Feathers – Meaning and Symbolism

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While feathers are commonly associated with birds and wings, people from various cultures consider them otherworldly and mystical. This does not come as a surprise as cultures consider birds sacred, admiring them for their ability to fly high to the heavens. Since then, people have come to see birds as messengers, carrying prayers and good fortune to the living.

So, since birds are related to good luck, does it mean that feathers also bring good fortune? Read on to learn more about what feathers symbolize in different contexts.

Feather Symbolism

Since feathers have always had a special place in ancient cultures, their meaning has continued to evolve over the years. Here are some of the things that people have come to associate with feathers.

  • Success and Achievement – The idiomatic expression to put a feather in one’s cap is based on a custom where warriors added a new feather to their headgear every time they successfully slay an enemy. In some cases, hunters who successfully catch birds pluck their feathers off and put them in the hat of their bands. Such customs may have led to the association of feathers with personal achievement.
  • Purity and Divinity – In Christianity, feathers usually represent angels. This may have been where the expression feathers appear when angels are near come from. People have grown to consider feathers as gifts from the heavens, and as a sign that someone’s listening to your prayers. Since angels are often associated with the souls of loved ones, a feather might also mean that a person you lost is watching over you.
  • Good Fortune – Feathers are also commonly associated with good luck. In Chinese culture, for example, red roosters are considered lucky, making feathers a sign of good things to come. Meanwhile, white feathers are also considered a good luck charm because they are believed to be loving messages from a loved one who passed. This is why superstitious people save white feathers they see lying around.
Feather symbolism

Feathers also come in different colors, making people come up with various interpretations of what each color means. Here are some of those beliefs:

  • Black – While white feathers are often seen as good omens, black feathers have different interpretations. Some say that it brings bad luck because it is related to crows that are commonly associated with death. However, others say that black feathers shouldn’t scare you because they mean that your angel is busy defending you from all sorts of evil.
  • Blue – Some say that a blue feather is a sign that your angel wants you to go on a spiritual journey by forging a stronger connection to the divine. Some also say that if you see a blue feather after praying, it may mean that you’re being encouraged to either accept something or to remain patient despite the trials that you are facing.
  • Yellow – Commonly associated with happiness and prosperity, the color yellow has always been associated with the sun and how it spreads joy. Finding a yellow feather could be a reminder to go out, enjoy the sun, and overcome any obstacles that you may be facing.
  • Green – Green feathers are usually associated with positive things such as healing, success, and money. If you find one, it may mean that you’ll succeed in something, like finding a new job that pays better or getting that promotion that you’ve been waiting for. Since it’s also associated with healing, some think of it as an opportunity or reminder to check on their overall health.
  • Pink – They say that a pink feather symbolizes love. Finding one might be a sign that you’ll start dating someone or that it might be a good idea to spend more time with your current partner. Whether you are single or in a relationship, a pink feather is a reminder to keep your romance alive and burning.

Wings vs. Feathers

While feathers and wings have many similarities because they are both associated with birds and angels, there are subtle differences in what they mean.

Wings are believed to be signs of purity because they are related to doves that bring peace. Like feathers, they have also come to represent success because the act of flying is considered symbolic of achieving one’s goals.

However, one thing that makes wings unique is that they also symbolize freedom and escape. In language and literature, being given wings is symbolic of having the liberty to do what you want. In fact, in Greek mythology, the famous Daedalus and his son Icarus managed to escape by making wings made of wax. However, this eventually leads to Icarus’s demise because he flew too close to the sun, which caused him to fall to the sea, and drown. This is also symbolic of the saying that being too ambitious might not always work to one’s advantage.

Feathers in the Aztec Civilization

Aztec Dancer with Skull Feather Headdress

While precious metals like gold and silver have been valuable in some ancient cultures, archaeological records show that feathers were also treated by the Aztecs as prized possessions. Flourishing in central Mexico from the year 1300 to 1521, the Aztecs have become known for their huge feats in agriculture as well as their development of their calendar system and hieroglyphic writing.

Archaeological findings show that the Aztecs used bright-colored feathers to create handcrafted headdresses for their leaders. Feather work was considered one of the esteemed art forms in Aztec civilization, making them known for creating colorful and intricately designed mosaics made of feathers. They also made clothes, decorations, and even weaponry with feathers as one of the main materials.

The Aztec culture’s emphasis on feathers may have stemmed from the story about how they ended up choosing Tenochtitlan, a historic city in Mexico, as the capital of their empire. Legend has it that after wandering for years, the Aztecs reached the city and saw an eagle sitting on a cactus. Following the advice of their ancestors, they decided to settle in this area and put an end to their years of exploration.

Feathers in Celtic Mythology

In Celtic culture, religious leaders known as druids wore cloaks with feathers which were believed to help them connect with the sky gods. They held an important place in society as they also played the role of medical professionals, legal authorities, and even political advisors.

While it is said that they didn’t leave written accounts because they were illiterate, some argue that their doctrine forbade them to write about their beliefs and practices.

Feathers in Egyptian Mythology

Egypt feather
The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony

In Egyptian culture, feathers were also believed to symbolize the sky gods. Moreover, it is considered to represent justice because they believed that Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of justice, used a feather to determine the worthiness of a person’s soul. Ancient Egyptian myths state that when someone dies, they had to pass through the Hall of Judgment. If their hearts were balanced with Ma’at’s feather, it was a symbol of their righteousness, and they were allowed to make their way to the afterlife.

Wrapping Up

If you’re curious about what feathers mean because you keep finding different colored ones or you’ve had dreams about them, knowing how they’re interpreted in various cultures will help. In general, feathers represent good things and qualities, so you have nothing to worry about if you see one lying around. There may not be any scientific evidence that could back these claims, but who knows – maybe there is some truth to these myths and superstitions.

Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.

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