Self

The Spiritual Meaning & Symbolism Of Feathers

Photo: Alina Kruk / Shutterstock
person holding a feather

Across various cultures, religions, film and literature, feathers have a strong symbolic meaning. Feathers have certain connotations based on their use and color meaning, but there is also a deeper meaning associated with a feather.

What is the spiritual meaning of a feather?

The meaning of feather depends on its color, bird type and size. In general, feathers represent freedom or flight due to the association with birds.

However, feathers represent multiple spiritual facets: the wind, guardian angels protecting you, and the spiritual connection to God or a higher power. Feathers are also considered a connection to the divine realm, and are symbols of freedom associated with your mind and spirit.

Each feather's spiritual meaning and symbolism is culturally unique; each has a different meaning or message for the person who sees it. Feathers have different colors and you might even see them in your dreams; you can also stumble upon them when you’re walking somewhere.

RELATED: The Feather You Choose In This Visual Personality Test Reveals What You Want Most In Life

Cultural Meanings & Symbolism Of Feathers

Feather Symbolism in Native American Cultures

In Native American culture, the feather is a symbol that represents honor, and the connection between the owner (the Creator) and the bird that the feather came from. Feathers are objects that are so revered, warriors were rewarded with a feather after winning a battle.

Feathers falling to the Earth were believed to hold all of the specific bird’s energy. There’s a perception that it’s a gift from the sky, sea, and the trees. Feathers can arrive at the most unexpected times, but not without a purpose.

When a feather was held over someone’s head, it would serve as a blessing that wished bravery and happiness. Some would even tattoo feathers on their bodies to help with their journey or tell their story.

In addition to representing honor, feathers also had other purposes, including spiritual awakening, healing, and cleansing; feathers were used to hunt, used as symbols of home protection, in love songs, and even to bring the rain.

The significance of eagle feathers, particularly in the Sioux tribe, were given to another in honor, and are shown with dignity and pride. If an eagle feather was dropped during a dance, a special ceremony was performed before picking it up again; the owner was careful to never drop it again.

The meaning of the feather also depended on the bird from which it came. For example, a hawk feather symbolized guardianship; a raven feather represented knowledge and creation; a bluebird feather symbolized happiness; and a crow feather represented balance.

Feather Symbolism in Chinese Culture

Just as Native Americans had differing meanings for feathers depending on the bird, so did the Chinese. Overall, the Chinese associated feathers with good luck and fortune.

The rooster is an honored creature in China and is even one of the 12 animals that form the Chinese zodiac. Red roosters are lucky or auspicious, and the image of a red cockerel is often seen as a figure on the ridge of roofs. Roosters are believed to keep fire under control.

Other birds that are revered are cranes and stocks, and the same symbolism applies. The crane represents longevity as well as wisdom. In fact, an embroidered crane is part of the regalia of the fourth Imperial grade of the Imperial officials, and it can represent the wish for promotion to a high position.

The Chinese name for the crow comes from its raucous call, which is seen as an omen. The crow represents the natural example of serving parents as the birds would often help their parents.

The dove is associated with long life and fidelity, a direct opposition to the Western idea of doves, as they are associated with young love. Ducks are representative of loyalty as the birds mate for life.

Feather color also plays an important role in Chinese culture. White feathers, specifically, are a good luck charm and are believed to carry messages from loved ones who have passed on.

An additional practice in Chinese culture is Tian-tsui, a style of Chinese art that featured kingfisher feathers. The iridescent blue feathers of this bird were used in art, clothing, and other objects.

Feather Symbolism in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, feathers were used to personify deities, including Shu, the god of air, and father of the earth and sky; Shu wore a feather in his hair.

Feathers were also used for Ma'at, the goddess of truth and order. Ma'at was depicted wearing an ostrich feather in her hair, known as the Feather of Truth, and the feather itself was her emblem.

Ma'at's primary role in Egyptian religion was the Weighing of the Heart, which took place in the Egyptian underworld, Duat.

Upon death, souls would have their hearts weighed against Ma'at's feather. Hearts that were equal or lighter than her feather were permitted to go to Aaru, the Field of Reeds; however, hearts that were heavy and weighed down by sin were considered unworthy, and were given to Ammit, devourer of souls.

Feather Symbolism in Christianity and the Bible

In the Bible, feathers represent purity and all that is holy, and are associated with angels. Feathers are important to angels, as they allow these heavenly creatures to fly around to spread love and harmony.

But feather symbolism in Christianity and the Bible also depends on the bird itself.

For example, ostrich feathers are mentioned in the Bible and mean hiding. Interestingly enough, the ostrich doesn’t fly, and its feathers are light fluffy. Flabellum fans were made with peacock and ostrich feathers, and were waved over the consecrated body and blood of Jesus.

In Christianity, feathers symbolize the ability of the human soul to transcend mental limitations. Feathers allow people to see the bigger picture and give a detailed understanding of what matters in life.

Image: Siwakorn1933 / Shutterstock

RELATED: 15 Spiritual & Psychic Signs Someone Is Thinking About You

Feather Tattoo Symbolism

While people get tattoos for their own unique reasons, usually as an expression of creativity or as a reminder of something personal, a feather tattoo is incredibly significant.

Because feathers represent a connection to the divine realm as well as angels, getting a feather tattoo could mean that you are highly in tune with your spirituality, or that you are focused on connecting with your higher self.

A feather tattoo may also appear on the body of someone who is fascinated by ancient Egyptian deities like Ma'at; or, for a person with a close relationship with birds, a feather tattoo could serve as a reminder of how much these creatures are revered.

Feather Symbolism in Dreams

Dream interpretation depends on the overall feeling and circumstances of the dream itself. However, feathers in dreams symbolize multiple concepts: freedom, commitment, inspiration, success, gratitude, restriction, and even jealousy.

The color of the feather also determines the meaning of the dream.

When you dream of feathers, it could mean that you are recognizing your own potential in the waking world, and that success is attainable if you keep pushing forward. Dreaming of feathers could also symbolize your desire to break free of constraints or feeling like you're a caged bird, so to speak.

But dreams like this can also signify that you are feeling anxious in the waking world, are hiding a part of yourself from others, and are struggling to express your true desires. Feather dreams can, additionally, represent your inner jealousy towards people who are "freer" than you.

Depending on the circumstances of the dream, your dream could be positive or negative. For example, certain colors can be considered a bad omen related to your health, reality, and inner self.

Feather Symbolism in Movies

The biggest example of feathers in cinema is the film, "Forrest Gump."

The movie begins and ends with a white feather floating through the air. In the beginning, a feather comes to rest in Forrest’s suitcase; in the end, it flies back up into the air.

How exactly did that feather get around the way it did? It has the wind, which can represent chance. It can also represent Forrest’s view of life: there’s no big destiny endgame we’re trying to get to, and there is a random series of events of life.

In the film, Forrest’s mom said, “Life is like a floating feather. You never know where it’s going to end up.” Jenny also sings at the bar about how the answer to all of life’s big questions is just “blowin’ in the wind.”

RELATED: Peacock Symbolism & The Spiritual Meaning Of Seeing Peacocks

Feather Color Symbolism

White Feather Symbolism

White feathers represent the divine because of their connection with angels. A white feather is a reminder from your guardian angels that you need to take steps towards self-care and hope.

A white feather can also be a message from a lost loved one, letting you know that they are always with you.

Pink Feather Symbolism

Pink feathers represent unconditional love. Pink feathers appear when angels are letting you know that they love and support you; love gives you the power to overcome problems and heal wounds. A pink feather is a reminder that love can be the answer to your problems.

Red Feather Symbolism

The color red symbolizes passion, courage, strength, and creativity, just like red feathers do. If you come across a red feather, it might be a sign that you are getting stronger, or that you are recovering from a health issue.

If you are in the middle of a project, a red feather can be confirmation that you are going in the right direction, as well as a sign to have the courage to pursue your aspirations.

Orange Feather Symbolism

An orange feather represents creativity, intuition, emotional expression and balance, and harmony. Finding a feather that is orange is a nudge to express your creativity, follow your intuition, and to let your emotions free.

Image: zuperia / Shutterstock

Green Feather Symbolism

Green feathers symbolize abundance, good luck and fortune, prosperity, and growth. Seeing a green feather is a message to encourage you to keep pushing forward, as well as a reminder that your body and mind need calm.

Gray Feather Symbolism

Unsurprisingly, gray feathers represent neutrality and are a sign that the world contains many differing viewpoints; it isn’t black and white. Gray feathers are a reminder to think about situations in life that don't have a clear resolution.

Yellow Feather Symbolism

When we think of yellow, we might associate it with the sun; similar to the sun, yellow represents optimism and joy, confidence, and happiness. As such, yellow feathers are a much-needed reminder that a positive mindset is what you need to remain confident.

Blue Feather Symbolism

The color blue is associated with stability, inspiration, wisdom, trust, and self-expression. Blue feathers symbolize the need to trust yourself, live your truth, and to lovingly communicate with your loved ones.

Black Feather Symbolism

Black is a color that symbolizes death and rebirth, control, power, resilience, the unconscious mind, and what is hidden beneath the surface. Black feathers are a reminder that your angels are always protecting you, but that you need to take time to relax your mind and body.

Purple Feather Symbolism

Purple is the color of royalty, spirituality, compassion, sensitivity, and psychic insight. A purple feather appears with a message to take close care of the connection between your mind and soul, and to trust your intuition.

Brown Feather Symbolism

The color brown is associated with the earth, nurturing, and fertility. A brown feather, however, symbolizes the need to remain grounded and in the present moment, while living a life with set boundaries.

Black And White Feather Symbolism

Black and white feathers represent the need to trust your intuition, as doing so will allow you to find solutions to even the most difficult challenges. If these feathers appear, be sure to listen to your inner voice to better connect to your spiritual side.

Multi-Colored Feather Symbolism

Multi-colored feathers can come in a variety of combinations, but their message is very important. Multi-colored feathers symbolize your strong connection to your guardian angels and the spirit world, and are also a sign of regeneration and renewal.

RELATED: Spiritual Animal List & The Symbolic Meaning Of Power Animals

Chinyere Ibeh is a writer, multimedia journalist, and host of The Chinny Chronicles radio show. She has bylines in The Depaulia, Her Campus, 14East Magazine, and others. Visit her website for more.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!