Ruffle Your Feathers ~ by Grace Augustine

Feather, the component structure of the outer covering and flight surfaces of all modern birds. Unique to birds, feathers apparently evolved from the scales of birds’ reptilian ancestors. The many different types of feathers are variously specialized for insulation, flight, formation of body contours, display, and sensory reception. ( )

In today's society, feathers are used for crafts, as adornments on fabric, and as pillow filling, though not so much the latter with the synthetics that are available today.

Native Americans believe that if a feather is on their path it is a gift to them. It is seen as energy from the life form who dropped it. Once the person is given a feather, the person must cherish it and care for it. It is to be displayed in the home, not stuck away in a drawer or closet.

I have a love of feathers, and quite a collection. I have one that is especially sacred to me. When this particular feather fell upon my path, I consulted a couple Native American friends who told me the ritual that needed to be done. It was sacred. I felt the spirit of the animal and could almost hear it.

Each bird species holds special traits that are gifted to the human who comes upon a feather from that bird. Here are some examples:

Crow tail feathers: a symbol of foresight are usually given to young boys.

Hummingbird: Love

Raven: Creativity and knowledge

Falcon: Healing, motion and speed

Eagle: This is the most sacred of all feathers. 

United States law recognizes the unique significance of eagle feathers in Native American culture, religion, and tradition. The eagle is a highly protected creature under U.S. law, but special exceptions are made to allow Native Americans to possess, pass down, gift, and acquire eagle feathers within specific conditions. 

An eagle's feathers are given to another in honor, and the feathers are displayed with dignity and pride. They are handled with great regard. In fact, if an eagle feather is dropped during a dance, a special ceremony is performed before picking it up again, and the owner is careful to never drop it again.

The eagle feather is also used to adorn the sacred pipe because it is a symbol of the Great Spirit who is above all and from whom all strength and power flows. When a feather is held over a person’s head, it is a blessing, wishing bravery and happiness. Like many Native American symbols, some even choose to tattoo feathers on their bodies to help them on their journey or to tell their story. To wave it over everyone present means everyone is wished peace, prosperity, and happiness. ( )

I have collected feathers for many years. Big ones, medium sized, small, very small, black, brown, white, orange.  In all of those I have been gifted, I have yet to have a cardinal or blue jay gift one to me.

I am always so excited when I see a feather! Every time I go outside, there is one at my feet, on my way to my vehicle, or even inside my car (I don't ask how that gets there)

I can remember driving down the interstate on a summer day with the sunroof open. A red tail hawk flew through the sunroof, perched on my shoulder for not more than 3 seconds and flew back out. (I had the claw marks in my shoulder to prove its presence!) It was an incredible moment.

I pay attention to the birds. Before August 11th when the derecho hit,
there was a grove of trees to the east of my apartment. Owls hooted at night. Hawks and falcons of various sizes flew through to land in the trees. Blue jays, cardinals, juncos, sparrows, robins, wrens, and some I've never seen took up residence in the branches. 

The next time you see a feather, pick it up. Examine it. Hold it and connect with its spirit. You may receive a message meant just for you.

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All photos are property of Grace Augustine and may not be used without permission.


  1. What a fun post! I too love feathers! The wild turkeys that visit my yard leave some really beautiful ones behind.
    And...your story about the hawk in your! What a blessing!

    1. It was a true blessing. Iowa is known as the hawk state. They are everywhere in summer through late fall when the bald eagles return.

  2. I also love feathers. Besides the chickens that abound on the farm, we also have turkeys, peacocks, and various small birds. When I was still teaching elementary students I always took a vase of peacock feathers to the classroom and taught a sketching and watercolor lesson. The 3rd graders loved it!

    1. I'm sure the peacocks and other smaller feathers are stunning! What I would have given to be in your classroom for that sketching and watercolor class!



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