The Spiritual Meaning and Symbolism of Grey and White Feathers

Written by Aaron Webber
Updated: November 15, 2023
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Even if you don’t personally believe in the spiritual nature and symbolism of feathers, knowing their meaning to other cultures and traditions is important. Learning the significance of certain symbols helps you better understand, appreciate, and respect those who use them. When you know the symbolism of grey and white feathers, they become more than just feathers, they become a powerful connection between you and other people.

Grey and white feathers can indicate a transition from a time of peace to a time of sadness, or vice versa.

Few things have more symbolic power than those that appear naturally in the world around us. And few more so than feathers. Archaeological evidence shows that people have used feathers in religious and symbolic ways for thousands of years. By learning and appreciating their role in human culture and tradition, you are diving into a long and rich history of feathers.

When you understand the deep history of the symbols that surround us in our everyday lives, your experience of the world around you becomes so much richer. You will be able to recognize the power these symbols had for your ancestors and see the beauty in things you ignored before.  

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The Role of Feathers in Spirituality

indian headdress

Native Americans use feathers in ceremonial clothing to take the aspect of a bird. They assume the properties of the feather and the bird.

©iStock.com/Szixy

When it comes to feathers, there are common themes throughout different religions and traditions. However, each one will use them and treat them in different ways.

In Celtic and Norse Paganism, the feather itself isn’t as important as the animal it comes from. Holding or using a feather from a raven, for example, connects you with Odin. The raven is one of Odin’s aspects, and the black ravens Hugin and Munin act as his messengers. In early Celtic culture, wearing feathers was a symbol of honor. For example, members of Scotland’s Clan Campbell use feathers to show authority in the clan to this day. The more feathers one has, the higher their office and authority in the clan.

There is archaeological evidence in Germany of Celtic tribes wearing feathers in ceremonial helmets and clothing. Shamans, oracles, and priestesses would use cloaks of feathers to connect themselves with the gods in the sky, aid in spiritual rituals, and help them to better communicate with these beings. By including feathers in rituals, spiritual leaders invite the spirits of those animals to participate in those rituals.

In most Native American tribes of North America, the symbolic nature and use of feathers, especially eagle feathers, is second to none. The feather holds a special place in prayer and spiritual ceremonies. In Native American traditions, birds are the beings who approach closest to the gods, or the Creator, because they fly so high. When they offer prayers to the spirits or the Creator, it is the birds that carry those prayers to heaven. Therefore, because birds are closest to the Creator, their feathers help create a direct connection to the heavens through the spirit and energy of the bird. This is especially true of eagle feathers because they fly the highest of all birds.

Native Americans use feathers in everything from ceremonial dress, headdresses, prayer ceremonies, decorations, gifts, weapons, and more. They treat the feather with the utmost respect and do not let it touch the ground. Showing respect to the feather, and therefore the bird that carried it, shows respect to the Creator. This will allow your prayers and supplications to more easily travel from this world to the next.

In ancient and new-age Egyptian faiths, the feather was important because of its function. Feathers enabled birds to fly and could be used as writing utensils. So, Egyptians saw them as powerful symbols of air, flight, and words. Feathers were a symbol of the creator gods of the Egyptian pantheon because they represented strong wind. In hieroglyphics, Egyptians used the feather in the context of dryness, lightness, flight, faith, and contemplation.

In Wiccan practices, feathers are used in smudging or to cleanse an area of negative energy. Including a feather, regardless of its origin, in a spell, hex, magick, altar, or energy nexus will impart the attributes of the feather into the ritual. These attributes include air, flight, and clear-sightedness. Using the feather of a specific bird will refine and focus the attributes and energy of the ritual. More specific intentions are always more powerful than generalizations.

Feathers hold and have held a special place in spiritual and ritual ceremonies throughout human history. In cultures in which aerial myths, sky gods, or birds are popular, feathers also have significant importance. It was only until the introduction of modern Abrahamic faiths that the use of feathers in spiritual practices was outlawed and forbidden. The Catholic church forbade the use of feathers in Europe during the early Middle Ages in order to destroy the spiritual connection between Germanic tribes and their gods. Islam forbade iconography of any kind as idolatry. Judaism used feathers as symbols of angelic messengers, but there is no role for them in religious ceremonies.

Symbolism of Grey and White Feathers

Abstract. Group of Soft and Light Black Feathers Floating in The Air. Feather Isolated on White Background.

Grey and white feathers will vary wildly in their pattern and color. Some might have strong bands or subtle transitions from white to grey.

©Siwakorn1933/Shutterstock.com

Aside from the intrinsic symbolism of feathers in general, the color of the feather carries strong meaning in many traditions.

Grey and white feathers can symbolize a balance between good and evil, or positive and negative. Grey and white means neutrality. It can also symbolize a transition from good to evil, or bad to good. In either case, the symbolism, or the direction of the transition will depend on the context in which it is being used.

Some people associate grey and white feathers with the Fae, trickster entities or spirits, and devious energies. Because the symbolism of the feather is not a solid, straightforward one, it can be seen as hiding its true intentions or deceiving others. It can represent change, openness, and the importance of conscious intention. On a more unnerving note, finding a grey and white feather in your path could mean that the gods are ambivalent about your decision, direction, or question. They could be leaving the choice up to you. If you see a grey and white feather being used in a ritual or ceremony, you will have to use your intuition of the ceremony, the people using it, and the intentions to get a better idea of what symbol it is intended to represent.

Additionally, grey and white feathers can combine the meaning of white and grey or black feathers, since they use both these colors to create their grey and white pattern. White can represent purity, peace, and hope, while grey and black represent loss, darkness, sadness, and death. So, the mixing of both these colors can be a balance between hope and darkness, purity and sadness. It can represent a transition from a time of peace to a time of sadness. Or, a period of mourning to a state of acceptance. If you lack balance in your life, then a grey and white feather might just be the symbol you need.

Birds that have grey and white feathers

There are many birds that can offer white and grey feathers. Some young chicks grow grey and white feathers before they replace them with the colors of their adult feathers.

All these birds are common in North America but have relatives in other parts of the world. Every continent has birds that can give you white and grey feathers. However, you should check with your local laws about the legality of collecting feathers. In the United States, it is illegal to take or collect eagle feathers, unless you are Native American. These birds include the dark-eyed junco, gray catbird, black-capped chickadee, northern mockingbird, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, black phoebe, blue-gray gnatcatcher, rock pigeon, doves, and more!

Signs and Messages from Spirit Guides

Owl Spirit Animal

Native Americans, like other people, believe that feathers create a strong connection between this world and the next.

©Jozef Klopacka/Shutterstock.com

The symbolism of feathers isn’t limited to their use in rituals and ceremonies. Many people believe that finding or coming upon a feather while walking can be a very powerful sign and even an answer to prayers or manifestation.

Finding a grey and white feather during your day can mean balance. It can mean your desires to find balance will soon become manifest. On the other hand, it could be a sign from your spirit guides or the Universe that you need to work harder to achieve balance in your life.

You can see a grey and white feather as a sign that you are conflicted about your direction in life. Are you uncertain about a decision you have to make? You might feel like there is nothing to be conflicted about, but some honest mindfulness might bring up some decisions or situations that require a second look. Finding this feather on a walk, and especially if it falls into your lap or on your head, can very well mean you need to take some time to sort out your thoughts and feelings.

For example, if you have to make a very important decision, a grey and white feather would be a sign that you haven’t yet looked at all the details or considered all the options properly. Your vision is clouded and you might be confused.

Oftentimes, we expect an answer to our prayers to be a simple no or yes. A grey and white feather doesn’t offer such a straightforward answer. It can mean both or neither. It might be suggesting that we should accept both answers or try to find a third option.

When trying to decide what the meaning could be, there are a few things you should consider that might help you. First, the feather is usually associated with air, freedom, heaven, new beginnings, prayers, and wind. Remember these traits when using the feather to help you make a decision. Second, try to find out which bird the feather came from, and learn about its attributes and association. Third, remember what you were thinking about at the time you found the feather. Were you asking a specific question? What feelings were you experiencing? Fourth, consider the context of the feather. What was nearby, and what time of day did you find it? Was the wind blowing, or was it raining? Every small detail can help you make a better decision about the meaning of the feather you find.

Conclusion

White and grey feathers mean neutrality, balance, or transition. Cultures around the world have used and continue to use feathers, including grey and white ones, in their rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual practices.

Yet, even if you don’t put the fate of your life in the symbolism of feathers, the rich and wholesome symbolism of these beautiful things can enrich and bless your life. Perhaps you will see a bird with grey and white feathers during your day and you will remember to be more mindful and decisive about the little decisions in your life.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © fjslawik/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Aaron Webber is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering history, spirituality, geography, and culture. He has over 13 years of writing for global marketing firms, ad agencies, and executive ghostwriting. He graduated with a degree in economics from BYU and is a published, award-winning author of science fiction and alternate history. Aaron lives in Phoenix and is active in his community teaching breathwork, healing ceremonies, and activism. He shares his thoughts and work on his site, The Lost Explorers Club.

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