The Alchemy of Love: A Hummingbird Story in Zuni Legend
The Hummingbird in Zuni Legend
Not too far from the Rainbow Cave on the Sacred Mountain that is now in the place we call New Mexico, the Hummingbird Hoya lived with his beloved grandmother a very long time ago.
“I think I will go to Kiakima today and see what the clansmen are doing,” Hoya said to his grandmother one day.
Not too far into his journey he could see below him a lovely spring and so he decided to stop, taking off his beautifully feathered coat.
Just about that same time Kia, the daughter of Chief Kya-ki-massi, arrived to fill her jar with the cool spring water. It was no secret that many young men of the Zuni Indian tribe wanted to marry Kia, but they were afraid to ask her father, the Chief, for fear of rejection.
There at the spring Kia began to fill her water jar without speaking to the attractive young man she found standing nearby. “May I have some of your water to drink?” Hoya asked.
Kia handed him a cupful of water, still not speaking. When he returned the cup to her, a small amount of water remained in the cup. Seeing this, Kia lawfully tossed the droplets of water to Hoya and giggled.
Some of the young Zunis watching from the brush, wondering why she laughed. They also wondered about the stranger standing far to close to their precious Kia. Then they heard the princess say something that surprised them all. She turned to Hoya and said, “Come with me to my home.”
Hoya followed Kia to her house, and they talked for some time near the bottom of the ladder leading to the lodge roof. After a while Hoya said to her, “I think it is time for me to start home.”
“I hope to see you at the spring again tomorrow,” Kia said to Hoya. She then climbed to the roof of her lodge. Hoya put on his magic feathered coat, and flew away invisibly. Unfortunately the young men of the village did not see Hoya vanish, which aroused their curiosity.
When Hoya arrived back at his beloved grandmother’s house, she met him at the door with a bowl of honey with a dusting of sunflower pollen.
The next day, Hoya carried with him some of the delicacy of the night before. This he brought to the spring as a gift for the princess. Again he walked Kia home and they conversed at the bottom of her ladder for what seemed to be the longest time. He gave her the honey and pollen to share with her family, and went on his way back home.
“Delicious, we like this kind of food,” her parents said. “You should marry this young man.”
The next day, when Hoya walked Kia home from the spring, she invited him to come into her lodge to meet her family.
“No thank you Kia, I cannot marry you yet,” said Hoya. “I do not have any deerskins, blankets, or beads for you.”
“But I do not need these things,” she replied. “I like the good food you brought for my family, that is enough for me.”
“If that is true then if I may, I will come to your lodge tomorrow evening,” said Hoya. He then put on his magic coat and flew quickly away as Kia climbed the ladder to her roof.
On his return home Hoya told his beloved grandmother everything that had taken place that day. He told her the Chief’s daughter wanted him for her husband.
“No”, his grandmother said, “not now”. “You do not have enough things to give her; you cannot marry her yet.” Hoya offered his grandmother the same insight that he had been offered by Kia: “But, Grandmother, the daughter of the Chief wants nothing from me except our delicious honey food.”
His grandmother pondered this thought, and replied, “If you are sure of her parents’ approval, then I give you my permission to marry Kia.”
The next day at dawn Hoya and his beloved grandmother dressed in their beautiful hummingbird coats and flew southward to the land of the sunflowers.
All that day, they gathered pollen and honey. Later as they returned home they placed a deerskin on the floor. Onto this, they shook the pollen from their feathers. Then into a large shell, they deposited the honey. Hoya’s beloved grandmother mixed the pollen and honey together, much the same way as kneading bread dough, and wrapped a large ball of the mixture in a deerskin, which Hoya took to Kia that very evening.
Village youths gathered and watched from a distance as Hoya climbed Kia’s ladder to her lodge roof. There Hoya secretly hid his magic coat under a rock before lowering himself into Kia’s lodge. “How sad for us that Kia will marry a stranger,” the youths repeated among themselves.
The young men of Zuni village gathered in at the ceremonial lodge to speak with the Bow Chief. Upon hearing their distress the Chief told them, “Announce that in four days we will go on a parrot hunt. Spread the word that anyone who does not join us will lose his wife.”
It was not long before Kia’s brother returned home and reported the news. “In the village, they say that on the hunt for young parrots, the young hunters will throw my new brother-in-law from the mesa and kill him, and then they will then claim his wife.”
“They are just talking with their loud mouths,” said Chief Kya-ki-massi.
But Hoya believed what he heard from younger brother. He quickly put on his hummingbird coat and flew with a mission to Parrot Woman’s Cave.
“What have you to say?” she asked him. “I wish to warn you to protect your young parrots from harm from the village. I also ask for your help for myself and my new family,” Hoya said, and he told her of the plot to kill him. When he finished his story he returned to Kia’s home.
The next day, when the parrot hunt began, Hoya was asked to bring up the rear. He secretly wore his magic coat beneath his buckskin shirt. Once they reached the high mesa, they lowered a yucca rope down toward the parrot’s cave.
Hoya was instructed by the group to go down the rope to the nest of the young parrots. Then when he was only halfway down the village hunters let go of the rope. Parrot Woman was prepared and waiting for him, and spread her large fan-like tail outside the entrance to her cave. She caught Hoya in time without harm to him.
Upon returning to the village, the young men told their sad story, that the rope broke, and Hoya had falled to his death. In Kia’s lodge, there was much sadness at the loss of Kia’s new husband.
Meanwhile Parrot Woman took her two young birds and, with Hoya in his magic coat, flew up to the mesa. “Please keep my two children with you,” she said to Hoya. “But bring them back to me in four days.” Hoya took the two young parrots to his new home and, from the roof he heard Kia crying inside.
“I hear someone on our roof,” her father said. “Perhaps it is your new husband.”
“Impossible,” said his son. “Hoya is now dead, I saw for myself”. But Kia ran up the ladder and to her great joy she discovered her husband there with the two young parrots.
The next day at dawn Hoya placed the two young parrots on the tips of the ladder poles. A village youth came out of the Kiva and saw the birds. He ran back inside calling to the others, “Wake up everyone! Hoya is not dead. He has come back to his home with two young parrots!”
When the Zuni villagers saw the two parrots, they decided to make another plan to rid themselves of Hoya once and for all. “Please, Bow Chief, give us permission to hunt the Bear’s children. And tell us again, if anyone does not come along with us, he will lose his wife.”
It was not long before Hoya heard the terrible news, and quickly he travelled to the cave of the Bear Mother.
“What do you want of me?” the Bear Mother asked Hoya. “The young hunters of Zuni village are going on a hunt for your children. I have come to warn you and to ask you to protect me,” replied Hoya. Then he told her of the plot to kill him. He returned to his home and wife Kia.
Four days later, on the day of the hunt, the young hunters charged toward the Bear Mother’s cave. Hoya again secretly wore his magic hummingbird coat beneath his buckskin shirt. He was forced this time by the young men of the village to lead the attack at the cave entrance. Once they arrived the others pushed him inside the Bear’s cave to his death!
Mother Bear grabbed him but then she shoved him behind her without harm. She then chased the young Zuni hunters, killing a few of the young tribesmen. Hoya flew home with two bear cubs and at dawn he placed them on the roof. When the villagers discovered the bears on Kia’s roof, they knew that Hoya was still alive.
With the intentions of the young village men made clear with the failed attempts to kill him, Hoya decided to fly back to see his beloved grandmother near Rainbow Cave.
Hoya asked his grandmother for her wisdom about a new plan of his. She helped him to paint a bird cage with many colors and filled it with birds of matching colors. Then he flew back to the Zuni village, carrying the cage, which he placed in the center of the plaza. Around it he planted magic corn, bean, squash, as well as sunflower seeds.
That same evening the welcome rains came gently down. On the next morning the sun shone brightly and warmly. When the Zuni villagers finally came out of their adobe houses they were amazed at the sight before them! In the plaza center their grew so many plants surrounding the beautiful cage of colorful, singing birds!
This gesture by Hoya could not be forgotten, and from that moment on all of the Zuni tribe accepted Hoya and his gifts. Soon they learned to love him as one of their own. In the years to come they began to call Kia, his wife their Mother, and Hoya became their beloved Father, holding a place of honor for many years to come.
Our Own Hummingbird Alchemy
I personally enjoy that story for several reasons. Unlike many other folklore stories or legends this one is not a tragedy. We do not have to make mistake that cause loss and continue to call those things “life lessons”. Instead we can be in a state of awareness and act from our heart. The main character, Jaguar-Deer, did not react from fear, striking out at others, but transformed the situation.
This is the message I bring to you here at HummingbirdShaman.com. The hummingbird Shaman is an alchemist, able to transform a situation by controlling their own energy, not those around them. This means of transformation may appear far more graceful and less demanding, but it requires dedication and the ability to see without becoming entwined in the situation.
Blessings to all.
My greatest love is assisting others shift into the comfort of acceptance and appreciation. This relational, open-hearted energy carries into my many interests: photography, symbiotic gardening, long walks, and enjoying nature. Ready for a shift in your own world? Sessions available by appt.