Aboriginal/Indigenous and Native American religious traditions embrace the power and cycles of nature. In fact, their beliefs are inseparable from their understanding of nature and the roles they play in a unified cosmos.
A “totem” is a symbol, emblem, logo, trademark – usually a person or thing that represents something else. Anthropology teaches that totems are representative of individuals, groups, families, clans, sects and tribes.
Frequently, but not always, totems are animals. Some totems are deeply personal… while others are collective or universal. Animal totems are also called “spirit animals.”
Some Christians and Jews and Muslims believe in guardian angels. Indigenous peoples believe in totems. Totems are outward signs. Some are messengers; some are heroes; all are symbols that have purpose and meaning. Understanding totems presents the possibility of understanding the subtle communication between totems, their meanings and the people that honor them.
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about the purpose of totems, their messages and their powerful contribution to the development of a culture people to people, generation to generation, place to place. Totems exists to remind us of something else.
Look around. Indeed, totems surround us:
tattoos, body art, jewelry, T shirts, dollar bills, billboards, wedding rings, the American flag, the Christian sign of the cross, Chevron’s logo, the Jewish Star of David, the peace sign, the Nike swoosh, NBC’s peacock, Wells Fargo stagecoach, Twitter’s bird, the Buddhist man with the fat belly sitting in the lotus position – all totems. Totems are simple ways to communicate complex meanings.
I have come to appreciate and especially honor animal totems – particularly having lived in the desert Southwest – New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada for many years. Native signs and symbols permeate the history, the land and the local culture here. They are part of our story.
Personal totems are things personified with special personal meaning and significance beyond the ordinary. Totems are usually cherished and sometimes revered.
At particularly intense moments in my life, hummingbirds show up. I have no logical reason to explain why. They just do. And sometimes, they seem to show up repeatedly until I “get the message.” I have learned to stop analyzing the synchronicity… and simply cherish the moments they visit my experience.
Hummingbirds represent life’s enjoyment literally while seemingly appearing completely out of no where…hovering for a moment and then vanishing just as fast as they appeared. Their essence is joy.
They are innately attracted to the sweetness of life which sustains them.
Hummingbirds symbolize fearlessness, ceaseless efforts and the reminder of a jeweled iridescent tiny dancer filled with grace and beauty.
“Myths suggest this extraordinary bird has the ability to float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration.
Hummingbirds are capable of amazing feats despite their small size. They are known to travel great distances and are the only bird that can fly backwards. Their delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
They working really hard – biologically, a hummingbird’s tiny heart can beat 1,260 times a minute while breathing up to 250 times per minute. They are extraordinarily efficient with their use of energy.
They can lick up to 15 times a second while feeding and drinking.
They cannot smell but they have excellent eyesight.
Hummingbirds can fly up to 30 miles per hour while being able to to reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive.
They are truly aviary acrobats and gymnasts.
Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all the birds.
They are native only to the Western Hemisphere.
They need to consume 1/2 of their weight in sugar every day.
Most hummingbirds eat 5-8 times an hour.
My connection with hummingbirds has proven them to be messengers… reminding me to take lessons from their extraordinary adaptability and enchanting resiliency while staying playful, optimistic and joyful.