Feather Pillows and Death Crowns


I was five years older than my brother. I say “was” because he has passed now. Been gone now much longer than he was alive. My dear brother was always sickly. He had asthma, among other issues, and the North Texas weather was not kind. My mother did the extraordinary to try to keep him as well as was humanly possible, but more than a few times, the situation was grave.

At the time of the following recollection, the lady who babysat for our family was a rootworker. She just babysat to bring in a little extra cash in between “jobs” but she was essentially retired. Well, my brother got really ill and my mother was at her wit’s end. Mom called Ms Ida (not her real name) and asked her if there was anything she could do. Ms Ida told her to feel my brother’s pillows and to look for a death crown in the feathers.

Moments later, Mom is coming unglued and demanding that I feel my brother’s pillow. Sure enough, I could feel a near-complete circle of feathers there. Mom said that it was a sign that someone had cursed our family and was trying to kill my brother. But before I had an opportunity to wrap my head around that idea, Mom threw the pillow down on the floor, sprinkled salt on it, and set the damn thing alight! In the middle of the fucking house! Well, if you have ever smelled burning feathers then you know how awful that was. Disturbing also was the very real possibility that the shit box rental we were in was in eminent danger of going up in flames as well.

At that point, I seriously thought that the cheese had slipped off of Mom’s cracker. That the enormous task of caring for a child, who was perpetually ill, had finally gotten to her. But God as my witness, within the hour, my brother’s condition started to improve and eventually he recovered.

Later, after the smoke had cleared (literally), Mom made me swear that I wouldn’t tell anybody what had happened. And like I do when someone tells me not to tell, I just put it out of my head and forgot about it for the longest time. Then, about 15 years ago, I happen upon a website talking about that very thing and a light bulb went off. I usually don’t like to talk about things related to death because I have seen far too much of it in my life. But today, when I ran across another mention of the phenomena, I thought I would share:

Death Crowns

Feather Death Crowns: Appalachian Omens of Death

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