The feather lei is one of the oldest and most traditional art forms in Hawaiian culture. It symbolizes the spirit of Hawaii and is often a sign of respect, dignity, and strength. Feather lei were once made for high-ranking Hawaiian ali'i (chiefs). These lei, cloaks, capes and helmets were worn only by a select few who held certain positions of authority.
The tradition of making feather lei is a highly respected art in Hawaii, as it is considered to be a skill that requires patience and time. Today, there are many respected kupuna (traditionally trained) lei hulu makers who still invest their time and aloha into this art form. One such feather artist is Boris Huang who studied under the legendary feather master Aunty Mary Lou Kekuewa.
Some of these kupuna artists continue to teach the art of making feather lei and have opened the door to the public to learn this wonderful and important skill. They share their knowledge with new generations and are a great inspiration to the Hawaiian hulu maker community. Today, all feather lei are made with feathers from sustainably harvested birds such as geese, pheasants, and peacocks. No one today makes feather lei from endangered Hawaiian birds.
Traditionally, the feathers are threaded to a center cord of aha (coconut husk) or olona (a native shrub). Some of these lei are sewn to a base or felt and some are hand tied with a needle and thread.
Colors in feather lei are also symbolic of various spiritual beliefs and events. For example, a yellow feather may represent that the light in your life is growing brighter and stronger or a white feather may be a reminder of departed ancestors.
Green is a nurturing color that represents love, peace, and harmony. It is also associated with healing and growth, so if you see a green feather, it is a good sign that things will soon change for the better in your life.
Red is another color that has a variety of meanings. For example, it is a symbol of courage and strength and represents the ability to overcome fear. If you see a red feather, it is also a sign that things will work out for the best in your life.
Purple is a symbol of spirituality, royalty, and magic. It also represents the ability to see things from a different perspective and use this insight to help others.
Grey is a symbol of wisdom and experience. It is a reminder to take stock of what you want in your life and make goals for yourself.