Feather Death Crowns

A bit of Appalachian folklore:

Back when feather pillows were the norm in Appalachian households, it was not uncommon to find a hardened mass of feathers whose quills had turned inward and locked together forming a disc, or crown, in the pillow of the gravely ill, or recently deceased. Finding such an artifact in the pillow of someone ill was a sure sign that the person would die within the next three days, but it was a comforting symbol when found in the pillow of the recently deceased. Finding a crown in a person's pillow meant that the person has gone to Heaven. [Source: Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State]

People collect these things. The Museum of Appalachia in Tennessee has the largest collection. Carrollscorner.net also has a whole bunch of pictures of them.

     Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 26, 2014
     Category: Death | Superstition

Why would someone steal and open the pillow of an ill person?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 01/26/14 at 09:21 AM
Never heard of the feather crown before. I suppose when the person has been bedridden for some time, they were tossing and turning and the quills interlocked. Also, they were maybe sweating which would mass up the feathers. There was no opprotunity to take the pillow in the yard to fluff it and let it air and dry. This could have been some of the reasons for a "crown".
Posted by jimbo on 01/26/14 at 09:25 AM
Interesting phenomenon. I doubt if they actually took the patient's pillow away and opened it, but they probably felt it as they changed the bedding and put a fresh pillow slip on it. Or, if this portent of death was the common belief, they may have just periodically felt the pillow to see if one was forming when someone was ill. I wonder why there are no cases of this reported from northern states, since everyone had feather pillows. Maybe the feather compaction happened but they didn't believe that it meant the deceased went to heaven.
Posted by ScoutC on 01/26/14 at 04:04 PM
Just another strange superstition, there are plenty of them.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 01/26/14 at 09:57 PM
What I would like to know is, were these really only ever found in the pillows of the deceased and diseased? Or did everybody have them at some time or other, but did nobody bother to look in a healthy person's pillow? Dead people often have lint in their navel, too, but that doesn't mean that navel fluff kills people...
Posted by Richard Bos on 01/28/14 at 10:26 AM
Mom's used feather pillows for decades with no 'lumps' in them.

I had a buddy who's father collected belly-button fuzz; he said to make a pillow with.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 01/28/14 at 10:29 AM
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