How to Make a Smudge Fan

Written by debra rigas
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How to Make a Smudge Fan
Native Americans and other cultures smudge for purification. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

For centuries, Native Americans and other cultures have ritually burnt nature's offerings when doing ceremonial prayers, or for purifying space and clearing unwanted energies. This process is known as "smudging." Typical items that are burnt as smoke offerings to Creator or Great Spirit include sacred (white) sage, cedar, sweetgrass and tobacco. Other items used are different herbs such as juniper or lavender. To make your own smudge fan, centre yourself, offer prayers and sit with the materials. Ask the spirit for guidance as you work.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Feathers
  • Wood handle
  • Strip of hide
  • Sinew strands
  • Glue
  • Optional:
  • Beads
  • Shells
  • Leather craft tools

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  1. 1

    Gather your materials and spread them on a work space. Feathers can be artificial or those from the non-migratory, legal list provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Only federally recognised Native American tribal members may own certain feathers, so check with your tribal, local, state and national laws to be certain.

    How to Make a Smudge Fan
    Bald eagles and many predator birds are protected under law. ( Images)
  2. 2

    Cut a wooden branch or use a dowel that is about 4 to 6 inches long by 1 to 1.5 inches wide. This can be raw and unfinished or polished depending on your personal taste.

  3. 3

    Arrange a group of three to five long feathers in your hand. Add several smaller ones to lie over them if you want to create a layered look.

  4. 4

    Lay the arranged feathers over the wooden piece with the tips facing downward. For extra hold, glue the feathers onto the wood while holding them in place. This is not required, but does add a little security. Let the lower parts of the feathers cover at least one inch of the wood, preferably slightly more if the quills are longer.

  5. 5

    Wrap a strip of leather over and around the wooden handle and feather base. Use a width of hide that covers most of the handle -- this simply allows comfort and grip. You may also glue this into place, using a few daubs of glue on the back.

  6. 6

    Wrap the sinew strands around the leather handle base, and then around the lower part of the feathers and back to the bottom of the base. You can experiment with different looks to find one that is appealing to you. Pull the sinew snugly around the wooden part, then tie it in the back using a simple square knot. If you know other fancy knotting techniques, you may use any that pleases you.

  7. 7

    Add any decorative beading, shells or dangling items by stringing them with sinew then tying on to the handle.

  8. 8

    Let your fan fully dry before using it for ceremony. Always treat it as a sacred object, especially when offering prayers to Creator.

Tips and warnings

  • Clear drying glue works best for gluing the items together.
  • Attend a pow wow to get fan ideas or to find materials for making them.
  • 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. Check references 1 and 2 for full lists of protected and non-protected species.
  • You can find artificial feathers at craft shops and novelty stores.
  • If you find an eagle feather, and you are not a registered tribal member, contact the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado, to ask them proper procedure.
  • Harming any bird or other creature to make a craft project is not only illegal, it is inhumane and smacks of a total disregard for life forms. Please report anyone you see hunting eagles, harming endangered species or cruelly treating other animals.

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