Discovering the Meaning: What Do Native American Feathers Symbolize?

Feathers in Native American culture are not just accessories or items of decoration. These seemingly ordinary objects hold powerful significance and symbolic meaning to the indigenous communities in America. Native American feathers can represent many things, ranging from spiritual awakening to personal achievement and victory. Amongst the Native American community, feathers are regarded as a sacred object that holds deep cultural and spiritual significance.

According to Native American tradition, feathers represent an individual’s journey and connection with the spirit world. They also symbolize the power of nature and its importance in sustaining all living things. Every feather has a unique meaning attached to it, and different animals’ feathers hold different spiritual values. For instance, eagle feathers symbolize strength, courage, vision, and wisdom. The eagle is revered in Native American culture as it is believed to carry prayers to the heavens.

Besides, feathers also hold practical uses in Native American culture. They have been used for centuries as objects of trade, gifts, and as a form of currency. Native American tribes have also used feathers for their healing properties and have incorporated them in traditional healing practices. Given the significance of native American feathers, it is necessary to respect them and understand their importance to the indigenous communities.

Feathers as a Spiritual Symbol

Native American feathers are considered one of the most prominent spiritual symbols in their culture. Each kind of feather belongs to a specific type of bird, representing their unique traits and associations. These feathers are highly valued because they hold spiritual energy that Native Americans believe to be sacred.

  • Eagle feathers: Eagle feathers are one of the most sacred objects that can be found in Native American culture. They are often seen as symbols of strength, courage, and wisdom. Eagle feathers also represent the power of healing and are commonly used for ceremonial purposes.
  • Turkey feathers: Turkey feathers are commonly used in many Native American ceremonies as well. They represent abundance, fertility, and generosity. Turkish feathers also signify social connections and are used to invite good luck and positive energy.
  • Owl feathers: Owl feathers are believed to have great mystical power in Native American culture. They represent the power of the moon and are often used in ceremonial rituals to connect with the spiritual realm. Owl feathers are also thought to bring guidance and wisdom.

Native American feathers are also used as decorative items in clothing, headdresses, and other accessories. They are often adorned with beads, fur, and other symbolic decorations to honor the sacred spirit within the feather. These decorations may vary from tribe to tribe, but the significance of the feather as a spiritual symbol remains the same.

In addition to their significance in ceremonial rituals, Native American feathers are also believed to hold important healing qualities. The energy within the feather is thought to have a calming effect on the mind and body, making it an important tool for meditation and personal reflection.

Feather TypeSymbolism
EagleStrength, courage, wisdom, healing
TurkeyAbundance, fertility, generosity, social connections
OwlMystical power, moon energy, guidance, wisdom

Native American feathers hold immense significance in their culture and are believed to possess sacred qualities that connect people to the spiritual realm. Understanding the symbolism and meaning behind each feather is important to appreciate the cultural heritage and spiritual significance of Native American traditions.

Feather Color Symbolism

The color of a feather can carry significant symbolism in Native American culture. The color is not just superficial, but represents specific traits and characteristics that an individual may possess, as well as the spirit of the animal from which the feather came.

  • White: represents purity, innocence, light, and spiritual growth.
  • Black: symbolizes mystery, death, and change.
  • Brown: represents home, grounding, and the power of the earth.
  • Gray: symbolizes neutrality, balance, and detachment.
  • Red: represents love, passion, and physical vitality.
  • Yellow: symbolizes happiness, intelligence, and freedom.
  • Green: represents growth, health, and the power of healing.
  • Blue: symbolizes introspection, peace, and the spiritual realm.
  • Purple: represents strength, leadership, and spiritual awareness.

The meaning of a feather’s color can vary slightly within different Native American cultures and traditions. However, the overall symbolism remains relatively consistent throughout the various tribes.

Importance of the Eagle Feather

Native American feathers were considered significant across various tribes for their sacred properties, representing communication with the spirit world. Out of all the feathers, the eagle feather holds the most meaning and importance. The following subtopics shed light upon the significance of eagle feathers:

The Number Three Significance

The number three is a significant representation in Native American culture, and eagle feathers are no exception. The eagle’s primary feathers represent strength, courage, and wisdom – three values highly prized by Native American warriors. It is believed that when an individual acquires or inherits an eagle feather of any kind, it is essential to earn two more to maintain balance and equal representation of the three primary feathers.

  • The first feather represents strength
  • The second feather represents courage
  • The third feather represents wisdom

Acquiring an eagle feather requires dedication and sacrifice, whether it’s in the form of protecting the environment, performing community service, or participating in an act of bravery. Thus, it is vital to understand and show respect for such a sacred object before using it for ceremonial purposes.

Symbolic Meanings of Different Types of Feathers

Number 4: Four Directions and Four Seasons

In Native American culture, the number four represents balance, stability, and harmony. This belief is evident in various aspects of their lives, including their spiritual practices and art. The four directions depict the entire universe, and the four seasons represent the complete cycle of life. In this sense, the number four embodies a holistic understanding of the world and a respect for nature’s rhythms.

  • Each of the four directions symbolizes a different element and a unique set of qualities. North corresponds to wisdom, introspection, and winter. East represents inspiration, clarity, and spring. South embodies passion, energy, and summer. West signifies transformation, reflection, and autumn.
  • Feathers are vital symbols in Native American ceremonies and rituals. They are essential components in headdresses, prayer fans, and dreamcatchers. Each feather has a distinct meaning, and the particular patterns and colors are significant indicators of the bird’s spiritual essence.
  • Many cultures associate feathers with transcendence, communication with the divine, and the power of flight. Feathers from different birds have different meanings, but they all represent spiritual qualities and the natural world.

Native Americans understand the interconnectedness of all things and seek to live in harmony with themselves, each other, and the earth. They believe in the power of nature and honor its teachings. Feathers, in particular, symbolize this connection and represent the ability to navigate different aspects of life with purpose, balance, and grace.

BirdFeather Meaning
EagleStrength, vision, spiritual power, leadership
TurkeyAbundance, fertility, generosity, sacrifice
OwlWisdom, intuition, mystery, transition

The feathers of these birds and others embody the spiritual essence of the creature and an appreciation for its unique qualities. The symbolic meanings of feathers are profound and represent the spiritual journey, life’s cycles, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Role of Feathers in Native American Clothing

Feathers held great significance in Native American culture and were a symbol of spiritual connections. Consequently, they were used in a variety of ways in daily life, including clothing. Below are some of the ways feathers were incorporated into Native American dress:

  • Headdresses: This is the most common use of feathers in Native American clothing. Headdresses were an important part of ceremonial dress and were adorned with eagle, hawk, and owl feathers. Each feather had a specific meaning, and the headdress as a whole represented the wearer’s spiritual and cultural beliefs.
  • Regalia: Native American dance regalia typically included feathers as well. Feather bustles were attached to the back of the dancer’s outfit and were made up of dozens of feathers, usually turkey or eagle. Like headdresses, the colors and type of feathers worn had specific meanings.
  • Roaches: A roach is a headdress that is made from porcupine hair and topped with feathers. Like headdresses, roaches were worn during ceremonies and represented the wearer’s spiritual beliefs.

In addition to being used for clothing, feathers were also used for decorative purposes. They were often attached to baskets, bags, and other items to add visual interest and represent the spiritual beliefs of the owner.

Native Americans believed that all living creatures had a spirit and that feathers held special powers. Each feather was considered a gift from the bird it came from and was treated with great respect. Feathers were never taken from a bird that was still alive, and certain feathers, such as eagle feathers, were only allowed to be worn by members of specific tribes.

Feather TypeMeaning
EagleStrength, courage, wisdom
HawkObservation, intelligence
OwlWisdom, magic, mystery
TurkeyAbundance, fertility, generosity
PeacockBeauty, self-expression, confidence

Feathers remain an important symbol in Native American culture today and continue to be incorporated into clothing and regalia for ceremonies and special events.

Use of Feathers in Indigenous Healing Practices

Feathers have been a significant aspect of Native American culture for centuries, and they hold a deep spiritual meaning. One of the significant ways feathers are used in indigenous healing practices is for energy cleansing and healing rituals.

Feathers are believed to have the ability to carry negativity away from individuals during these healing practices. The person performing the ritual uses the feather to brush the negative energy away, and it is carried away with the feather. This practice helps to create a shift in energetic vibrations and promotes healing.

There are key feather types used in healing practices, and each has its unique energy. Below is a list highlighting several feather types and their specific meanings:

  • Eagle: represents strength and courage in native spirituality and holds sacred power.
  • Owl: considered a powerful spirit, represents wisdom and the ability to see beyond the veil.
  • Turkey: symbolizes abundance, generosity, and community.
  • Hawk: represents messenger and vision, bringing messages from the spirit realm and insights for manifestation.
  • Raven: embodies mystery and magic, representing the unknown mysteries and the hidden aspects of life.
  • Peacock: considered as a symbol of spirituality, awakening, and devotion.

Another important aspect of feather usage in indigenous healing practices is the creation of smudge fans. These fans consist of a variety of feathers bound together by a handle and used to disperse smoke from sacred herbs and plants during smudging, which helps in purifying the environment and the person.

Feather TypeMeaning
EagleStrength and Courage
OwlWisdom and the Ability to See Beyond the Veil
TurkeyAbundance, Generosity, and Community
HawkMessenger and Vision
RavenMystery and Magic
PeacockSpirituality, Awakening, and Devotion

The use of feathers in indigenous healing practices serves a vital role in honoring culture and tradition while promoting healing and wellbeing. It’s important to recognize and respect the cultural significance of feathers in Native American communities and to approach their use with reverence and sensitivity.

Feathers in Native American Art and Crafts

Feathers have always held a significant spiritual and cultural meaning for Native Americans. They are commonly used in art and crafts to represent specific symbols and virtues. The use of feathers in Native American art and crafts is an expression of spirituality, culture, and identity.

The Symbolism of Seven Feathers

The number seven has always held a special meaning in Native American culture. Many Native American tribes believe in the concept of the Seven Sacred Directions, which are the four cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, as well as the three spiritual directions of up, down, and center. The number seven represents these sacred directions.

Using seven feathers in Native American art and crafts is a symbol of these sacred directions and the spiritual balance that is achieved when they are in harmony. Seven feathers are also used to represent the Seven Grandfather Teachings, which are fundamental virtues that are essential to spiritual and emotional well-being. These virtues include wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.

  • The Seven Sacred Directions
  • The Three Spiritual Directions
  • The Seven Grandfather Teachings

The use of seven feathers in Native American art and crafts is commonly seen in headdresses and other ceremonial regalia. Feathers are meticulously chosen and arranged to represent specific symbols and virtues. For example, a headdress that includes seven eagle feathers can be seen as a symbol of complete spiritual balance and power.

Feather TypeSymbolism
EagleSpiritual enlightenment and connection to the divine
OwlWisdom and intuition
TurkeyAbundance and generosity

Feathers in Native American art and crafts are more than just decorative pieces. They hold deep cultural and spiritual meaning that connects the wearer to their identity and heritage. The use of seven feathers, in particular, is a powerful symbol of spiritual balance and harmony.

The Sacredness of Feathered Headdresses in Native American Culture

Feathered headdresses are an intricate and important element of Native American culture. They are considered sacred and have significant spiritual meaning to Native American tribes. Each feather has a unique meaning and significance, but a general understanding of their symbolism can be understood through eight key elements.

  • Respect: Feathered headdresses are highly respected within Native American cultures. They are considered sacred and are only worn by certain members of the tribe who have earned the right to wear one.
  • Honor: Wearing a feathered headdress is considered an honor. It represents the wearer’s achievements, courage, and bravery.
  • Beauty: Feathered headdresses are beautiful works of art. They are often adorned with intricate beadwork and colorful feathers, which are carefully selected and arranged by the wearer.
  • Equilibrium: The feathers in a headdress represent the balance and harmony of nature. Native Americans believe that the feathers help connect them to the spiritual realm and maintain balance between the physical and spiritual world.
  • Wisdom: Feathers also represent wisdom and knowledge. Native Americans believe that each feather holds great wisdom and insight, which can be passed down through generations.
  • Strength: The power of the eagle, one of the most commonly used feathers in headdresses, is often associated with strength, courage, and power. Wearing a feathered headdress is therefore seen as a source of strength and power.
  • Connection: Feathers are believed to have a strong connection to the spirit world. They are often used during spiritual ceremonies and rituals to connect with ancestors and spirit guides.
  • Legacy: Feathered headdresses are part of the cultural heritage and legacy of Native American tribes. They have been passed down through generations and are an important symbol of cultural identity.


Feathered headdresses are not simply decorative items, but they represent the sacredness of Native American culture. Each feather embodies a unique meaning and significance, and wearing a headdress is considered a great honor. Feathered headdresses will continue to be an important symbol of Native American culture and heritage for generations to come.

SymbolismFeather TypeMeaning
StrengthEaglePower, courage, and strength
PeaceDoveHarmony, peace, and love
RespectTurkeyMorality, respect, and appreciation
WisdomOwlWisdom, foresight, and knowledge
FertilityPeacockFertility, beauty, and royalty

The table above shows some of the common feathers used in headdresses and their symbolic meanings.

Feathers in Indigenous Folklore and Mythology

The tradition of using feathers in spiritual and cultural rituals is deeply rooted in the indigenous religions of America. Native Americans believe that feathers are spiritual gifts from the sky, and they hold deep symbolism and meaning. Feather symbolism varies from tribe to tribe, and the meanings are often specific to the type of bird and color of the feather.

Number 9:

The number nine is considered sacred in many native tribes and cultures. The significance of the number nine is reflected in the importance of the nine feathers on the headdress of the Eagle Dancer, a traditional Native American dance that is performed to honor the spirit of the eagle. In many tribes, the number nine represents wholeness, balance, and completion, as well as the connection between the earth and the heavens. It is also believed that nine is the number of human energy and that it represents the attainment of spiritual consciousness.

  • In Navajo culture, Eagle feathers are sometimes used in a ritual called the Hozhoogo Naasha, which translates to “Beauty Way Ceremony.” In this ceremony, nine Eagle feathers are used to represent the nine sacred directions and are used to bless the participants.
  • The Choctaw tribe also holds the number nine in high regard. In their creation story, the world was created in nine days, and the divine creator made nine attempts to create the perfect world. They also believe that their medicine men receive power from the nine spirit guides who watch over them.
  • The Teton Sioux tribe also has a belief that revolves around the number nine. The number nine is connected to the concept of cycles, as the winter season lasts for nine moons, and the Sioux often count years in cycles of nine.

Famous Feathers in Indigenous Folklore and Mythology

Feathers have played a significant role in Native American folklore and mythology, and many stories have been passed down through the generations. Here are a few famous feathers and their stories:

Eagle FeatherVariousThe Eagle Feather is considered the greatest of all feathers by many tribes. It represents bravery, strength, and courage and is often earned as a symbol of honor and respect. The Eagle is also considered a messenger between humans and the Creator.
Owl FeatherHopiThe Hopi believe that the Owl Feather is a symbol of death that is often associated with their Snake Dance ceremony. It is believed that the Owl Feather has the power to bring messages from the afterlife and can help guide the deceased to the spirit world.
Turkey FeatherCheyenneThe Cheyenne tribe believes that the Turkey Feather represents abundance, fertility, and good luck. It is often used in their dance ceremonies and is believed to bring positive energy to those who wear it.

Overall, feathers play an important role in Native American culture, and their symbolism and meaning are intricately tied to the beliefs and traditions of each tribe. Whether it be for spiritual or cultural reasons, the use of feathers continues to be a significant aspect of Native American life and tradition.

Feathers as a Symbol of Strength and Resilience in Native American Communities

Native American cultures across the continent hold feathers in high regard, utilizing them as powerful symbols of strength and resilience. Feathers are often worn both as adornment and to demonstrate a connection to the natural world. Their significance varies between tribes and individuals, but there are some common meanings associated with feathers that transcend tribal boundaries.

  • Connection to Spirituality: Feathers are believed to carry powerful spiritual energy and are often used in religious ceremonies. As spiritual messengers, feathers symbolize a connection between the physical world and the spiritual realm.
  • Sign of Honor and Achievement: Feathers can also be awarded as a sign of honor and achievement. In some tribes, warriors were awarded feathers for their bravery and heroism during battle.
  • Symbol of Strength and Resilience: Feathers are a powerful symbol of strength and resilience in Native American communities. They embody the ability to adapt and overcome challenges, just as birds can soar through the wind and survive in harsh environments.
  • Remembrance of Ancestors: Feathers can also be used as a way to remember and honor ancestors who have passed on. In some tribes, it is believed that feathers are a gift bestowed upon the living by the spirits of the deceased.
  • Connection to Nature: As a product of the natural world, feathers represent a connection to nature and the environment. In many Native American cultures, nature is considered sacred and feathers are seen as a way to honor and respect the natural world.

Feathers have also played a significant role in Native American fashion, with traditional headdresses and other garments often featuring feathers. Despite this, it is important to note that feathers hold deep spiritual and cultural significance to Native American communities and should be treated with respect and reverence.

Here are some examples of birds and their feathers and the meaning behind them for Native American communities:

BirdFeather ColorMeaning
EagleBrownBravery and courage
HawkBrown/whiteMessenger and vision
RavenBlackMagic and protection
TurkeyBrownAbundance and fertility

Feathers have been a part of Native American culture for centuries, serving as powerful symbols of spirituality, strength, resilience, and connection to the natural world. As we continue to learn from and appreciate Native American traditions, it is important to show respect for these significant symbols and their cultural significance.

What do Native American Feathers Symbolize FAQs

Q: What do feathers symbolize in Native American culture?
A: Feathers hold great significance in Native American culture and signify various meanings such as honor, courage, spirituality, and wisdom.

Q: Why do Native Americans use feathers in their headdresses?
A: Native Americans use feathers in their headdresses as a symbol of respect, bravery, and honor. The feathers are earned through acts of valor and are believed to carry the power of the bird from which they are taken.

Q: What types of feathers are used in Native American headdresses?
A: Eagle feathers are the most common feathers used in Native American headdresses. They are highly sacred and are often reserved for spiritual leaders and warriors. Other types of feathers that are used include turkey, hawk, and owl feathers.

Q: What is the significance of the bald eagle feather in Native American culture?
A: The bald eagle feather holds a special significance in Native American culture as it represents strength, courage, and freedom. It is considered to be one of the highest honors to be granted a bald eagle feather, as its possession carries great responsibility.

Q: How do Native Americans use feathers in their spiritual practices?
A: Feathers are used in many Native American spiritual practices such as smudging, a cleansing ceremony that utilizes smoke from burning herbs to purify a person, space or object. Feathers are used to waft the smoke and carry the negative energy away.

Q: Can anyone wear a Native American headdress?
A: No, not everyone can wear a Native American headdress. These headdresses are considered to be sacred and are only worn by certain members of the tribe who have earned the right to wear them through acts of bravery and honor.

Q: Is it appropriate to purchase and wear Native American-style headdresses or feathers as a fashion accessory?
A: It is not appropriate to purchase and wear Native American-style headdresses or feathers as a fashion accessory. These items have great cultural significance and wearing them as a fashion accessory is disrespectful to Native American culture.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about what Native American feathers symbolize. As you can see, feathers are deeply rooted in Native American culture and hold great spiritual significance. It is important to respect their traditions and use of these symbols. If you’re interested in learning more about Native American culture, we encourage you to do so and visit our website again later for more interesting articles!