Death Crowns

Last night, when Brandon laid down on his pillow, he discovered a hard lump. To him, this was no big deal. He readjusted his feather pillows and laid back down. But a subtle dread settled over me. I laid in bed long after he’d fallen asleep, thinking of death crowns.

Sometimes called “angel crowns” or “death wreaths,” death crowns are rounded formations found inside feather pillows. These discs are created by feathers that have knitted themselves into a halo that crowns a sleeper’s head. According to old folks in Appalachia, these formations are often found in the pillows of the recently deceased.

When found in a dead loved one’s pillow, they’re taken as a sign that the loved one has been accepted into heaven. However, they become an omen of death when the feathery crown belongs to the living.

I learned about death crowns as a kid. Living with my grandparents, I was always surrounded by old mountain folks. I can’t remember which one of my visiting grandaunts talked about the death omen in front of me – but I do remember religiously checking my pillows before bed after that.

Since I’ve never abandoned feather pillows for synthetic fibers and foams, I still check for death wreaths before falling asleep. When I find lumps, I break them apart before closing my eyes.

Superstitious or not, I woke up this morning and got rid of the lump in Brandon’s pillow. Hopefully, we both sleep better tonight.

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