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Writing means different things to me. I'm a storyteller, a book editor, and a songwriter. For me, it's like breathing.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Monday Musings: Hummingbirds, warrior birds

Hummingbirds are found only in the western hemisphere, so the only myths about these tiny birds are Native American or South and Central American in origin. Growing up in Southern California and now living in Arizona, I am quite familiar with these fascinating birds.
They are fun to watch, flying and spinning, their tiny wings moving so fast they look like blurs. Hummingbirds don’t sit still for long, and I had a hard time getting some pictures of them, but I was able to capture a female resting on a tree branch. Another hummer hovered by her side. I think that one was a male and they may have been mating. If they aren’t fighting, then they are probably mating. Usually only males fight each other for territory and for females. Hummingbirds are very territorial and fighting can be so vicious, it can lead to death for one the birds.
I’ve always wondered about how fierce hummingbirds can be and then I found an Aztec myth that may explain hummingbirds and their warrior nature.
A warrior named Huitzil led the Aztecs to a new homeland and helped them defend it from enemy warriors. The warrior’s full name was Huitzilopochtli, which means, “hummingbird from the left.” The “left” in Aztec mythology is the deep south, the spirit world. Huitzil was killed at a key moment in the battle. His body disappeared. In the exact place where his body disappeared, a green-backed hummingbird rose up, inspiring his warriors to victory. Huitzil became a god. The Aztecs believed that every warrior killed in battle rose to the sky and orbited the sun for four years. After this, they became hummingbirds. The transformed heroes fed on flowers in the garden of paradise and engaged in mock battles.
To honor these tiny, magnificent birds, Aztecs decorated their ceremonial cloaks with hummingbird feathers. Chieftains wore hummingbird earrings. Aztec priests carried staves with hummingbird feathers to suck evil out of people.
So, the next time you see hummingbirds battling it out in your backyard, remember that they might be the spirits of those ancient Aztec warriors.

More Hummingbird myths: http://hummingbirdworld.com/h/native_american.htm

Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author

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