A Prayer Feather
I am not Native American by any measure of the imagination. I do not use indigenous peoples rituals or symbolism in my spiritual sojourn here, nor in my rituals…. It simply is not “me”. My ancestry is of mixed bloodlines, similar to most of us that have been created out of the great diaspora of humans migrating across the globe over the past 500 years.
I come from pretty much northern European peoples: English, Irish, Spanish and French. My paternal grandmother’s people come from New Spain, before California was explored by the Spaniards. Some of the people in my ancestral line were born in the Mexican landscape, part of the ancient lands of Mesoamerica. My paternal grandfather’s lineage is a mix of English and French. My maiden name of “Rowley” is a locational name that came from a variety of places in England including Devon, County Durham, Staffordshire, and Yorkshire. It means a “overgrown wood or clearing” in Old English. The lineage on my mother’s side of the family is predominately Irish and English.
Now… onto the subject of feathers…. Feathers come to me on a regular basis. They are easily found where I live. Il often find them whenever I am out camping and fishing. Often beneath old growth pine trees that serve as perches for eagle, osprey and hawks. I have never delved into the symbolic meaning of feathers until recently….
My ancestors carried ideas and beliefs about feathers that were entrenched within their cultures. Celtic lore holds the perspective that feathers were related to the realm of the sky gods where one could gain knowledge of the celestial realm. In Britannia, the raven symbolized death, while the robin heralded the Christian season of Christmas and the promise of Spring. The eagle represented power, whereas the dove symbolized the virtue of peace and the red kite represents “wildness” of both landscape and its creatures. My Hispanic ancestors lived in a world where feather-working was a common craft and the wide use of feathers was embedded in an intricate cultural and economic milieu.
Who knows where my connection with birds and feathers come from? I simply know that feathers come to me through discovery or gift. Needless to say, it is “in my blood” somewhere in my combined lineages that I feel I am given permission for right “use” of a feather to carry my prayers and intention in the winds of this world…. separate from the beliefs and practices of any indigenous people.
The idea of a Prayer Feather came to me just the other day. I have a friend, once a lover of mine, who is near death. His sojourn is a quiet, private affair, and I wanted to offer something of support his transition. He has Cherokee ancestors which lie in his blood, and I wanted to offer something symbolic which meant something deeper than a simple farewell from my Heart to his….
When contemplating this, my eyes fell upon a large jar of feathers sitting in the work space of my art studio. I gently pulled out feathers of the Golden eagle, Redtail hawk, Marsh hawk, Great blue heron, Whistling Swan and of the Snow goose. These birds are common here, found in the nearby forests and open wetland systems of Big Valley. As I bound the feathers, I picked up on the sound of a Song…..vibrations of tone and pitch. As if my friend’s ancestors had begun to Sing him Home….I certainly hope so….
My prayer is for the Eagle to give him Strength and Courage in this Time of Transition and to carry his Spirit to the next realm with ease…. For the Hawk to guard him on his Journey, and for the Whistling Swan to embrace him Grace and Beauty….. all of them bundled to carry his Spirit…. Home.