Make a beaded Smudge feather
A Smudge feather is easy to make and doesn't involve a huge amount of skill, happily! I made the one shown here today, on a cold and wet afternoon, and it was and is immensely satisfying. So I thought I'd share a 'recipe' to make one, should you feel so inclined.
First of all is the intention. As with all shamanic work it is important to know why you are making something, to be clear. This feather was first shown to me on a journey, and I was given teachings about what the colours and choice of feather mean as well as how to use it. This means I have a deeper relationship with it. With each use my connection to my spirits is renewed, which makes it meaningful and an object of power (where power is energy).
If you haven't been shown or told to make one by your spirits already, other options are to choose a feather because the bird that gave it is your power animal or spirit helper; because the feather 'happens' upon your path one day; because it just feels 'right' or because you undertake a specific shamanic journey to ask something like "I am going on a journey to meet my spirit helpers to ask for help to make a smudge feather" or "I am going on a journey to meet my spirit helpers to ask what is important to pay attention to when making a Smudge feather."
You will need:
A large feather with a strong stem
Soft leather to cover the feather, or cloth such as felt
Seed beads of one or several colours
Leather needle if using leather, or needle for cloth
Cotton or linen thread
Small needle or beading needle to thread the beads
Nylon thread for the beads (can use cotton, but the nylon fishing line type is stronger)
I started by lighting some smudge, and cleansing all the tools in the smoke, asking the Spirits for their blessings and singing a sacred song. 'Smudge' is the name given to herbs burned to create a sweet smelling smoke used in ceremonies and prayers. White sage is commonly used, but I add lavender and rose petals, cedar or juniper, sweetgrass or whatever else I feel like to create the smoke I like.
You can do this, or any other method that creates a sacred space within which to work. This is marks the boundary between the everyday work and your intention and focus to work on this sacred project. This needn't be solemn at all - having fun is part of the magic!
Starting the crafting, cut the leather to wrap a few times around the feather stem (should feel comfortable in your hand, allowing for the additional width the beads will add later), and if you'd like tassels to dangle or plait, cut these first to start at the base of the stem [shown above]. Wrap around the feather and stitch into place - can use clothes pegs or bull-dog clips to hold in place. You could glue it in place first, and might need to with cloth, but this leather seemed to hold on well. I chose to have the inside of the leather facing outwards as I like the soft, warm texture.
Next, pour your beads into a bowl. I find a round bottomed bowl the best as the curve seems to allow the beads to fall with the hole facing up, making it easy to pick up with a needle.
Thread a leather needle (or normal needle if using cloth) with nylon thread long enough to wrap all the way around in the entire stem. This is important as you don't want to be having to try to start a new piece of thread half way along your project. Stitch the thread into place at one end of the leather - I started at the bottom.
Once the thread is secured, remove the leather needle from the thread and replace with a beading (or normal small eye) needle. Save time by threading several beads onto the needle at once and slide the all down the thread together. When you think you have enough - you probably need more! Try wrapping the beaded thread around the stem of the feather to see if you have before you commit. It's better to have a few too many at this stage!
Below you can see the start of the winding. Keep the beads close together as your wrap.
Keep the tension on the beads to make sure they're close together on the thread, and the threads are nice and tight together.
Keep going until you reach the top and hold the last bead in place, letting any extra beads slide off the thread.
Swap back to the leather needle and stitch into place with a few stitches in one spot to secure.
I chose to extend the beads further up the stem - tricky but you might want to experiment with this carefully if you feel inspired.
You can then use your feather. I blessed mine first with Smudge. One idea is to journey "to meet the Spirit of the feather to ask how it would like you to work with it". Or a journey to ask for a blessing for the feather.
Keep it light, and have fun - enjoy working with your feather over many years to come.