Catching and Chasing Dreams with Shaw Wellness

As the new semester begins, Shaw Wellness Center is here to help students maintain healthier habits. Program Coordinator Vicki Coates explained that the newly overturned staff will be holding a series of Wednesday night crafts to supplement a wellness theme for each month. January’s theme is “Chasing Your Dreams: Developing Intellectual Wellness Through Sleep.” The first session took place on Wednesday, January 23 in Shaw’s lounge where Coates provided earplugs, eye masks, lavender packs and roommate agreement forms to ease the troubles faced by college students when attempting to get a restful slumber. There were even resources that listed tips and tricks to get a better nights sleep and places to find help for common sleep disorders. Coates invited conversations about quality sleep while students of all class years worked on this week’s craft: dream catchers.

Despite being beginners, each student skillfully coiled their string of twine around a metal ring to create the outer circle; conversations flowed just as easily as the yarn. The next step was to weave the inner web which required a bit more focus, but was still intermixed with laughs and collaborative efforts. The last step was to decorate the now-webbed ring with strings, feathers and beads galore. Each student showed a particularly concentrated expression, as thoughts of classes subsided, replaced by thoughts of dream catcher designs.

Although this was a relevant, relaxing and rewarding craft, it is crucial to remember its cultural origins. Coates provided each crafter with two informative resources on the matter. These explained that although the origins of the dream-catcher are disputed, it comes from Native American culture. The craft has been borrowed over the years, as many people from various cultural backgrounds may remember having one over their bed as a child to “catch” bad dreams. While this simple explanation may seem to capture the gist of its purpose, the Ojibwa Dreamcatcher Legend is more precise, giving meaning to each element of the catcher.

According to the legend, the people of the land were the children of Spider Woman. Since she could not visit every baby each night to prevent bad dreams, the women of Ojibwa families weaved dream catchers to do just that. The outer ring represents Grandfather Sun’s journey across the sky and the inner web represents Spider Woman’s web, through which she lets the good dreams through the small center hole. The legend also accounts for the convention of giving the web eight corners, as each corner represents one of Spider Woman’s legs. After the final feathers were tied on, students walked away not only with a web to catch that nightmare of showing up to class late, but also with newfound knowledge and appreciation for Native American culture, crafts and wellness. Coates asked each departing student to explain how they discovered the event, as she and the rest of the new Shaw Wellness Center staff are searching for the best ways to increase student involvement.

“Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of Shaw than ever before,” Coates said.

Contact Marissa Volkman at [email protected].