This is a picture-led post and this stunning image caught my eye. It’s a hummingbird-shaped naturally occurring ice feature discovered in a Michigan yard, photographed by Tammy Shrive, via LOCAL 12 WKRC-TV.
Then, in the usual synchronicity that the universe provides, I caught a fascinating TV programme all about hummingbirds.
There was a time when, in my shamanic practice, I called the directions using the Four Winds system. In this South American system introduced to me by Alberto Villoldo, serpent is in the south, jaguar in the west, eagle or condor in the east and hummingbird in the north.
In shamanic terms, hummingbird is connected to our awakening, our vision and the epic journey of our soul. Hummingbird brings courage and resilience and is the symbol for those whose lives are specifically focused on the journey of their soul, and I count myself as one.
Hummingbirds are migratory, spending winter in the South American rainforest, the Sonoran desert and the Andes mountains and travelling as far as the Canadian border for summer. They travel up to 23 miles a day, their heart beating 1,260 times a minute and their wings beating 15 – 80 times a second.
Across the species, they range from 5.5cm up to 13cm in length, and that includes their long beak and tail.
Living on the edge, hummingbirds exist at the very precipice that is the energetic trade-off between how much nectar they need to fuel their flight and how much flight is required to find the food. They literally dance between death and life every day.
They live at high altitudes where oxygen is thin, reaching their limit at around 43,000 feet. To achieve this, hummingbirds maximise the oxygen molecules in their bodies, which makes them uniquely equipped to live in the mountains.
Because of this, hummingbirds don’t have enough energy to sleep, they have to go beyond sleep and enter a deeper state called torpor every night, which is dangerous, another way they dance with death. Torpor means their heart rate drops from 1000 beats per minute to 70. Their nearness to death and association with a deep state of consciousness could be seen to label them as ‘little shamans’.
Hummers can fly forwards, backwards and hover in place because their wings are different to all other birds. Instead of rotating from the shoulder joint, they have a short arm and rotate on the wrist joint, giving their wings a much greater range of movement.
Their long tongue-filled beaks are not only for probing flowers but for serious aerial warfare, in the battle for flower access. They are combatant, in competition for the best feeding grounds and frequently fight to the death to protect their favoured flowering plants.
All in all, hummingbirds are pretty incredible, their fortitude and beauty are the least of the tools, skills and abilities that these ‘little shamans’ embody.