Feathers in hair? If in Bali – you must have spotted them on girls (and boys) around. Many people also wear feathers as a jewelry or part of clothes.
They not only have that hippie vibe and cool edge but also have a deeper meaning. So what’s really behind the story of feathers?
Adorning the hair with feathers has been a long-time tradition in the history and culture of our society dating back hundreds of years. Feathers are sought after because of their soft feel, wild color range, and flowing beauty. Feathers have been making an impact in fashion in recent history by enhancing the look of clothing, jewelry, hair accessories, and most recently feather hair extensions. For example, feathery headdresses for Native Americans had a spiritual meaning. They were worn by Native American chiefs to symbolize their communication with the spirit and to show off their divine wisdom. Feathers also represented the power of the thunder gods, along with the power of air and wind. Sometimes feathers were representative of courage during a battle or a successful hunt.
In Bali, it is believed that the gods have the animals that carry them. These animals have become symbols of the gods who ride them. The eagle-like bird, Garuda, is Wisnu’s carrier and Siwa rides a bull, called Nandi. The eagle has 17 flight feathers on each wing, 8 tail feathers, and 45 neck feathers – Balinese culture is very rich in symbolism!
At the mention of hair feathers, you might also recall the roaring 1920-s and the birth of the flapper. Flappers presented a fashion-forward image that was always recognizable. They took pride in being cutting edge – sporting shorter haircuts, unconventional dresses, and feathered hair accessories. While the term “flapper” has different connotations and meanings to different people, the origin of the word “flapper” refers to a young bird learning to fly. It is rumored that their Flappers of the 1920’s wore their feather accessories as a representation of this journey–their metaphorical “flight” into womanhood – free, natural, unpredictable… Fast forward to society today, and the feather accessory is still as impactful as it has always been. Today women (and men) tend to choose a feather as a representation of their connection to the Earth, wilderness and carefree spirit. They sport feathers as a way to show their liberation from tradition. Feathers can still carry spiritual significance, or may even represent an emotional journey.
Whatever the feather symbolizes to you and your own personal journey, rest assured that its meaning is completely interpretive. Perhaps that’s what makes the feather such an evolving symbol through the years.