Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Animal Allies: Hummingbird Messengers

Humans are part of the animal kingdom, which is part of the vast living world around us. In earth-centered circles, we often adopt animal totems as a means of aligning our energies with specifics elements; strength, courage, endurance, etc. The animal world is vast and varied and full of natural magic. It’s normal to feel drawn to different animals, each for special reasons, but most have a core group of animals they are drawn to repeatedly. I call them my animal allies, friends of nature that I feel an affinity for.
Animals are helpful guides in ancestor and spirit work. Where we have lost our connection to the natural world, they have not. They are a key to help cross the threshold, something known and familiar, and cultures throughout history have often associated specific animals with this task. I use them in visualizing exercises to help me widen my view of and understand my journeys with the spirit world.
There are different kinds of animal allies. There are ones that are mated to us, our co-walkers. Chances are you can think of one or two easily that you have been drawn to or had an unusual connection to. Our shadow allies are animals that stir great fear in us. By working with them magically, we can learn the way to work through that fear. These allies can be powerful magic.
And then there are the animal allies that serve as guides and mentors, guardians of portals that look into parts of the natural world normally hidden to us. We take their lessons based on indigenous mythology and animal behavior. They represent some part of me and the way that part of me relates to the world around me. The energy of those animals walk with me in my life and when I need guidance I turn to the spirit of my personal allies, of seal, lioness, owl and buffalo for strength.

Hummingbird Messengers
Spring has arrived and the animal world is reawakening. I await the first hummingbird sighting in the Northeast. The hummingbird is an animal only found in the Americas and the islands between them, so its mythology and folklore belongs to the New World. Hummingbirds are seen as messengers between the worlds, aiding shamans in their work to keep nature and spirit in balance.
My Grandmother was fond of hummingbirds, of both hummingbirds and owls. Feathered allies can easily cross from one world to the next, and for me, because of my emotional connection to my Grandma, hummingbirds are my close allies to the spirit world. Imagine the hummingbird, wings moving so fast that you can’t see them, can’t focus on them. Wings moving so fast that its body appears to hover in mid-air, as if still.
This is the meditation of the hummingbird. It is so simple to me, moving between worlds without moving, at once blurred in motion and sedately still. It’s about learning to walk with one foot in spirit world and one in the breathing world. It’s about learning to trance in instead of trancing out, about journeying through another world while remaining aware and present of this one. May the return of the hummingbirds this spring stir feelings of rebirth and renewal.

Hummingbirds in Legend
  • When Native American culture was being lost, the Ghost Shirt religion attempted to bring back their old ways through dancing and the leader of their dance was a hummingbird.
  • There is a ritual among some Pueblo Indians for stillborn babies, or those who die within days of their birth. They hold prayer sticks with hummingbird feathers during the winter solstice sunrise to quicken re-birth.
  • The Cochiti Pueblos have a legend about how Hummingbird thrived during a drought because a passageway to the Underworld remained open only for him to fly through, where he gathered honey. They believed he alone didn’t lose faith in Great Mother and so the way remained open for him to flourish.
  • There is a taboo against harming hummingbirds among the Chayma people of Trinidad as they believe the birds are dead ancestors.
  • A Mayan legend describes a hummingbird piercing the tongues of ancient kings, whose blood would be poured on sacred scrolls and burned. In the smoke, their divine ancestors would appear.
  • The Aztecs used hummingbird feathers for decoration. They adorned their ceremonial cloaks with feathers, and the priests attached them to their staves, used to suck evil out of those cursed by sorcerers. Chieftains often wore hummingbird feather earrings.
  • There is a warrior in Aztec mythology named Huitzilopochtli, “hummingbird from the left,” referring to the spirit world. He was the son of Coatlicul, who conceived him from a ball of feathers that fell from the sky. Huitzil was killed in battle and a green hummingbird appeared where he had fallen. The Aztecs believed that warriors who died in battle became hummingbirds.
  • One of the Nazca lines in Peru depicts a hummingbird.
  • In the Andes, the hummingbird is associated with resurrection because each night, in the cold, the hummingbird appears lifeless, but as the sun returns it stirs again, taking flight.

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