Humming Bird Lore


A Mayan legend says the hummingbird is actually the sun in disguise, and he is trying to court a beautiful woman, who is the moon.

Another Mayan legend says the first two hummingbirds were created from the small feather scraps left over from the construction of other birds. The god who made the hummers was so pleased he had an elaborate wedding ceremony for them. First butterflies marked out a room, then flower petals fell on the ground to make a carpet; spiders spun webs to make a bridal pathway, then the sun sent down rays which caused the tiny groom to glow with dazzling reds and greens. The wedding guests noticed that whenever he turned away from the sun, he became drab again like the original gray feathers from which he was made.

In a Navajo legend a hummer was sent up to see what is above the blue sky. It turns out to be absolutely nothing.

In a Cherokee story, a medicine man turned himself into a hummingbird to retrieve lost tobacco plants.

In another Cherokee story, a woman is courted by both a hummingbird and a crane. She first chooses the hummingbird for his good looks, but the crane convinces here that there should be a race around the world with the winner having her hand in marriage. She agrees, thinking the hummingbird is bound to win because he flies so fast. What she fails to take into account is that Crane can fly all night long, while Hummingbird is able to fly only during the day. Crane wins, but she reneges on her promise, because he is so ugly. The Creek Indians have a similar story. In this version Crane wins because he flies in a straight line, while Hummingbird zigzags.

Hopi and Zuni legends tell of hummingbirds intervening on behalf of humans, convincing the gods to bring rain. Because of this, people from these tribes often paint hummingbirds on water jars. The Hopi kachina for Hummingbird depicts him with green moccasins and a green mask. He has an aqua body, and he is yellow on top of the head. He is crowned with a ruff made of Douglas fir.

One of the Hopi stories is about a time of famine when a young boy and girl were left alone while their parents were searching for food. After the boy made a toy hummingbird, his sister threw it into the air. It came to life and began to provide for them by bringing an ear of corn every day. Eventually, the hummingbird flew to the center of the earth where it pleaded with the god of fertility to restore the land. Rain and green vegetation came, then the children's parents returned.

In a Pima legend a hummingbird acted like Noah's dove, bringing back a flower as proof the great flood was subsiding.

There is a legend from Mexico about a Taroscan Indian woman who was taught how to weave beautiful baskets by a grateful hummingbird to whom she had given sugar water during a drought. These baskets are now used in Day of the Dead Festivals.

An Apache legend tells of Wind Dancer, a young warrior, who was born deaf, but could sing magical, wordless songs that brought healing and good weather. He married Bright Rain, a beautiful, young woman whom he rescued when she was being attacked by a wolf.

Wind Dancer was killed during another errand of mercy. A bitter, death-bring winter ensued, but it suddenly and mysteriously ended after Bright Rain started taking solitary walks.

Tribal elders learned Wind Dancer had come back to her in the form of a hummingbird. He wore the same ceremonial costume and war paint he had worn as a man. In fields of spring flowers he would approach her and whisper his magical secrets in her ear. This brought her peace and joy.

The Pueblo Indians have hummingbird dances and use hummingbird feathers in rituals to bring rain. Pueblo shamans use hummingbirds as couriers to send gifts to the Great Mother who lives beneath the earth.

To many of the Pueblo the hummingbird is a tobacco bird. In one myth Hummingbird gets smoke from Caterpillar, the guardian of the tobacco plant. Hummingbird brings smoke to the shamans so they can purify the earth.

One Pueblo story tells of a demon who is blinded after losing a bet with the sun. In anger he spews out hot lava. The earth catches fire. A hummingbird then saves the beautiful land of people and animals by gathering clouds from the four directions. Hummingbird uses rain from these clouds to put out the flames. This legend says the bright colors on a hummingbird's throat came after he fled through the rainbow in search of rain clouds.

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