[Note: Sense a incorporates former feather crown.]
crown n chiefly S Midl Also called angel wreath n
Also in var combs; see below: A compact disk or ball of symmetrically interwoven feathers that forms inside a feather pillow or bed and is sometimes regarded as a sign, esp that one who has died on the pillow has gone to heaven.
a crown (of feathers), feather crown.
1891 Ottawa Daily Republican (KS) [23 Nov 3]/3 swMI, He was taken sick and said that he could always hear the witches singing about him. . . He did not dare to sleep on a bed because he had found his bed and pillows full of the feather crowns. 1897 Hustler (Madisonville KY) 6 Apr 1/2, Mr. W. S. Buchanan. . informed us that what is called feather crowns were being found in his wife’s pillows almost every night. For the benefit of those who do not know what a feather crown is, we will say that from some cause unknown to us the feathers in beds and pillows sometimes arrange themselves so that they form a crown or ball. 1908 Evansville Journal–News (IN) 1 Feb /3, 1931 St. Clair Co. Democrat (Osceola MO) 12 Feb 1/2, Among some of the older residents, this queer formation is known as a “feather crown,” and legend has it that the appearance of one in a pillow of feathers portends a death in the family, or that it is an omen that a deceased member of the household has reached Heaven, and the forming of a “crown” signifies his safe arrival there. 1933 Roanoke Times (VA) 16 Apr 6/6, A bunch of feathers about the size of a hen’s egg are arranged in a tight ball . . with all the feathers lying in the same direction. . . This is called a feather crown. It is believed that the feather crown appears only in those pillows upon which someone has died. 1956 Western Folkl. 15.7 cnTX, After one has died on a pillow, if you put the pillow away for a period of six weeks (during which time nobody looks at it), the feathers, when emptied will have in them a “crown”—that is, if the person who died on the pillow went to heaven. 1964 Nashville Tennessean (TN) 30 July 13/5, [Letter:] In 1941 my husband had pneumonia. . . But after he recovered I found a perfect feather crown in the pillow he had used during his illness. Yet, this man is living and hasn’t been sick since. 1968 in 1982 Baker Hoosier Folk Legends 46 cIN, When someone dies in bed with their head on a feather pillow, you can open the pillow and inside the feathers there will be a little crown.. . There has been deaths in my family and there’s a feather crown for each one of the people. 1993 Advocate–Messenger (Danville KY) 25 Jan sec A 3/2, Dunham has two feather crowns that have been in her family since the 1920s. 1994 Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City OK) 4 July sec 6 6/8, [Letter:] When my grandfather died in 1916, there was a perfect crown formed in his pillow. When my father died in 1952, a partial crown had started forming in his pillow. . . When my grandmother died, she too died at home and was using a feather pillow but no crown was found in that pillow.
b death crown.
1935 Tulsa Daily World (OK) 8 Feb 7/7 cOK, A “death crown,” he explained, is a curious and compact formation of feathers found in a pillow after its user has died. Such discovery of a “death crown” indicates the dead person has gone to his or her heavenly reward, according to tradition. 1943 Hoosier Folkl. Bulletin 2.38 wIN, [Footnote:] [The] librarian of the Workingmen’s Institute Library of New Harmony, Posey County, writes me: “Two women brought me ‘death crowns’ or ‘tokens’ that they had found in the pillows after a death in the family.” 1944 Dayton Daily News (OH) 16 Jan mag sec 7/5, “I always heard about Death Crowns,” Mrs. Spalding said seriously. “I never saw one ’till maw showed me this when I was home [in KY]. . . I showed it to my cousin. . . Her boy Alfred died awhile back. She said “I’m sure as anything going to look in Alfred’s pillow,” and she did. . . She found a Death Crown, too. It’s true. If they go to their rest you can find a Death Crown in the pillow.” 1951 Courier–Jrl. (Louisville KY) 17 Feb sec 2 11/2, “Recently an old gentleman passed away this neighborhood,” reports Joseph M. Roberts, Brodhead. “After his death, his daughter tore the pillow open and found a death crown.” 1976 Comanche Chief (TX) 22 July 1/7, [Caption:] Mrs. L. P. Norwood . . holds a feather “Death Crown” found along with two others in a feather pillow on which her late father . . slept before his death in February, 1927 at Okmulgee, Okla. 2018 Douglas Co. Herald (Ava MO) 28 June sec B 9/4,The other thing donated is a “death crown” from the pillow of Lula Ellen (Woody) Woods who died in 1938.
c heavenly crown.
1937 Univ. Rev. 3.266 Ozarks, Aunt Callie lifted the pillow gently from the floor. “Praise the Lord,” she said reverently. “Willie’s got a heavenly crown.” I stared down at a greasy mass of feathers shaped something like a big bird’s nest. Then the old superstition came back to me from childhood. This was the heavenly crown or wreath of the hills, sure sign that the person who died on the pillow was bound for heaven. 1956 Salina Jrl. (KS) 6 May 13/2, [Letter:] I have heard that in pillows on which a person is lying when he dies a crown of feathers forms. Some call it “Heavenly Crown.” Could you tell me what causes the formation?
d angel(’s) crown.
1947 Knoxville News–Sentinel (TN) 2 Nov sec C 1/1, They are what are commonly known among mountain folk as “Angel Crowns.” Legend has it that they are found only in death-bed pillows of saintly people who have lived a rich, and pious life, and are considered as tangible evidence that the dead has gone to his just reward. They are firmly woven feathers in a round crown shape, and usually are two to three inches in diamater [sic]. 1948 Indianapolis Star (IN) 25 Feb 10/4 swIN, [Caption:] This curious formation . . was one of two taken from death bed pillows of Joshua Cox and Rose Cox of Greene County. It’s a neatly formed ball of pillow feathers known as an “Angel crown.” 1983 Minneapolis Star & Tribune (MN) 25 Jan sec B 1/6 Ozarks, I remember seeing “angel crowns” in homes where someone had died. Sometimes they were kept under glass with the dead person’s photograph. 1993 Goldenseal 19.2.4 cwWV, It [=a “feather crown” illustrated in an earlier issue] was from the pillow of my uncle, . . who died on August 8, 1914. . . This is known as an “angel’s crown,” and as you stated it is believed to be an indication that the person who died was saved by faith. 1994 in 2004 Walker Country Women 43 eTN, And that was one of their beliefs was that was an indication that they [the deceased] were all right, you know, that they had gone on to heaven, when they found that angel crown.