that keep us all motivated. Science provides the hammer and the nail.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W7MAP/5

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Posted by on June 15, 2009 in Radio


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