Friday, March 23, 2012

F is for Feathers

I have a fascination with collecting bird feathers. It started when we found our first house. We were at an open house and thought perhaps we'd found THE ONE-- a lovely little sage green and brick house with a nice little yard, 2 bedrooms (1 perfect for my craft room), 2 baths, finished basement...

As we left the open house, my husband handed me a beautiful striped feather. "I found it in the back yard," he said. I took it as a good omen regarding the house and have been fascinated with feathers ever since. (It was a flicker feather, indicating new beginnings, and yes, we did buy the house).

Since my cats are also feather lovers, I've had to contrive ways of keeping my feather collection away from questioning, thieving paws. I have some of my favorites-- blue jay, magpie, possibly a stellar jay and dove, in a found birds' nest under a glass bell jar on one of my altars. The rest I have carefully hidden away in my craft closet for now.

A collection of goose feathers I found on the shore of the lake behind my in-laws' house.

When it comes to using feathers in magic, it seems there are two schools of thought-- one is to associate the feather's color for its magical associations and the other is that the type of bird the feather comes from determines its magical properties. While I don't turn my nose up at color magic, it doesn't feel right at all to me to use it as a basis when it comes to feathers, I would much rather learn about the qualities of the different birds.

Wild turkey feathers from my Dad's wooded property in Iowa.

I believe that found feathers are best for magic (and most of the resources I found regarding feather magic said the same)-- the only problem with this being that unless one is very well versed in feather identification, you don't always know what you've found. All of the feathers I have are gifts that have been given to me-- either by the birds themselves, or by friends or family who have found them.

Above are more of my feathers: top left is an exotic bird feather I received in a ritual; top middle are woodpecker and flicker feathers (including the one my husband found); top right are most likely mourning dove feathers; bottom left unidentified feathers (pigeon?); middle bottom most likely belongs to one of the many seagulls that, strangely enough, hoover over parking lots here in land-locked Colorado; bottom right are most likely blackbird feathers.

The majority of feathers I have were collected from my own back yard, where we have a feeder and birdbath. Not only do we (humans and cats) get to enjoy watching the birds who come to feed, but occasionally they leave feathery gifts for me.

In many of the books and resources I consulted, it was easier to find information associated with the more exotic birds, but I was able to compile a list of associations for many of the backyard visitors I have enjoyed over the years-- hopefully it will be of use to other feather fanatics out there.


Blue Jay: adaptability, creativity, speaking out, trickster, use talent & power properly

Crow: ancient wisdom, boldness, diviner, magic, walk your talk

Finch: activities & potentials awakening, energy, greater opportunities, home, meetings, opportunity

Flicker: new beginnings are near

Junco: migration, moving, revealing facial expressions, replenishing,

Goose: draws love, fruitfulness, heed call to a new quest, protector, reliable, safe return, storytelling, territorial, travel, Autumn Equinox. The Goddess Hathor became a Nile goose and laid a "golden egg"-- the sun. In medieval times, geese were said to carry the souls of those who were not baptized (pagans).

Magpie: crafty and willful, communicating secrets, doorway to new spheres, life & death, occult understanding, oracular announcements, prophetic, use magic and knowledge properly. Chattering magpies foretell the arrival of guests; 2 magpies or more indicates a happy occasion, 1 magpie indicates sorrow.

Mourning Dove: beauty, fertility, forgiveness, long life, love spells, peace, prosperity, sex magic (dove)

Robin: harbinger of spring, new beginnings, new development, territorial, trust in your new creative ideas, the New Year. The robin is said to be the bird form of the God of the Witches, Robin Goodfellow (Cock Robin).

Sparrow: the moon, maintain your dignity and pride, sex magic

Starling: communication, friendly, strong and powerful, variety

Turkey: abundance and blessings are present, artistic, bounty, communal giving, gifts (given/received), shared blessings, thankfulness, originality, prosperity, they are sensitive to the evil eye

Woodpecker: activity, energy, prophecy, time of new rhythms and new beginnings, weather predictor


Animal-Wise by Ted Andrews
Bird Spirits (Native American Cherokee Tribe)
Elements of Witchcraft: Natural Magic for Teens by Ellen Dugan
The Wicca Handbook by Eileen Holland
Grimoire for the Green Witch by Ann Moura
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Objects by Barbara G. Walker

This post is part of the alphabetical topic series for the Pagan Blog Project


Dori said...

Wow, you have some great feathers. And thank you for all the information.

Witchfire said...

when I find feather, and feel it to have a significance, I take it's color into consideration. But when working with Feather Magik, I rely on the species it may have come from. If I don't know, it's simply connected to air, travel, messengers, and the sky. I too am a lover of feathers. My favorite found belongs to a Cardinal. I've always wanted one from a Blue Jay for my BFF and one from a Red-Tailed Hawk for my husband - as they are their Spirit Animals. Lovely post. ~)O(~

Crystalrainbow said...

wow thats an amazing collection of feathers and i thought i had lots lol im patiently waiting for the local swans to leave some feathers for me :) i sure will take alook at those websites you mention x x x

Ketutar said...

Yes, those black-and-grey are pigeon feathers. 100% sure of that :-)
Nice collection and I agree with you... to me found feathers are messages from Goddess. Interestingly enough, considering that the world is full of birds, one doesn't find that many feathers - they get carried away by winds and eaten up by needy creatures, become soil very quickly... so to me finding one, and in good condition, is definitely a sign :-)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pictures and thank you so much for the info !!

Jeanne said...

You have a lovely feather collection! I, too, have collected feathers over the years. But always return them to my Fairy Garden at Midsummer.
I don't use the color of the feather but rather the bird from which it came as a sign or portent.
And the list which you have provided as wonderful! Thank you for sharing with us. :0)

Paulette said...

Great Post! I too am a feather collector. I have Dove, Robin, Owl, Hawk, Woodpecker, Blackbirds and possibly a little Hummingbird feather. I've had luck identifying my feathers after I found a website from the National Forestry.
Another book to add to your list is The Secret Language of the Birds by Adele Nozedar. I too believe finding feathers are little messages and signs from the Goddess.

Mojabee Ned said...

What is the meaning behind the Raven feather?