Feathers! Magical, mystical, incredible feathers! Feathers of all shapes, sizes, varieties, colors. Throughout history, feathers have served as spiritual symbols for shamans and priests, as symbols of royalty for kings and chiefs, symbols of healing, or symbols of sacred power for cultures as far back as ancient Egyptian, Asian or Celtic eras. These cultures possessed abilities to communicate with nature in ways that have been overlooked or forgotten in our own time.
Yet feathers are more than history. For many, they are mystical signs, messages, or opportunities. They are scraps of synchronicity in the flowing patchwork of universal meanings. They appear in unlikely places as assurances of well-being, as a comforting sign of abundance in the universe, and as unmistakable messengers of hope and encouragement. Their ephemeral grace makes them the perfect emissaries of spiritual and emotional freedom.
For the past three years I have been guided to collect true stories from people whose lives have been changed because of feathers: feathers as sacred messengers, as conduits to enlightenment, as harbingers of inner truth, or as gentle reminders of a synchronistic and abundant universe. These stories are powerful accounts of how feathers teach, guide, and inspire us. They offer true examples of how the universe speaks to us through an “ordinary” but mystical object—a feather.
How can a feather -- an inanimate object-- speak to us? How can we receive messages from part of a bird’s wing? What is it about feathers—as opposed to coffee cups or quilts or wildflowers – that qualifies them to be harbingers of universal truth?
I turn a large gray feather over and over in my hand. It is sturdy, yet delicate. It began life as a tiny bud under the skin of a baby bird. The fledgling has thousands of these buds at birth, ready to grow as needed. Feathers unfurl and lengthen day by day as the young bird achieves enough strength to fly. By the time nature and its parents prompt the fledgling to leave the nest, these feathers are ready to create the lift needed to stay aloft, to protect the skin from extremes of weather, to enable long-distance flight or short-distance hops, to shelter and camouflage from predators, to attract mates.
We live in a holographic cosmos, where a piece of the whole reflects the entire whole. When a feather leaves its bird-home and falls to earth, it carries all of the energy of its former attachment to a living being. From a cosmic perspective, it also carries within it, as we carry within ourselves, the universal energy we call by many names, from “God” to “Spirit” to “divine life force.”
Why not, then, receive the message that this feather falls into our lives to give us as a message directly from that
My own cosmic view goes further. The universe is a place where anything—living or dead, animate or inanimate, human-made or natural – can bring a message, if we pay attention and stay open to receiving it. Many people have an intimate relationship with “spirit guides” who cannot be seen with the physical eye, but whose messages are nonetheless helpful. Others rely on beings they call angels. Still others find a spiritual affinity with crystals or certain kinds of minerals and stones. Feathers, coffee cups, quilts, wildflowers: all may be filled with this marvelous spirit-energy. All may speak to me and I to them, creating a universal dance of synergy and synchronicity that spirals toward truth, love, and connection.
When I see a feather lying in an unexpected place, or even in a usual place but noticed only by me among the hundreds who have passed by, I know it is meant for me. Not every feather is “special,” nor is every piece of stone or every crystal. But the potential for connection is there. I need only to listen from that open-hearted space inside me that urges me to soar higher. I need only to acknowledge, as one storyteller put it, that “there are simple powers, strange and real” that affect me.
Feathers also have universal symbolic meanings, recognized by tribes and traditions worldwide. Feathers speak to us of flight, of freedom, of going beyond boundaries, of getting “above it all,” or of the need to let go and travel light. In many cultures, they carried prayers to heavenly gods and bestowed extraordinary powers in battle.
Above all, feathers come to us as gifts. They come from the sky, from the sea, from trees and deep grasses, even from – as these stories illustrate – enclosed spaces never inhabited by winged creatures. They come to us unexpectedly, but not without purpose. Their messages may be startling, soothing or sudden, but they are always an opportunity for seeing – for finding answers to questions we may not even have known we were asking.
What, then, is a feather? It is a part of a bird’s body, and it is a part of us. It exists for itself, to serve its primary purpose in the cosmos, and it exists in alliance with every other aspect of the cosmos. Just as we bring life-inspiring messages for others while simply fulfilling our own lives, so do feathers bring their messages to us. They remind us that we walk in a world overflowing with meaning.
This book contains my own feather stories and the experiences of others. In each, there is some bud of wisdom or truth gained from an encounter with feathers. They are offered as gifts for your own life journey, and as evidence that the universe speaks to us in many ways.
You’ll also find suggestions for ways that you, the reader, can explore the feather connections in your life, from attracting feathers for your own collection to using feathers in a variety of ceremonies, meditations, and rituals.
Feathers will teach us many things if we are ready to learn. Linda Hogan, whose miraculous feather story is included in this book, reminds us that there is “something alive in a feather. . . . It knows the insides of clouds. It carries our needs and desires, the stories of our brokenness.”
The feather stories you read here will confirm that feathers heal our wounds, lead us to newfound freedom, help us surrender to a joyful universe, and create a powerful sense of connection with all that is beyond the rational intellect. Feathers carry us into the soul’s most intimate places, where we find our own wings to climb higher than ever before.