Smudging is the act of purifying one's body or space to cleanse the air and offer smoke and prayers in the manner of ancient Native American ceremonies. Medicine men, shamans and elders performed ceremonies to Mother Earth and Father Sky, to the lands where they lived, and to the Creator, or Great Spirit. Tobacco, cedar, sage, sweet grass and juniper are among the materials burned These sacred practices have in recent years moved into use by non-Native Americans and by spiritual practitioners that respect tribal customs. Traditional smudging fans are often the entire wing of a bird, but you can make a simple version by joining feathers together with leather strips and decorating it.

Purchase artificial feathers until you have the number you want. For practice, keep it simple by starting with a three-feather fan.

Gather the quill end of the feathers together. Turn the feathers so they all face the same direction, in that the obvious back side of the feather is turned behind. Most feathers have a natural curl or bend, so this is easy to identify. Wrap the feathers together at the bottoms using a thin strip of leather snugly around the base where the three feathers meet. Tie it with sinew or cord. To make a handle, you can add a dried 1/2- to 1-diameter tree stick before tying the cording around them, or by placing the bundle against the stick and adding additional leather strips.

Decorate the handle by stringing beads or smaller feathers together and attaching with thread, twine or cording to the front and back near where the quills meet. Brightly colored feathers can make a nice contrast to solid whites, black and brown feathers. You can make a full leather handle if you have leather craft tools for punching holes and sewing. Simply cut two rectangular strips, about 5 to 7 inches long and 2 or 3 inches wide. and punch holes on all sides except the one the feathers will tuck into. Sew the two pieces together to make a pocket and insert the feathers. This pocket can hold many feathers fanned out.

Items you will need

  • Artificially made feathers

  • Leather strips

  • Sinew

  • Beads

  • Optional:

  • Other ornamentation

  • Leather craft tools

Tip

  • If feathers seem to slip out or are too loose, just tie the cording more tightly, or glue the quill ends together with any clear-drying glue.

    After you get the hang of a simple, small cluster, experiment by using bundles of 5, 7, and 10 feathers.

    Pow wows are a great place to find materials for making fans.

Tip

  • All migratory birds native to the US are protected under US Federal law. It is illegal to possess any migratory birds or bird parts, such as nests, eggs, or feathers. The law covers all species native to the US.

    It is illegal to own eagle feathers unless you are a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe.

    If you find an eagle feather, and are not a registered tribal member, contact the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado to ask them proper procedure.