Hummingbirds are viewed very positively in most Native American tribes. They are associated with beauty, harmony, industriousness, and integrity.
Seeing a hummingbird is a sign of good luck.
In some Mexican tribes today, hummingbirds are believed to be messengers. Messengers of jubilation and hope.
The Hummingbird as a Symbol
The hummingbird, the smallest among all birds, symbolizes lightness of being, swiftness, independence, courage, sensitivity, determination, love, beauty, endurance, wisdom, vitality, hope, and enjoyment of life.
Hummingbirds are found only in the Western Hemisphere, so they are absent from the traditional fairy tales, legends, and myths of European and African Americans.
There is, however, a rich supply of stories about these tiny birds in Native American mythology.
An Aztec myth tells of a valiant warrior named Huitzilopochtli, who led his people to a new homeland, then helped them defend it.
Huitzilopochtli, means "hummingbird from the left." The "left" is the deep south, the location of the spirit world.
The Coatlicue, the Earth Goddess of Life and Deathand the mother of the warrior, had hundreds of children. One day, on Mt. Coatepec, or ''snake mountain,'' a bundle of hummingbird feathers magically fell from the sky. She put them safely under her breast and miraculously became pregnant with Huitzilopochtli.
As reference to his birth, Huitzil always wore a helmet shaped like a giant hummingbird.
When Huitzil was killed in battle, his body vanished and a green-backed hummingbird whirred up from where he had fallen to inspire his followers to go on to victory. After Huitzil's death, he became the Aztec God of Sun and War.
The Aztecs came to believe that every warrior slain in battle rose to the sky and orbited the sun for four years and then they became hummingbirds. In the afterlife these transformed heroes fed on the flowers in the gardens of paradise, while engaging from time to time in mock battles to sharpen their skills. At night the hummingbird angels became soldiers again and followed Huitzil, fighting off the powers of the darkness, restoring warmth and light. As dawn broke, the hummingbirds went into a frenzy. The sun rewarded them for this by giving them a radiant sheen.
In an Aztec ritual dancers formed a circle and sang a song which included these words: "I am the Shining One, bird, warrior and wizard." At the end of the ritual young men lifted young girls helping them to fly like hummingbirds.
There is another Aztec legend which says The God of Music and Poetry took the form of a hummingbird and descended into the underworld to make love with a goddess, who then gave birth to the first flower.