The Magic in a Feather
A Feather Found—A Gift From Spirit
You're walking down a familiar path when something on the ground in front catches your eye. It's fluffy and pure white and seems to be waving to you with each breeze that passes by. You walk up to it and realize it's a large feather. Something about this feather stands out to you, and so you pick it up and admire its simple and delicate beauty. You were having an awful day, but somehow the discovery of this one little feather has completely elevated your mood and state of mind. That is the innate magic of the feather...
Feathers come from birds and so are thought to be magical by association. Birds have long been regarded as messengers to the gods, as ancient people believed they would carry messages to and from the heavens. Birds were the only animals who could defy gravity, and so they were sacred to many cultures around the world in old times. Because of this, their feathers were regarded as gifts from the gods...and today if a feather is found it is said to be a gift from Spirit—be it a person's spirit guide, angel, or deceased loved one. There is something special in every found feather, and feathers can be used to bring good things into one's life. Let's explore what wonderful things feathers can do for you.
Different Feathers and What They Mean
Sometimes when we find a feather we can easily identify the origins of it. For instance, if you find a blue jay's feather, you will know by the blue and black stripes (see the first picture above). The colors of a feather are sometimes a dead giveaway as to what type of bird is the feather's origin. However, quite often it is very difficult to identify a feather in this manner because many birds are the same or similar colors. An example of this would be a gray feather—how many birds are gray? Probably thousands!
If you've found a magical feather and cannot identify its origins, don't fret. You don't always have to know the type of bird it came from in order to tap into its wonders. But if you're set and determined to identify the bird from which the feather came, you can start by doing your research. Look at what kinds of birds are local to your area. Then identify the size of the bird and the feather. Quite often you can narrow down your search to a few birds, if you try hard enough. Or you can ask Spirit to show you the bird in a dream or during meditation. The choice is yours.
Each bird has its own symbolism, its own root magic, if you will. Birds have a direct connection with Spirit (just as every other animal) and so will bring particular messages to their finders.
To get you started, here is a brief look at some of the different birds' feathers and what they might mean for you.
- Blue Jay Feathers - while many people say blue jays are nothing but a nuisance, I have found them to be very powerful guides. Their message is usually simple - protect your family at all costs.
- Blackbird (Crow, Raven) Feathers - there are many different kinds of blackbirds but their general message can usually be broken down into these: magic, mystery, intuition, tapping into the Other Side.
- Ibis Feathers - the ibis is found in the Southeastern U.S. and is directly connected to Thoth the Egyptian god of Wisdom and Writing. The ibis reminds us to tap into our creative side and gain wisdom already within.
- Seagull Feathers - the seagull can be found almost anywhere along the coasts. It is a scavenging bird and is connected to the sea. Its message for you might have something to do with humor, silliness, and using the resources given to you.
- Cardinal Feathers - the cardinal has such beautiful and vibrant red feathers. These could only symbolize vitality, life, power.
- Parrot Feathers - parrots remind us to be aware of our surroundings. They also bring much-needed healing through the use of color therapy.
- Dove and Pigeon Feathers - doves and pigeons are in the same family. Their feathers bring messages of peace, love, and family.
- Mockingbird Feathers - mockingbirds remind us to sing our own songs, to be our own unique selves. Tap into your higher self in order to find your own truth.
- Owl Feathers - Owls have connections to many different gods and goddesses of the past. Their messages usually have something to do with magic, intuition, seeing your way through a tough time, developing psychic awareness and more.
- Hawk Feathers - Hawk reminds us to connect with Spirit, stay focused, and fly high.
The Type of Feather: What Spot on the Bird Did It Come From?
If we really want to get into the minute details of the magical feather's origins, we can try to identify what anatomical part of the bird from which the feather originates. Why would we want to do this? Well, the part of the bird also has spiritual meaning and its own special magic. The author Ted Andrews describes in his book Animal Speak the different parts of the bird and the significance of feathers from each of those parts. Here is my take:
Wing Feathers: can be used in sending a thought or prayer to another or to Spirit. The wing feathers are stiffer than the other feathers on a bird so as to support the bird in flight. And so it will support you in your endeavors. The technical name for these feathers are remiges.
Down Feathers: these soft and fluffy feathers are given the job of providing warmth to the bird. These feathers can be used to comfort and protect an individual's spirituality or magical endeavors just as they protect the bird in harsh, cold conditions.
Outer Feathers: these are called contour feathers and are the outermost feathers, or the ones that you see the most when looking at a bird. These feathers help in the wicking of water during rainfall and also are usually the most colorful. Contour feathers can bring a sense of self unique-ness as well as protection.
There are quite a few other parts of the bird that have their own types of feathers, including: tail feathers (rectrices), border feathers (coverts), below the contour feathers (afterfeathers), and bristles. You can find out more about the types of feathers by going to http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/feathers/feathers.
Doing Feather Magic
Now for the super fun stuff...how to use feathers in your magical / spiritual practice. For thousands of years, Native Americans and other indigenous peoples from all over the world have used feathers in their spiritual rituals and practices...and with good reason. But how can we use them today? There are so many ways to use a feather's God-given qualities, but here are just a few suggestions.
Smudging: smudging is a practice performed by Native Americans dating back centuries. It is the use of smoke from a dried herb (such as white sage) to rid an area or person of negativity. It is a rite of cleansing, if you will. A larger feather can be used to fan the smoke in different directions. The feather itself lends to the power of the smudging ritual. Feathers can also be bundled together and made into a "smudging wand". You can watch tutorials on how to make your own on Youtube.
Accessorize: feathers can be used in the form of an accessory, i.e. worn on the body. Natives have worn feathers in their hair and on their clothes for various reasons. You can wear your favorite feather by making it into a hair accessory or by wearing it as a piece of jewelry. Carry the feather with you in this way and the spiritual significance will influence you 24/7.
Meditation: feathers can be held and used in meditation. Blow gently on the feather to send out your spiritual intent or to put yourself into a trance. Hold a specific type of bird's feather to contact that bird spirit guide during meditation.
Dream Bags and Pillows: if you are not allergic to birds/feathers, you can always place a feather into a small sachet with other sleepy-time herbs to induce lucid dreams. You can tuck the feather under or within your pillowcase at night in order to help transform yourself into the form of a bird in your dreams.
Magical Arrangements: place your favorite feathers between your favorite crystals and stones in a small clear vase and put somewhere special in your home. See the picture to the right to get an idea of this. This keeps the spiritual powers of the feather flowing throughout your sacred space. Plus you can admire their beauty any time!
Adornments: you can adorn yourself with feathers or you can use feathers to adorn your spiritual tools. Just as the Natives did, you can use feathers to decorate wands, rattles, drums, staffs, altar cloths, and more!
In addition to learning about the type of feather, what kind of bird it came from, and how to use the feather in your practice, you might also want to consider researching if the bird is connected to a specific deity. This might also bring special meaning to your life and spirituality. For instance, the seagull shares a connection with the Celtic sea god Manannan Mac Lir. The Ibis is connected with Thoth, the Egyptian God of Writing. The vulture is connected to the Egyptian Goddess known as Nekhbet. The Crow is an animal associated with the Irish triple goddess the Morrigan. And the list goes on.
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© 2015 Nicole Canfield