Charming Chickens by Natalie Zaman
Ihave a thing about chickens. Maybe it’s because I was born in a Rooster year. (For the record, Rooster people are observant, hardworking, and perseverant—not unlike our avian counterparts.) I’m into my second decade of keeping hens (and the occasional rooster), during which time I’ve come to know them as magical creatures. Chickens miss nothing; they’re fastidious and good at finding things. Intruders? They’ll warn you. And, they’re organized. Together a flock will protect home and garden and rule the roost—fiercely if necessary.
Hens and roosters are, of course, practical, birds. For thousands of years they’ve been a source of protein, a means of natural pest control—and an alarm clock (although I’ve had roosters who crowed at all hours of the day and night). Perhaps it’s this last trait that hints at their divine qualities. In many Asian cultures roosters and hens are the original “Sun birds.” Once a wild bird in mountainous Asia, Gallus gallus was eventually domesticated around 3000—2000 BCE and then spread across continents to become an indispensible and sacred animal.
Most folks already associate the rooster and his crow with the sunrise, but in Korea it was believed that the sacrifice of a hen in the morning (most likely to be eaten later) ensured a good day and that her cry (cluck) chased away negativity. Hens and roosters are also Sun symbols in India. In the state of Rajasthan the hen goddess Murga Mata presides over wandering flocks. Like many other such little-known deities, she is an expression of the divinity and importance of everyday things. Familiar figures on tombs in Japan, roosters and hens are guides to the afterlife. They also act as messengers.
Several Greek gods held chickens in high esteem. Along with her beloved owls, chickens (also intelligent birds) were sacred to Athena. Chickens were fertility talismans for Persephone and emblems of love and desire to Eros. Ever practical, Hermes appreciated chickens as living symbols of commerce and productivity.
Chicken is matriarch and manifestress of change. Rooster is a light in the darkness and courage incarnate. Tap into the energy of these extraordinary birds and bring their magic into your life.
A Sylvan Sewel for Clear Communication
Feathers are associated with the element of air and so are ideal for use in communication magic. Finding a feather can be a token from a totem animal or guardian angel or a message from someone who has passed on. Different colors carry distinct energies: white feathers purify, black protects, brown grounds, and gray balances. Red or orange feathers embody creativity and passion. The birds from which they come also bring their unique energies to workings in which feathers are used. In Hoodoo and Conjure practices, feathers from black or speckled hens—bundled into a kind of esoteric feather duster and used in conjunction with incenses and powders—break jinxes and hexes. If you’ve ever used a feather duster for mundane cleaning, you’ve seen a feather’s drawing powers.
In 1878 the discovery of a knotted cord woven with feathers tucked into the rafters of a cottage in Somerset, England, pricked the interest of Charles Godfrey Leland. He’d written about similar practices he’d seen in Italy, where such talismans were called “witches’ garlands.” Made with feathers woven into a rope, the charm was a curse, but one that could be broken by tossing the garland into running water. Leland called the charm a “sewel,” or “wishing rope,” although it has become more commonly known as a “witch’s ladder.” Simply, a witch’s ladder is a knotting spell, one that can be personalized with specific intentions that are bound in the feathers as they’re tied into the cord that forms the ladder.
Create a witch’s ladder with black yarn and white feathers to bless your home with honest communication. Openness and honesty prevent permanent and damaging rifts and ultimately strengthen relationships. Spend enough time around chickens and you’ll notice that they’re always chattering; our ladder will draw on this aspect of hen energy. The black wool adds an element of protection, while the white feathers represent purity of thought. Together, the juxtaposition of black and white promotes balance and harmony.
You will need:
A pair of scissors
About 4 yards of black wool
9 white chicken feathers
Before you begin, smudge the wool and feathers with sage to cleanse them of any lingering energy, particularly any trauma that the animals from which they came may have experienced. Make a loop at one end of the length of wool and knot it closed; you’ll use this to hang your ladder. Nine inches from the knot at the base of the loop, tie on your first feather with three knots. As you tie the feather into the wool, speak the first line of the spell:
We speak our truth.
When you’re finished, go down another nine inches, tie on the next feather in the same manner, and speak the next line:
Continue tying on feathers every nine inches until the spell is complete. Recite a line for each remaining feather:
And understanding is revealed.
Facts and feeling.
And honest dealing.
In harmony congealing.
Under this roof.
So mote it be.
When the last feather is attached, trim the remaining wool so that a small tassel dangles from the bottom. Hang the ladder in a room where your family gathers. It does not have to be in a conspicuous place. If it’s possible, have each person living in the house bless the ladder with a puff of breath, adding his or her own energy to it. May your home be blessed with balance and harmony.
A Rooster Meditation to Find Your Courage
Calling someone “chicken” implies cowardice, but don’t tell this to the hens and roosters of Key West, Florida—they rule the streets, literally! Gallus gallus of old was a fighter with sharp beak and claws that he wasn’t afraid to use. Perhaps the soldiers of the Roman legions were aware of this. They took chickens into battle with them, not as food supplies but as totem animals and good luck charms.
If you’ve ever observed a rooster, you can see that he’s a proud animal. His plumage is perfect and his legs are strong. He stands erect and puffs out his chest to crow. And of course, he struts with confidence, clearly in charge (as long as the hens allow it!). Even the most confident person has days where he or she feels less than adequate. Tap into Rooster’s energy to revive your heart and restore your courage. All you’ll need is a quiet space with room to walk and about fifteen minutes.
Stand tall. Kukkutasana, or rooster pose, is a very advanced yoga stance. The body imitates the fullness of rooster’s plumage, emphasized as the practitioner balances on his hands. It’s much easier to stand tall, like Rooster: plant your feet firmly on the ground, and then pop out your rear. Straighten your back, shoulders, and head. Take a deep breath, letting your chest expand.
Plump out your plumage. A rooster’s feathers encompass many colors—brown, red, green, and iridescent blue-black. Continue to take deep breaths, filling your lungs and expanding your chest. As you do so, envision waves of light around you in rooster colors. Brown grounds you, green nurtures you, red emboldens you, black protects you, and blue imparts a sense of calm.
Feel your spurs. Roosters and hens have three toes with a fourth “spur” as a heel that helps for scratching, defense, and in the case of the rooster, a means of hanging on while mating. Scarily (for the hens, anyway), some roosters can have thick spurs that are several inches long. (There was a documented case of a rooster’s spur piercing the belly of a python after it had been eaten!) These are fierce birds! Know that you have the armor you need for whatever challenge you’re facing. What is your spur? Think about what you need to develop and nurture to feel empowered. Visualize it and make a commitment to follow it.
Strut. Movement activates thought. Walk and see the colors of Rooster move with you. Feel—or find—your spurs. Use words to add power to your strut:
I am crowned with color.
I walk with weapons of confidence and care.
Like Rooster, I do. I dare!
I am powerful!
Use this meditation to feel your power or to inspire you to take the steps you need to do so. Be like Hen and scratch deeply to discover what you need. Repeat the meditation whenever you need a confidence boost.
A Chicken-Foot Charm for Protection
A rabbit’s foot may be lucky, but a chicken foot is a multi-tasking charm—and a common tool in Hoodoo, Conjure, and Voodoo practice. Chicken feet can be used to “scratch away” negativity, expose the truth, and protect and defend. Get a group of chickens together and their talk is ceaseless, hence their link to gossip. It’s not surprising then that chicken feet can also be used to promote silence when warranted. Like any charm, the magic is in the making.
To create a chicken foot amulet to keep negativity at bay you’ll need:
Chicken feet (Many grocery stores carry them—they’re also good for making broth!)
2—5 pound bag of salt, depending on how many feet you’ll be curing
Oven-proof dish that will accommodate the feet and allow them to be completely covered in salt
Deep dish or bowl that will accommodate the feet and allow them to be completely covered in salt
Herbs and stones to charge the feet once they are dried (Because this is a protective charm for the home, use herbs and stones with related qualities: dragon’s blood banishes negativity and is also sacred to the planet Mars, for defense; sandalwood is protective; mugwort promotes strength; black stones such as tourmaline and obsidian are protective; rose quartz and turquoise promote love and health, respectively.)
Black spray paint, glitter, chicken feathers, and other embellishments of your choice
Ribbon or yarn
Dry it. A food dehydrator will dry out chicken feet in three to five days, but part of the magic of creating these amulets is the time it takes for the feet to preserve—which can take months. Begin drying the feet at the New Moon so that as they lose their fat, they gain in the intensity of your intention. Fill the oven-proof dish with enough salt to nestle the feet in so that they don’t touch the bottom. Cover the feet completely in salt, and then put the dish in the oven on the lowest setting and leave it for 10—12 hours.
Allow the feet to cool before taking them out and breaking off the crust of salt that will form around them. Next, pour some salt in your bowl, nestle in the chicken feet, and then cover them with more salt. Set the bowl aside, preferably in a cool, dry place where it won’t be disturbed. Now, patience is key. Change the salt every week until all of the fat and moisture have been drained from the feet. There should be no seepage or funky odors. (See Resources for Madame May’s excellent tutorial.)
As you’re working with animal parts, it’s important that you talk to Chicken through each step of the process. Thank her for her sacrifice, tell her your intentions, ask for her help; she is still a living spirit.
Charge it. Once your chicken feet are completely dry, lay them in a bed of herbs, stones, and resins to charge them with your intention. Since this is a talisman for home protection, I’ve suggested herbs and stones with those qualities (see supply list). While you shouldn’t get the feet wet, you can also dress them with oil. Use your favorite references to choose which elements to include. Just as you did while you were in the drying stage, tell Chicken about your intentions as you cover the feet with the herbs and stones. Again, begin at the New Moon and leave them to charge for at least a full cycle.
Embellish it. I’ve suggested black for its traditional protective associations, but you can decorate your chicken feet charms with colors that are protective to you. You can also ask Chicken for color guidance. Take some time to meditate and see what manifests.
Painting the feet will also help to seal them. Some folks use nail polish to paint the claws in a complimentary color. When they’re completely dry, brush the cut ends with glue and dip them in glitter until they’re completely covered. You can seal the glitter so that it doesn’t flake with a thin layer of clear glue.
Wind the ribbon or yarn near the top of the cut end. (This is also a good place to attach the feathers if you’re using them. Try to use three, a magical number of completeness.) Then tie it off with enough length to make a loop to hang it.
Hang the foot by a door or window to ward away negativity. Remember to thank Chicken again for her part in this work.
Witch Came First?
Chicken, hen, and rooster magic are inevitably linked to egg magic. Even if the age-old riddle is solved, eggs are mysterious objects. (Science has pretty much determined that chickens didn’t simply appear on the planet, but, like all living beings, developed from tiny cells. So eggs, not as we know them, came first, theoretically.) They have been—and still are—used for divination and spellwork.
In the sixteenth century it was widely believed that as wholesome as an egg could be, the shells had to be thoroughly destroyed lest witches could use them as houses or boats. Once afloat they could go out to sea and wreck havoc with the weather. Double-yolk eggs were a sign of marriage (two yolks, two souls) or pregnancy—possibly twins. Most folks took the discovery of a double-yolk egg to be a sign of good (doubled!) fortune—unless you were Norse, in which case it purported the death of a family member.
The Canton (Ohio) Historical Society revealed some interesting beliefs about eggs in their bicentennial activity book: Have a headache? Get hold of an egg laid by a white hen in a new nest on Easter Day. This egg (if you own it) would also help you see witches. Break that same egg in a vineyard and it’ll protect it from hail, or break it in a field to protect it from frost.
May Hen and Rooster bring order and peace to your home and courage and sunshine to your life. Bright blessings!
“An Ancient and Noble Beast.” Omlet. Accessed on October 10, 2016. https://www.omlet.us/guide/chickens/about_chickens/history/.
“All about Eggs.” The Canton Girl Scouts Canton Bicentennial Historical Activity Book. Canton Historical Society. Accessed on October 10, 2016. http://www.canton.org/history/eggs.htm.
Heritageofjapan. “Rooster symbolism.” Japanese Mythology & Folklore. Accessed on October 10, 2016. https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/rooster-symbolism/ .
Madame May. “How to Make Chicken Feet Protection Charms . . . Part One.” YouTube video, 4:13. February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0swu4uw37kQ.
Madame May. “How to Make Chicken Feet Protection Charms . . . Part Two.” YouTube video, 7:07. February 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkdsh1ylRf8 .
Springfield, Emma. “Strange Superstitions about Feathers.” Nature Center Magazine. May 21, 2012. http://www.nc-mag.com/2012/05/strange-superstitions-about-feathers.html .
Pande, Mrinal. “Meet Rajasthan’s Goddesses of Small Things—Garbage, Sneezing Fits, Hens and Lunar Calendar Days.” Scroll.in. July 13, 2016. http://scroll.in/article/806034/meet-rajasthans-goddesses-of-small-things-garbage-sneezing-fits-hens-and-lunar-calendar-days .
Virata, John. “Australian Vet Removes Rooster Foot That Punctured Python’s Belly.” Reptiles. November 6, 2015. http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/australian-vet-removes-rooster-foot-that-punctured-pythons-belly-trending/ .
Weiss, Kirsten. “History and Mystery: The Witches’ Ladder.” Parayournormal. August 25, 2015. https://parayournormal.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/5-things-you-should-know-about-the-witches-ladder/ .