Why I Don’t Use Dreamcatchers to Catch Your Attention

I have a very specific request that goes out to fellow white females, and WARNING — it’s a sensitive subject. I simply can’t quietly grumble about this any more (frankly, my boyfriend is sick of hearing me):

Please, *PLEASE* stop using dreamcatchers to promote whatever your business is.

This note is especially geared toward my spiritually-inclined yogi-type entrepreneur friends, whether you are white and female or not (it just so happens that’s who i’ve seen use the dreamcatcher in this way).

The Western yoga world walks a fine line every day in 1) practicing the extraordinary art and science of yoga or other ancient spiritual insight, 2) hopefully contributing to its intelligent evolution (or at least our personal evolution), and 3) doing the self-reflection necessary to be sure not to abuse and blatantly appropriate an entire ancient civilization in the process (a civilization that hasn’t happened to fare as “well” in modern times as the West).

And sure, there’s a LOT of grey area in honoring ancient spiritual wisdom while living an authentic, non-appropriating modern life.

But there’s at least one area that is definitely not grey: images of dreamcatchers combined with sales.

To clarify, here are some examples:

— Last week I got an email with the image of a hand with a flash tattoo on the palm (eerily like mehndi) and the gold flash tattoo…was of a dreamcatcher. The text, “Say Yes to Your Dream” (a.k.a. buy my online course).

— A couple of months ago, someone I was considering hiring to help me for a project had an image of two dream catchers with the words “Start Dreaming” [about your brand] over them in her email campaign. I was shocked, and oh so glad that I did not hire her.

— I’ve seen fake tattoos for sale of dream catchers with the words “Never Stop Dreaming” above them. No, they were not being sold by Ojibwe peoples.

In addition to the above examples being super-ultra-cheesy, dreamcatchers, to my limited understanding, ACTUALLY have to do with the ACTUAL dreams you have when you are sleeping…Not with dreams of passive income from your online coaching program, or the vision board you learned how to make from The Secret.

(Plus, it’s scientifically impossible to turn off sleep dreams, so of course you’ll “never stop dreaming.”)

It’s only through the lens of our majority privilege (I’ve had to learn this lesson many times over in my own lifetime, and will probably have to learn it many more) that you don’t think twice about scooping up a quaint, exotic image and appropriating it for for-profit use.

Or that you might not consider the fact that you have a fancy computer and unlimited internet access and many many many native peoples all over the world don’t have access to that particular kind of “dreaming” up new portable careers that you have going on right now. (There is a massive global and local digital divide!).

So next time you think about using a dreamcatcher image on your website, or in an email campaign, ask yourself this “Would I use a rosary here?” Rosaries are spiritual! Rosaries are full of hopes and dreams!!! …Oh…not exotic enough? worried you might piss off a Catholic?

Or maybe “What would I think if a car company used a dreamcatcher in its advertising? What gives me the special privilege of coopting this idea and imagery for commercial gain?”

And if none of that works for you, “Would Ariele rant about this?” There’s your answer.

Wear dreamcatcher earrings, fine. Hang one over your bed. That’s cool. I hope they were handmade by you or someone with a deep love of nature and a connection to the materials and/or culture that helped develop them. Keep them personal.

Please refrain from directly commercializing other peoples symbols … or your own spiritual symbols for that matter.

Let’s keep some things on the spectrum of sacred, please.

Rant over. For more reading on this subject, please see this great article, and consider my rant an addendum to it:

http://jezebel.com/…/a-much-needed-primer-on-cultural-appro…

or the wiki page covering the basics of dreamcatchers:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamcatcher

(and yes, this subject is slightly off topic for this blog, if not for me personally. But it is vital! Those of us with privilege must speak up about what is right. This has always been our duty, our dharma.)

Let’s stay in touch! Once or twice a month I send out a newsletter covering the best of yoga (including yogic living), optimal health, yoga anatomy, physical therapy + I share the occasional recipe, PLUS get the scoop on amazing upcoming events, like my retreats and yoga anatomy trainings.

Sign up below to join the tribe! (We never spam, and you can always unsubscribe).

  • Carrie Gelula

    Thank you, Ariele! As a designer, I agree with this. It’s actually pretty lazy design work, too, if you think about it! They’re abusing all of the meaning of the symbol by forcing an association between it and your brand/marketing campaign, etc. I hope you found someone else to work with! If not, email me at cgelula@gmail.com!

    • @carriegelula:disqus thank you for your comment — I totally agree, and the manipulative association is just weird. Yes, I figured something else out for the first round, but I’ll definitely reach out to you when i need future design work!