Home Headlines The Jade Hummingbird, a Mayan Legend

The Jade Hummingbird, a Mayan Legend

by Sofia Navarro
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Due to their incredible speed and almost immaterial nature, their delicacy and power, hummingbirds have fascinated us since ancient times. Among the native cultures of North America, such as the Hopi Indians, the great Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztecs, Caribbean peoples, and even Patagonia, this bird native to the Americas has been the protagonist of myths, legends, and cosmogonies of this region of the world. The ancient Mayan culture was no exception: this bird occupies a unique place in their vision of the universe.

For the Mayans, the hummingbird is a messenger by the will of the gods. Its ethereal and almost divine quality was distilled into a beautiful legend that shows us not only the deep relationship that Mayan culture had (and has) with the natural world but also reminds us that nature and the divine are inseparable elements. Legends are treasures of human civilizations, compendiums of ancestral knowledge, and the legend of the jade hummingbird is more relevant today than ever.

When the gods created the world, they assigned a task to everything that inhabited it. Stones, trees, and animals each had a mission. But after creating the universe, they realized that they had forgotten something essential: a being to carry their desires and thoughts from one place to another, a messenger.

The gods then realized that they no longer had corn or clay, the materials with which they had created all the other beings. It was then that they found a piece of jade and carved it into the shape of a small arrow. Then they blew on it, and it flew away at lightning speed. The small piece of jade was a hummingbird (x ts’unu’um in the Mayan language).

The legend tells that the delicacy of this creature allowed it to approach flowers without moving a single petal, and all the colors of the rainbow shone in its feathers. In addition to being the messengers of the gods, hummingbirds also became the carriers of human thoughts and desires, including the messages of the dead.

Men then tried to capture the bird and adorn themselves with its feathers. But the gods became angry and forbade it, saying that any man who captured a hummingbird would be punished. That is why hummingbirds have never been captive birds.

Since then, it is said that the proximity of a hummingbird brings good luck. But not only that, its presence also indicates that someone has wished you well, and the bird will carry your thoughts and desires, as light as it, from one place to another.

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