Ritual Tools for Health and Well-Being
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Photo: Krista Holland Crete, Greece
Sometime around 2016, I decided to try to be on the lookout while hiking or walking for fallen bird feathers lying on the ground. I wanted to see if I might become something of a feather collector by setting the intention and then paying attention. Well, low and behold, I start to find feathers regularly. Within the year, I had gathered a wonderful collection of various feathers. At one point, I laid all the feathers out on my dining room table, and it was then that I realized I had enough feathers to make something with. I'd been using aromatic smudge since I started leading sacred drumming circles and ceremony, so I thought I would use some of the feathers to make a smudge wand for use with the resins I burned for ceremonial use. Soon one feather wand became two, and so on...
When I traveled to Greece in the summer of 2017 to co-facilitate The Eleusinian Mystery Field School, I found feathers all over Athens and on the island of Crete. I found wildcrafted feathers at many of the sacred sites such as The Temple of Artemis, The Cave of Pan, The Cave of Agia Sophia, Delphi, and I even picked up a few tattered feathers off the graffitied streets of Athens. By the time the month-long trip was over, I had an armful of feathers that traveled home with me and were woven into many of the feather wands you see listed for sale on this site.
The feather wands you see here in this collection are all handmade one-of-a-kind pieces. They are made as a labor of love; each one is unique. If you're looking for something that is more mass-produced or machine-made this would not be it. There are imperfections in both the feathers and the craftsmanship as the feathers are from birds that flew free and were never caged. Some of the feathers are tattered or frayed - signs of the bird's life. Sometimes when I look at a particular feather, I imagine the bird soaring freely through the great expanse of Father Sky. I imagine the bird making its home somewhere in the forest canopy or tucked away in the urban jungle's bushes. As for the craftsmanship I am learning as I go, there's a handmade, earthy quality in each piece. I've added a few feathers purchased or gifted from various sources, for most of the feathers in this first collection have been wildcrafted by me on my walks and travels.
These incense wands are wonderful to use for personal or group ceremonies and rituals. I love to handpick special resins and other sacred scents for a particular ceremonial use, different celebratory occasions, and rites of passage. Using sacred scents for worship, prayer, ceremony, and ritual is another cross-cultural custom, much like drumming and often used in conjunction, that goes way back in time to our most ancient ancestors. Humans have been using special woods and resins in ceremony most likely, since way back in the day, when humans first discovered fire. Imagine someone throwing a sandalwood log on the fire one day and realizing the beautifully fragrant wood's transporting power and uplifting smoke. They must have thought it was an olfactory gift from the Goddess Earth herself. As culture developed across the globe, a robust trade between different regional and worldwide cultures simultaneously developed.
Humans began trading goods along the well-traveled Spice Routes known as the Maritime Silk Roads. Along with culinary spices and other novelties, some of the most highly prized goods that were traded among cultures were the special and rarified woods of a particular ecological climate or bioregion. Aromatic woods and resins were so valued in the days of old that a person's wealth was measured in the amount of frankincense burned at their funeral. If we think back to one of the most endearing stories ever told - The birth of Jesus Christ who's very name means the anointed one, we can truly gather the value of aromatic resins. It was tree resin - in the form of frankincense and myrrh after all, on par with pure gold, deemed to be of the most illustrious gifts that the stargazing astronomers - The Three Wise Men, known as the Magi, chose to bring to the humble manger to honor the birth of the Son of God. So with all due respect to all those involved - If frankincense is good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you! (You can purchase frankincense here).
Catholics will often recognize the scent of frankincense from their church rituals, as a priest or clergyman will often walk through the church or seminary with incense censors wafting the smoke of sacred wood resins between the pews and down the isles of the churches. In Native Turtle Island ceremony, in the Americas before colonization, Salvia apiana or White Sage was most cherished by the indigenous tribespeople. In South America, one of the most esteemed aromatic plants is the Palo Santo tree and wood. In Arab countries and throughout Asia, the most precious, costly, and revered wood is the Agarwood or Aloeswood. Agarwood is used in the temple incense in traditional Japanese incense ceremonies and is one of the world's highest-priced legal cash crops. Sandalwood or Santalum alba, which is all but extinct now due to over-harvesting of the ancient sandalwood forests, was once generously burned in India's traditional fire ceremonies. What's left of the beautifully fragrant sandalwood heartwood has become so costly and highly valued that it has been purportedly transported in armored trucks across India to prevent poachers and thieves from high jacking the bounty to sell on the back market. This gives you an idea of how much our ancestors, as well as modern-day people, revere these precious substances.
As it turns out, our ancient ancestors were really on to something with their love of aromatic resins - modern science is now confirming the incredible medicinal properties of these potent natural substances. Frankincense was recently found to kill cancer cells in vitro. (Read one of the scientific studies here.) Tree resins, when burned, have also been shown to purify the air of pathogens. According to my teacher David Crow - the burning of natural antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral resins might have helped to create "community immunity" in the tribes and villages of indigenous peoples the world over before the advent of modern medicine. If any of this sparks your interest, try experimenting with some of the resins and other ritual tools available through our store and create your healing ceremonies for yourself, your community, and your loved ones.
Celebrating or creating ritual with aromatic plants' aid is an easy and healing way to bring the sacred to the mundane while creating a life of natural beauty and meaning. Wishing you many blessings for radiant health and mental well-being. May your heartfelt prayers be carried from this beautiful earth to the most beneficent heavenly realms for the highest good of all.