Hummingbird
Experiences

 

Inspired by Hummingbird Pottery

Beth Kingsley Hawkins
Photographs by William Talarowski

Reprinted with permission from The Hummingbird Connection, December, 2003 and March 2004 double issue; for more information on this publication, go to www.hummingbirdsociety.org.


HUMMINGBIRD has been a magical little creature that has flown through my life, dancing in and out and around. One of the fascinating journeys he has led me on is an exploration of hummingbird designs on Native American pottery. I dis-covered that the hummingbird is a profound source of inspiration for art in the Native American culture. Through appreciating hummingbird pottery and meeting the artisans who created them, I have come to a deeper under-standing of the symbolic dimension and spiritual meaning associated with hummingbird medicine.

Here is the story of my journey.

I beheld my first hummingbird pot on a trip to a shop located in an artisan's home in the Santa Clara Pueblo, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The small pot was a rich black with a highly stylized design of a hummer going to one of the roses. There was a tiny turquoise stone at the center of each rose and one for the eye of the

hummingbird. I asked the artist if the hummingbird held a special meaning for him. He shared openly that the hummingbird is a symbol for a higher connection, and the rose is the symbol for the people. Thus the energy of this pot is about the hummingbird helping people to make a connection to the Divine!

Then I discovered a Navajo pot for sale in a gallery in Sedona, Arizona. It was an early Wallace Nez, Jr. (Navajo) before his pots began winning so many blue ribbons at the Santa Fe Indian Market. This particular pot had three hummingbirds flying around the opening and featured the Eagle. It was from that pot that I learned to my delight that the hummingbird was considered

the ‘small messenger to the High,’ while the eagle was considered the ‘big messenger.’

Years later, I was privileged to return to New Mexico and visit the home/studio of master potter Joseph Lonewolf of the Santa Clara Pueblo. We had a wonderful conversation about the symbology of the hummingbird as he understood it. He confirmed that while the hummingbird is the smallest messenger to the High and the eagle the largest, the hummingbird is even more powerful than the eagle, because he packs more punch per ounce. And then he laughed. Anyone who knows these fearless warriors would agree.

His pot, shown below, like the hummingbird itself is the smallest of the small: a round miniature, barely three-quarters of an inch in diameter, requiring great artistry, knowledge of the subject and extraordinary hand co-ordination and eyesight. It depicts either the ruby-throated or the broad-tailed and the red flower he matches, encompassed by a Native American design.

(actual size less than one inch [2.5 cm] in diameter)

I met Wallace Nez, Jr., in person at the Santa Fe Indian market, and we talked about the meaning of the hummingbird as he experienced it. I was very moved, as he revealed a deep inner connection to the hum-mingbird. He shared his conviction that the hummingbird not only carries prayers to the High, but that he brings back answers as well! In that way he carried my understanding a step further. Our exchange was very meaningful. It was at that point that I decided to commission a pot.

We talked about what I had in mind, with the full understanding that once he began to create, it would express his own vision. The top shows a pair of monarch butterflies in full color; black and white hummingbirds encircle the sides, touching wingtips; a second set of hummingbirds in various flight positions are shown in great detail along the base. It is truly a work of art. It has never been shown, or judged, but it is surely a prize winner.

His work is now so revered that people are out before dawn at the Indian Market, to be first in line to buy his ribbon winners. Interestingly enough, if you are lucky enough to buy one, he gives you the ribbon along with the pot...he says it is the pot that won the ribbon, not the artist.

Next I discovered Wallace Youvella’s (Hopi) hummingbird egg with its unusual blue-gray color, depicting the hummingbird against the background of the moon. It spoke to me of the dreamtime quality and the almost

mythical dimension of the little bird, as well as the new life that springs forth from an egg.

In Taos, New Mexico, I discovered the work of Lorraine Chinano (Jemez). She works with a unique blue glaze and completely covered a large pot with hummingbirds. Lorraine said that the hummingbird was a very powerful healing symbol for her people.

 

Their medicine man had created a hummingbird design from which she created a healing pot.

In addition, Lorraine created a hummingbird wedding vase, from which the bride and groom traditionally drink on their wedding day.

I suppose we could consider the hummingbird itself a native American, as it predates Christopher Columbus on this continent by tens of thousands of years. These “little birds with big meaning” have long occupied a special place in the human psyche as the essence of joy. Hummingbird medicine is about inner joy, and these flying works of art truly do have the capacity to awaken joy in us. While each flower and winged creature has its own unique spirit and sacred energy, the hummingbird seems to have an extra special gift for connecting the human with the Divine.


Beth Kingsley Hawkins