I am always being gifted with feathers, when I am in town usually pigeon ones, but I have also been given crow and magpie ones too. If you are in the forest you may find all sorts of bird feathers and on the beach, it will probably be seagull feathers. Whatever kinds they are feathers carry their own very special magic with them.
When I find a feather I usually take it home and pop it in the freezer overnight, just as a precaution really because the cold temperature will get rid of any nasties that might be lurking therein. Obviously keep the feather away from your frozen food!
Alternatively, you can place the feathers in a solution of five parts warm water, one-part vinegar and one-part witch hazel, leave them to soak for twenty-four hours then dry them by laying out flat on a towel.
Feathers bring the magical properties of change, focus, communication, concentration and wishes. But the feather will also carry the magical energies of the particular bird that it came from and the colour of the feather will mean something too.
Feathers are THE element of air, there couldn’t be a more symbolic representation of air unless you could capture a gale in a jar. If you are gifted with a feather make a connection with it, it could be a message for you, it might be from spirit, some think it is a sign of angels or it might be a reminder that you need to make a conscious effort to get out into nature and some believe that a gift of a feather is also a link to the world of Faerie.
If you find a feather give it some thought…what were you thinking about just before you found it? What is going on in your life at the moment? What was your initial thought when you saw it or what words popped into your head? Any of these questions may help determine the reason or it might just be a gift for you to keep for later use.
Feathers have long been associated with omens and the colours have meaning, here are some traditional colour correspondences but if you find a coloured feather and it means something else to you…go with your intuition:
Black – can mean bad luck and was often thought to mean death but I also think it can be a warning to bring in protection. Brown – home, hearth, grounding or friendship. Grey – peace. Black & white – averting trouble or change is coming.
White – often said to be a sign the angels are watching over you and faith and hope.
Yellow – success or acknowledgement that you are on the right path.
Pink – love.
Blue – a spiritual connection or awakening and inspiration.
Red – good fortune, passion.
Green – health, healing or prosperity.
And feathers from particular birds have their own specific meanings too:
Blue Jay feathers bring joy, happiness and light.
Crow feathers are excellent for wisdom, knowledge and helping us to let go of unwanted feelings, thoughts or negative energy.
Robin feathers bring new projects, plans and beginnings.
White swan feathers hold purification, cleansing, beauty and positive energy and black swan feathers can be used to dispel negative energy.
Hawk feathers bring the magic of the hunt.
Eagle feathers hold vast amounts of energy but also bring peace, happiness and protection.
Magpie feathers bring magic, divination skills, wisdom and change.
Pigeon feathers bring peace, love and communication.
Blackbird feathers bring poetry, inspiration, music and a stronger connection with meditation.
White feathers found in your pathway are said to be messages from the divine, spirit or angels.
Use feathers as charms, amulets, talismans, medicine pouches and spells they are a readymade fetish (a charm with magical powers) and can be fashioned into smudge fans, healing sticks, fetish pots, prayer sticks and wands.
I was lucky enough to have been gifted a whole magpie wing which is one of my totem animals, so it sits on my altar. If you do find a road kill bird and are not squeamish you can honour the animal by using it for magic. If the thought of it makes your stomach churn, then you can also honour the animal by moving it to the verge or hedgerow so that nature can do what it does best, and the animal will be returned to the earth and probably feed a crow or two as well. I have skinned a rabbit (for dinner), plucked a pheasant and deboned a chicken but preparing a bird for preservation is a whole other level of ick…be prepared.
For any animal or bird remains that I stumble across whether they can be used for preserving or not I think it is a nice idea to give a blessing for the animal and the life that it has had, just a few words said to the earth or the sky thanking the animal for its part in the cycle of life.
There are a lot of tutorials online, Google ‘how to preserve bird wings’ and you will get some very good details. A lot of the guides suggest popping the animal part in the freezer for a couple of weeks first to kill any insect eggs. Essentially you need to cut the wing, head or legs off with a hacksaw or very sharp cutters. Then the item can be placed in a box on a thick layer of cornmeal or borax. Pour more cornmeal, rock salt or borax over the top so that it is completely covered then put the lid on the box making a few slits in the lid to allow for air. Then place the box in a dark dry storage area for about a month. If it starts to smell bad, then it has spoiled. When the items are completely dry use a small soft brush to clean the cornmeal way from the feathers.
The basic guidelines if you find a dead bird and want to preserve it are:
If it has insects or maggots crawling on it then it won’t be any good for preserving, leave it for nature.
If the carcass smells bad, leave it for the worms.
Leave the parts for as long as they need, they will be fully preserved when they feel dry and completely stiff, if any bits are sticky or damp leave them for longer. Wings as a general guide take at least a month to dry out properly.
If you just want to use the feathers pluck them away from the body gently and carefully.
Check the laws of your particular country before you go claiming any bird, in some countries it is illegal to possess parts from birds of prey without special permits.
Dry the parts indoors at room temperature in a dry place; don’t leave the items outside as changes in humidity and temperature are not helpful.
It’s a fetish thing…
No…not THAT kind of fetish…
The word ‘fetish’ possibly originates from a Portuguese word ‘feitico’ meaning charm or sorcery so essentially it is an item filled with magic and you will find versions of them in most cultures.
A fetish can be an object that has a connection to the supernatural with the item representing the divine or spirit world or some have a spirit that resides within the fetish. Other fetishes are natural objects or any items that have been imbued with magical intent.
A fetish is designed and carried or worn to bring protection, love, prosperity or luck and to protect against evil whilst some are created to bring curses upon your enemies.
A fetish can be anything such as a poppet, carved images, animal bones, an ornament or a pouch filled with herbs and other more unsavoury ingredients (think bodily fluids…). I usually like to use feathers, leaves, twigs and stones all as types of fetish.
If you like the idea of trapping a spirit and binding it into an object, then I would suggest you do some serious research first…it is not something to be done without great care and thought and I would suggest only a very experienced practitioner attempt it.
The spirit you bind into your fetish may have a completely different idea to you of what is right and wrong, and it could be completely unreliable – hey it is has been bound against its will and trapped in an ornament…how would you feel? Some spirit filled fetishes can be dangerous and very, very draining on your own energy. A fetish may also need to be completely dominated before it will do any kind of bidding.
However, not wishing to be a complete ‘drama queen’ about it, some spirits will step into an object of their own free will, possibly enjoying the whole ‘being worshipped as a god’ idea…be warned, be careful, trust your intuition, do your homework…
Making your own fetish is advisable (rather than buying one) it will have more power and be personal to you, but it doesn’t have to be complicated, it can just be a pebble.
Your fetish will need to be activated and by that, I mean you will need to imbue it with your magical intent or the energy of the deity or spirit that you want it to have or sometimes if it is a natural item it may need activating to release the energy of the spirit that is already within it. (Every natural item has its own spirit energy). Once your fetish is set up it is essentially a ‘living thing’ and will need attention and even feeding.
You can soak your item in oils or scented water, pass it through incense smoke or add corresponding herbs and if you are dedicating it to a particular deity use items that are associated with them.
Get creative…bones, paintings, images, spirit bottles, witches bottles, witches ladders, statues, dolls, poppets, beaded cloth, pebbles, twigs, feathers…the material choice is endless.
All the time you pay your fetish attention and keep feeding the energy it will keep working for you.
If you haven’t worked with the spirit world before I would suggest you try the basic magical intent fetish first and just activate the natural spirit of the item rather than trapping an unwilling spirit…it saves having to scrape ectoplasm off the walls…
To watch a replay of my talk on magical feathers, click the link below
Details taken from Witchcraft into the Wilds by Rachel Patterson