Feathers

Feathers have always fascinated humans.  From ancient cultures to modern day teachings, feathers hold the connection to the Bird Kingdom; a Kingdom that man can only conquer in flight through the aid of machines.  Children always find that awe and wonderment in a feather; the feel of the feather as they wave it through the air, the softness of the feather as they stroke it across their cheek, the feeling of being able to take flight with one feather in each hand.  

 

Ancient teachings of nature connection (e.g. First Nations philosophy), treats everything in nature as equal, and for us humans to only take what we need from the Earth and no more.  There is a great deal of respect and honouring in everything ancient teachings do.  In the Western world we have lost that respect and honouring totally; we take more than we need and pollute rather than make sure the Earth is there for our children’s children, after us.  In fact this is why a lot of people turn to ancient teachings to understan how our ancestors honoured the earth, a way of connecting back in again and learning the basics needed to honour and respect our Earth once more.  By learning how to honour and respect the Earth we start to care for the Earth more; but perhaps we just need a starting point…...........a feather.

 

Feathers have always been seen as a ‘gift’, not only through First Nation teachings but also through many earth based religions today; and as such were deeply honoured in ceremony.  Children were taught by the elders at an early age to recognise the world where they lived - how many children today can recognise birds and trees where they live?   A feather would be easily identified (species, wing, tail, breast feather), and they would instinctively know if the feather was for them or for someone else.  Feathers hold a skin-tag of where they have been held in the body of the bird.  This skin-tag, and an area above and below on the shaft of the feather, would be decorated with beads, and gifted to someone as a form of gratitude and respect.

 

But there is a lot more to a ‘feather’:

  • Feathers are actually skin scales made by a follicle (like our hair follicles)

  • A feather follicle is responsible for creating the entire feather, from the tip all the way back to the quill…..changing how the feather has to be formed as it slowly emerges.

  • Each follicle makes a particular kind of feather - wing, chest, tail, head, etc.

  • No two follicles are the same, and no two feathers are the same

  • European Eagle Owls will have roughly 30,000 feathers on their body; smaller birds 1500 feathers.

  • The material that makes the feather is the same biological material that was seen in winged dinosaurs, millions of years ago.

  • Marks on a feather can tell you if that bird was healthy or stressed when the feather was formed - fret marks

  • Feathers are unique, independent yet are needed to form the whole, beautiful and amazing bird - macro viewing in on a feather shows the barbs and scales held within the feather. 

  • Flight feathers are unique depending on the bird - Peregrine Falcons have long, strong, pointed feathers great for speed and agility; Buzzards have deep, broad wing feathers to help with soaring.

  • Tail feathers are used for braking and steering.

  • Feathers fall out in pairs, usually one on each side.  Only when the new feathers are 3/4 of the way through will the bird drop another pair.

 

Feathers are a way for children, and adults, to engage once more with nature.  To have that connection with the Bird Kingdom opens up that ‘awe and wonderment’ that is needed if we are to respect and care for the Earth once more.

WingSmith feathers - an individual feather holds such majesty and beauty, but when placed together to form the wings those feathers form strength, protection, a sense of working together as one feather fits in exactly where it needs to to help support and bring strength to the other feathers.....and a wing can take flight.......

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