Since olden times, feathers have been collected for magickal uses. One of the most famous charms using feathers is the Witches Ladder. To make a Witches Ladder, three different colored yarns are braided together, the colors depending on the purpose of the spell. Nine feathers are worked into the braid Feather colors will depend on the type of magick you are working.
The magickal qualities of feathers are determined by their color, and sometimes by the birds from which they fell. Listed below is feather lore from European folk magick sources. You'll find it differs slightly from that of color symbolism in general.
Found feathers are best. Walk in the wild, keeping your eyes open for these treasures. During one of my walks through a park, I was gifted with 13 brown and white feathers. NEVER harm a bird to obtain a feather.
White feathers symbolize purification, spirituality, hope, protection, peace, and blessings of the Moon.
Red feathers symbolize physical vitality. Also courage, good fortune, and life.
Blue feathers give mental abilities, peace, and protection. Also psychic awareness.
Yellow feathers give cheerfulness, mental alertness, prosperity, and blessings from the Sun.
Green feathers symbolize money, prosperity, growth, health, and fertility.
Green and red mixed feathers affect financial matters.
Orange feathers bring attraction, energy, and success.
Pink feathers attract love.
Gray feathers symbolize peace and neutrality.
Brown feathers give stability and respect. They also symbolize the home and grounding.
Brown feathers striped in black, like the tail feathers of a pheasant, give a balance between the physical and spiritual life.
Brown feathers banded or mixed with white bring happiness and give the kind of protection that enables one to go unnoticed amidst those who would harm them.
Brown and red mixed feathers bring healing to animals.
Black feathers give the mystical wisdom that comes with true spiritual initiation.
Black, iridescent feathers give mystical insight.
Black and white mixed feathers give union and protection.
Black (or gray) feathers banded or mixed with white give hope, balance and harmony.
Black mixed with purple means deep spirituality.
Black, white, and blue mixed feathers brings change.
The "eye" on the end of the peacock tail feather protect against the "evil eye" and stimulates inner clairvoyant vision.
The rooster's two prominent tail feathers (called sickles) are symbols of the God and Goddess. The black ones are sacred to the God because of their resemblance to the curved horns of the Horned God. They are also a symbol of male virility.The white ones are sacred to the Goddess because they resemble the tool (the sickle) with which grain (sacred to her) is reaped. They also resemble the waxing and waning Moon.
Making the Witches Ladder
3 cords of equal length, each 3 feet long (Traditionally, these cords are red, black, and white for the three aspects for the Goddess, however you may substitute any color for its magickal correspondence.)
Ring on which to tie cords to anchor them while braiding (Optional)
Assemble materials. Cast circle or create sacred space. Light a candle in a color corresponding to your magickal working. (Blue for peace, etc.) Burn incense which corresponds to your purpose. Have a small bowl of salt and a small bowl of water at your workspace.
If using a ring, tie one end of each of the three cords side by side to the ring. (You could even use a belt buckle or hanger). Anchor this ring to a doorknob, handle, or chair back. If not using a ring, tie one end of the cords together loosely. Begin to braid, saying this or a similar rhyme:
Yarn of red, black, and white
Work your magick spell this night.
As you braid, work all nine feathers (all one color or a combination of colors, depending on your magickal intent) into the ladder, one at a time, as evenly spaced as possible. As you insert the feathers, begin this or a similar chant:
With this feather and this string,
Protection (or peace, etc) this charm will bring.
When all nine feathers have been tied onto the cord, and the length is braided, tie the ends of the cords together to make a circle (after removing the braid from the ring). Consecrate the ladder by passing it through the incense smoke and candle flame, asperge it with salt and water, saying:
In the names of the Goddesses
And the God
By Air, Earth, Fire, and Water
I consecrate this charm
Of feathers nine and cord of three
As I will, so mote it be!
Hang the witches ladder high in your house where it will not be seen by others, but where you can see it everyday.
Adapted from Pauline Campanelli's Ancient Ways and Wheel of the Year
Certain spells work particularly well on certain sabbats. Here is a list of feather, color, herb, and oil correspondences for Witches Ladders applying sabbat correspondences where possible. For instance, patchouli oil is a traditional Samhain oil which can also be used for protection. Rosemary is a Samhain herb that also increases magickal powers. These Sabbat correspondences are indicated by italics. These are only examples, feel free to create your own correspondences.
To banish evil or for protection.
Blue or white feathers for protection.
Two black cords to represent the waning year, one orange or yellow cord to represent the Sun, which will inevitably return. (Traditionally, Witches Ladders for protection are made of red, black, and white.)
A black candle dressed in patchouli oil, aka "graveyard dust", for protection. (The reference to the graveyard is especially appropriate to this sabbat.)
Burn rosemary as a protective incense.
For psychic development and divination.
Black and/or purple feathers (iridescent is best) for mystic insight.
Two black cords to represent the waning year and one purple cord to represent hidden mysteries coming to light.
Purple or black candle dressed in rosemary oil (for magickal powers).
Burn rosemary and mugwort as incense.
Green feathers for prosperity and/or red feathers for good fortune. (Green and red feathers mixed affect financial matters.)
One red cord to represent the Holly King, one green cord to represent the Oak King, and one white cord to represent the Goddess.
A red, green, white, silver, or gold candle dressed in bayberry oil (for prosperity).
Burn cinnamon or ash twigs as incense (for prosperity).