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Totems: Hummingbird, Part I

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

Do you think I am just some pretty ornament that you wear on the outside to cover over your anger and fear? You have to fight for your life, for a life of joy. Don’t let them tell you that joy is easily won. It is for the child before the testing, but for those who are of the age of Initiation; on the path of Initiation, joy is won after trial.

I AM HUMMINGBIRD. It is true that seeing me opens your heart. That is my dazzling gift. That is the splendor that I offer you, to help you get there. You also have the same colors as I. Those colors are within you. They are coded so that when you seek balance, give service, and practice love, your chakra system gives off color through the light that reflects and refracts off every aspect of your being. Then you will be in joy.

What shimmering, dazzling, pugnacious, nest-decorating, vocally imitating bird has iridescent jewel colors, lives in beautiful tropical environments with the most succulent flowers for part of the year, and then migrates thousands of miles? They can live up to seventeen years in captivity. The New World Spanish called them Flying Jewel; the French, Flower Bird. Did you guess hummingbird? There is no other bird quite like them. Their four-toed feet are for perching. Everything else takes place in flight. Even mating. Sometimes hummers scratch their heads with their feet, while in flight. Only insects have as intimate a relationship with flowers and nectar. Occasionally, hummers will sip tree sap or the sugar water humans put out for them, but predominately they live on nectar with a side of the tiny insects and spiders that may be hanging out in nectar-bearing flowers.

Flowers hold powerful medicine for us. Their beauty, intricate designs, and sweetness can take our breath away and melt our hearts. They give us their energy in essences that heal our emotional illnesses, helping us shift difficult habits and attitudes. Beyond even these gifts, flowers hold the energy of devas (angels), which guide from a spiritual level. If you love gardening, hummingbird may be one of your totems. After sipping nectar, they must back up to remove their bill from the flower. They are the only birds that can fly backwards. When hummingbird shows up, you’ll have a strong breeze to carry you into healing your past. This healing can be accomplished joyfully. The tail scoops downward and the wings reverse direction, through a shoulder swivel joint. Then they move their paddle-shaped wings in an infinity sign (sideways 8). Because of excellent flying ability and small size, hummingbirds are able to take advantage of a wide variety of nectar-bearing flowers. Nature is such a grand designer, she gives each of approximately 340 species of hummers a bill and tongue to match the shape of the opening of the flowers. This makes bird and flower a perfect match. Even the longest-billed females feed their young by regurgitation. Their bills go down the nestling’s gullet.

Those amazing bills go directly to the heart of things, as do folks with this totem. What would it mean in your life to have the ability to delve into any problem with clarity and efficacy? To always find the sweet side, the beauty in a person or situation? As the bill probes deeply into the flower while hummer hovers, the tongue touches bottom, and pollen from the male stamen sticks to hummer’s bill and feathers. At the next flower, the female pistil gets fertilized. Hummingbird is a cross-pollinator. This totem energy balances masculine and feminine energies.

Are you full of curiosity? Because they are naturally inquisitive and opportunistic, hummers will investigate new sources of food no matter what color the flowers are. However, they do gravitate to reds, oranges, pinks, blues and purples. They esp. seem to love tubular flowers with a sugar content of at least 12% sugar; preferably about 25%. Nectar (sugar) is a poor source for nutrients, so folks with this totem need to be purposeful about getting enough protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Ask hummingbird to show you non-caloric ways to bring sweetness into your life.

One of the characteristics of people with this totem’s energy is that they are naturally aerobatic. Hummingbirds fly up and down, up-side down, forwards, backwards and they hover. They beat their wings faster than any other bird - normally from ten up to eighty beats/sec. depending on size and activity. Relative to their size, their hearts and flying muscles are bigger than any other bird. This accounts for the humming or buzzing sound. Hummingbird folks make shrewd negotiators as business people, for like their totem, they employ maximum leverage. In proportion to their size and weight, their wing muscles are tremendous (25-30% of their body weight). A hovering hummer, whose wings stick straight out creates a four-directional cross. Four is foundation and stability energy. Two 4’s=8: As above; so below. 8 is the balance.

It’s a good thing there is so much sweetness associated with this little dazzler, because I am here to tell you that these beautiful, fairy-like creatures can also be quarrelsome and territorial, even among themselves, though they seem to enjoy that too. If hummingbirds were the size of their aggressiveness, they would be fearsome warriors, as they protect their feeding and mating territory against interlopers. A lone hummingbird will even drive off a hawk or eagle. Rufous hummers are quite feisty with each other. Paradoxically, they can be found breeding in colonies - nests a few feet from each other. Hummingbirds are fearless. Even with humans, they care nothing for relative size. They will drink from a feeder while it is still in your hand. Often, they fly into doorways, presumably investigating some brightly colored object. I lived on an estate that had a screened conservatory, with a vaulted roof. One day a hummingbird zoomed in through the door, and I had to become instantly creative to help it outside again. A hummer will instinctively fly as high as possible, exhausting itself trying to get out. I draped the door with a red tablecloth and gathered potted red flowers at its base to draw it outside. Living in southern California for six months was an ideal way to observe hummingbirds closely. My mother had a garden that hummers loved, with honeysuckle and other trumpet-shaped flowers they favor. Every day my medicine dog, Thunder and I would hike the blossoming sage hills. Hummingbirds often frequented the flowering shrubs down in the ravines. I got to see what intrepid explorers they were. One day an Anna’s hummingbird let me observe him for eight minutes, both at rest, and eating nectar. Are you as fearless? Call upon hummingbird to help you allay your fears, that you might explore life fully, without trepidation.

Do you alternate intense activity and rest cycles? If hummingbird has flown across your path, pay attention to your stress levels. Hummers have such a high metabolic rate, that they need to rest deeply when they aren’t making multiple trips for food. You may think that because hummingbirds expend so much energy in flight, that they fly all the time, but actually they spend 75% of their time digesting, sitting and watching their environment. Work in cycles; allow R&R after working hard. During high stress periods, like when the heat of the day is highest, hummingbirds go into diurnation. At night and when it rains, they also become partially dormant. For this reason, shamans in Peru see the hummingbird as resurrection medicine. At these high altitudes, hummers go into death-like torpor every night and every morning they rise anew with the warmth of the sun. The stories and myths of many native people portray the medicine of hummingbird. Carib tribes feel hummingbirds are their departed loved ones. The Tainos name their warriors after the little bird with the heart of an eagle. The Aztec god of Sun and War was Hitzilopochti, or Hummingbird Wizard. To the Apache, hummer is a forerunner of spring, bringing peaceful weather. Hopis and Zunis credit Hummer with bringing rain. In Mayan mythology, a hummingbird couple were the first to marry. Since they were drab, all the other birds gave them one of their colors. In multiple First American stories, there is a strong correlation between hummingbird and the sun, rainbows and life-giving rain.

Part II will appear in September’s WISDOM. Cie does individual healing sessions for animals and humans (3-hour session-34 years experience) to bring you full circle for optimum results. Cie’s Salon on the 1st Saturday of the month utilizes various art forms and shamanic experiences to enhance writing. Call ahead at 413 625-0385/ cie@ciesimurro.com.   Send $22 to PO Box 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370 for Totems for Stewards of the Earth book.

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