Prayer and Smudge feathers are traditionally used with burning sage, herbs or incense during prayer or cleansing ceremony. The feather directs the smoke where you want it to go such as to the Great Spirit or to cover yourself or a space for protection.
“The smudging ceremony has been a sacred ritual for the Native American and for many other tribal peoples for thousands of years. It is a ritual of cleansing and purification for the physical ands spiritual bodies. Smudging is used to cleanse energy fields of each person, animal, rock, plant or home,” Silver Wolf Walks Alone.
The feathers used for a ceremony are as important as the smudge. The Prayer feather has a vibration just as the cleansing herbs it is used with. These are vibrations from the color of the feather and the aura of the bird in which the feather came. The feather not only guides the sacred smoke around your body or room, it also fluffs up your auric field.
Birds of prey may be the most revered bird of the Native Americans and many tribes used their feathers for decoration and ceremonies. Game and song birds were appreciated for their different qualities, symbols and totems in Native American culture. Turkey, Goose and Duck feathers are often used in Native American feather work such as ceremonial fans and headdresses. Song bird and exotic bird feathers from Central and South America were often traded among tribes and were considered very special for the medicinal qualities. In Mayan culture the Turkey was used to serve the elite and used in ceremonies for healing, planting and praying for rain according to Mauricio Espinoza.
Native peoples believe that all living things have lessons to teach us. Feathers can remind us of the wisdom, experience and medicine power of a particular bird. Each bird has something they can teach us or has a special significance to each of us.
"If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the... present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child's feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian! We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But, above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit."
Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker.