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Animal Medicine: Powers of The Great Blue Heron

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Animal Medicine: Powers of The Great Blue Heron

Today I want to highlight and explain the animal medicine contained in the heron.

I have learned a lot of native American animal wisdom from Ted Andrews’ book called ‘Animal-Speak’. It is a great reference book on animal medicine. In particular, today, I’m referring to the section ‘Dictionary of bird totems’, in an attempt to give you some insights into how animal medicine works, and within this context, an understanding of the powers of the Great Blue Heron.

Animal Medicine

When you begin to work with animals for healing purposes, examine them carefully. If you choose to have a bird in your totem, then look at their qualities as well as their behaviors. Most importantly: What is unique about your animal’s behavior? This is your primary clue to its significance for you as a totem animal in your life.

In addition, look at its color and the symbolic meaning of the color. Look at its size, but do not assume that larger animals mean more powerful animals. Look at its shape and how his shape is used in his activities, and the role various parts of his body play in the functions he performs. How does it fly? Where is it from? (look for the symbolism of the place) When is it most often seen? (periods of powerful animal energy) What kind of sounds does it make? What does prefer to eat? How does it breed and what kind of environment does it live in?

Beyond your own observations, consider animal myths, that have been created based upon these aspects. They offer spiritual insight and understanding of the significance of the animal in your life.

Animal Medicine: Great Blue Heron

Now that we know a bit how to study the animals for healing, let’s focus on the bird that is currently guiding one of my clients: the great blue heron.

The Heron – In General

HERON’S MOST SIGNIFICANT ESSENCE: aggressive self-determination and self-reliance


Buy at
Great Blue Heron, Everglades National Park, Unesco World Heritage Site, Florida, USA
Photo by Ethel Davies
Photo for purchase fr.

Ted Andrews points out that “There are many variations of herons, including bitterns and egrets. Storks and cranes should not be confused with them.

Herons are part of a group of birds called ‘waders’. It is a bird of the marshlands and shallow waters. All waders have similar physical characteristics – long, thin legs, long necks, and sharp bills. These physical characteristics are important to understand for those who have a heron as a totem.

Legs enable animals and people to move about on the earth. They are symbols of balance, and they represent an ability to progress and evolve. Also the longer the legs, the deeper the water the heron will feed in. The deeper life can be explored.

The long thin legs of the heron reflect that you don’t need great massive pillars to remain stable, but you must be able to stand on your own. This is especially significant for those with a totem of the great blue heron, as it is a lone hunter.

When it feeds, it stands in the water, reflecting a connection to the earth – while implying the exploration of other dimensions on the earth (water element).

It is important for anyone with a heron totem to explore various activities and dimensions of Earth life. On the surface, this may seem a form of dabbling, but those with heron totems are wonderfully successful at being the traditional ‘Jack of all trades’.

This ability enables them to follow their own path. Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do. It is not a structured way, and does not seem to have stability and security to it. It is, though, just a matter of perspective. There is security in heron medicine, for it gives the ability to do a variety of tasks. It one way does not work, then another will. This, heron people seem to inherently know.

Heron people do no seem to need a lot of people in their life, nor do they feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses, or be traditional in their life roles. The only time they gather in colonies is during the breeding season. They stand out in their uniqueness, and they know how to snatch and take advantage of things and events that the average person would not even bother with.

The Great Blue Heron

The great blue heron is considered the king of the marsh, although the short-eared owl has been known to re-adjust a heron’s point of view. It is the tallest of the herons, and when it flies, its head is folded back in a flat S-shaped loop. This reflects the innate wisdom of being able to maneuver through life and control its life circumstances. It reflects a need for those with this totem to follow their own innate wisdom and path of self-determination. You know what is best for you and should follow it, rather than the prompting of others.

The great blue heron in flight is powerful, and its legs and head are held in a straight line. It uses a slow stalking stride when hunting. When it spies a fish, it spears its prey with its sharp beak and with quick speed. Again, it reflects an aggressive movement towards opportunities that present themselves.

Other Herons

The green heron is actually more of a slate blue, and it has orange legs with are distinctive. This color combination reflects an innate balance at living life in its own unique style. It flies silently, and is most often seen in flight at night and at dusk. Like all herons, it is a marsh bird.

There are distinctive seasonal changes in the color of this bird. The irises of the eyes will turn from yellowish to bright orange, as will the legs. Meditating on this color will provide a lot of insight as to its role in your life.”

Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small by Ted Andrews

Animal Speak: Highly Recommended

Needless to say that I highly recommend the book, as I refer to it weekly. The book includes exercises to create your own totem and other animal medicine techniques. A good chunk of the book is a comprehensive dictionary of animal, bird and reptile symbolism. In this article I referred to the Dictionary of bird totems.

Other Animal Medicine

What’s next in this series of animal medicine articles? You ask. Which bird or animal do you wish to learn more about?

Personally, besides the herons, I have also spotted lots of hummingbirds and dragonflies during my healing treatments, so I will write about these as well, at some stage.

Now over to you: What animal do YOU see ‘all the time’? What animal inspires you?

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16 Responses to “Animal Medicine: Powers of The Great Blue Heron”

  1. Janet Campbell on September 25th, 2009 3:43 pm

    I would like to hear about the white coyote (or maybe a regular coyote would be the same) not sure.

    I enjoyed reading the above, but just FYI, there are quite a few spelling errors that aren’t captured by spell check… might just want to read over each item you put up, a little more carefully.

    I plan to go get the book you recommend….I have actually almost purchased it many times, but didn’t.

    Thank you,

  2. Oneness World Healing on September 26th, 2009 10:01 am

    You are welcome, Janet. Consider your article on coyotes in the making, and thank you for reminding me to clean up this article. It is now done, I believe. Find any other errors, lemme know. Thanks for the proofread!

    Astrid Lee

  3. Araceli on March 27th, 2010 9:58 am

    It was pretty interesting to read about the blue heron as your totem or guide.
    Months ago I learned a little bit about spiritual animals through my husband but I am not sure what animal would be my totem. He mentioned that different animal guides will visit you trough life depending on different life situations. In mi first silence meditation the first animal that show up was an owl. But also in a dream I was visited by a blue whale and there were 3 doberman pinscher protecting me. It was an unusual dream.

    Thank you,

  4. Oneness World Healing on March 29th, 2010 9:49 am

    In response to Araceli: Here are some insights for you: the owl medicine is about mystery of magic, omens, silent wisdom and vision in the night. The owl is a symbol of the feminine and the night. The whale is about awakening of inner depths, of creation, and the power of song. The blue whales are the largest mammals on the planet, so that is a significant aspect to be considered here for you. And dogs, as you already are aware of, are about faithfulness and protection.

    On request, as a spiritual session, I help create totem poles for people to help them with a particular issue. It is both fun, easy to do and amazingly helpful and insightful. Email me if you are interested, and we’ll set up an appointment time. ~ Astrid

  5. Robert E. Reichel on August 25th, 2010 10:02 am

    My grandfather referred to the Great Blue Heron as a “Shipolke” I am trying to determine the correct spelling. It is probably an Native American word.

  6. MARJIE on September 7th, 2010 7:37 pm

    Hi Astrid, I love you article about blue herons I saw one flying with me next to my car today and It was really neat, so I was looking up to see what that ment and I found your article.

    I have been having lots dreams about horses, some are nice and come to me but some are mean, trying to bite me and chase me and everyone is telling me to stop those horses to protect everybody else.
    they are sad dreams because I love horses.

    if you have any insight into these dreams I would love to hear it.
    thank you
    - marjie

  7. Oneness World Healing on September 17th, 2010 3:22 am

    Hi Marje,
    Thank you for your comment. You are welcome.

    As for some comments on the horse:
    the symbolism of horses is very complex.

    For me personally, the overall feeling about horses is that they are very powerful & represent strength. However, there are way more aspects to the horse than that. In fact, I could write a book about the possible and detailed meanings of horses. Here are some notions for you to consider:

    Horse are in ancient Greek mythology and are associated with burial rites and birth.
    Also, in ancient mythology, horses were given divine powers. Depicted with wings, endowed with divination & clairvoyant power.

    In ancient Chinese astrology horses are associated with appeal, persuasiveness, and a sense of freedom without restraint (like a wild horse).

    First horses were wild, then domesticated. In the later state, they are also considered a symbol of loyalty and devotion, of unquestioning love and faith in his human companion. In shamanism, ‘The Horse’ is your brave warrior spirit.

    For more info, I would like to refer you to:
    This book is EXCELLENT, and I highly recommend you order it.

    Astrid Lee
    Reiki Master

  8. krista on April 11th, 2011 10:31 am

    hello, thank you for creating this website* it’s beautiful and important.
    yesterday i was standing in a park when i looked up and a massive flock of blue herons were flying towards me. when they all reached where i was standing they turned around and flew back to roost in the trees next to a creek. i counted, and there were 28 blue herons. it is spring where i am (west coast of canada). i also saw a bittern not long ago, said to be rare in these parts. the part about not needing great pillars to remain stable, but the ability to stand on ones own resonated for me. i have had the most difficult and emotionally draining year of my life, and am now coming out of this darkness…can you speak a bit more about what this may mean for me, please, and thanking you*
    bless, krista

  9. Dorothea D. on May 1st, 2011 1:48 pm

    I am a writer and I am writing a sci-fi book about the marshes and the ocean. This book was inspired by my grandfather’s passing and came to me in a dream shortly after his funeral. A couple weeks ago, I got up to write and saw an American Bittern perched right outside my second story window. He stayed for half an hour, long enough for me to videotape him and get my children to wave at him and call to him. I felt sure, due to the bird’s hermit-like, eccentric qualities (like my grandfather) and his marsh origin that he was sent to me to inspire me to finish my book. Today, at a man-made pond near my husband’s office, I turned over an abandoned boat and uncovered a newly dead green heron, a close cousin to the bittern and right next to him in the field guide. In fact, the juvenile green heron looks exactly like a bittern. Would love to hear your thoughts on these moving encounters.

  10. Rick Feely on August 20th, 2011 12:44 am

    When I was a teenager, I was an outsider and antagonized for being different. I would leave my mothers house to go walk by a creek in the woods. Especially when I was being antagonized by my family, I would go hang out in the woods and creek for hours, even often at night. Sometimes if it was day, I would follow the creek about a mile, to a certain point, and when I did, I always saw a great blue heron – he always showed himself to me from behind, flying away, low above the water, and I always felt like seeing him was a special, sacred gift, a secret that belonged to me. Much later, I studied shamanism through FSS and became a reiki master. My dearest totem was Bear, and I also worked with several other mammals. I rarely found myself drawn to birds, but occasionally Turkey Vulture. Recently I returned home for a visit 12 yrs later and was able to visit the creek again and follow it. This time I saw the great blue heron again, flying away, low and beautifully. I followed him for awhile and then he flew across the field leaving me an abundance of feathers to collect. I thanked him and begged him to show me his full beauty. I walked even further and found he had flown back to the creek, and stood in it about 40 ft away, showing me his standing profile for the first time. I greeted him and thanked him for all his blessings and for supporting me when I was marginalized and unhappy in my youth. When I returned to my mothers house with the feathers, I right away looked up his totem meaning. It is so applicable to my life, particularly as a misunderstood adolescent, and to the wounds I still carry from that time. I do own the Animal Speak book, but I have never read the whole thing, and don’t have it with me on this visit. I also had forgotten about the heron when I was working with other animal spirits over the 4 yrs. I agree it is an amazing book, and I will now welcome the heron with my other totems in my practice. I do wonder – could it be the same heron I saw regularly at 15-17 yrs of age as I saw now at age 31? I have never seen a mate or flock regardless of the time of year, it has always been alone. Thank you!

  11. Stacy on May 10th, 2012 8:35 pm

    When my Father died we were driving in the car to the hospital. My niece who was two at the time looked up to the sky and said “don’t worry the birds will help you.” and a blue heron was flying in the sky. There are times that I am thinking of him or about a serious question that I am contemplating and I will see Heron. I have always felt a connection to the Heron and i obviously associte Heron with my Father. It is really comforting reading this insight that you have shared.

  12. Stacy on May 10th, 2012 8:37 pm

    sorry about the bad grammar

  13. David on June 18th, 2012 11:17 pm

    I’m amazed by this article – I never comment on things – but I feel inclined to.

    I have just graduated college and moved back with my parents on a Minnesota lake. I’ve been experimenting with meditation and other things of that nature. I’ve always been an individual and have said since I was very young that I’m good at everything but not great at anything. I’ve been telling several of my close friends that I’m a bit depressed because I’ve been talking about living on my own since I was about 16, yet I’m still back at my parents’ house.

    Tonight, for the first time, I meditated on the end of the dock. In the middle of my meditation I heard the heavy beat of a great blue heron and opened my eyes as I saw it fly in front of me. I’ve always seen them, even when they were endangered. Nothing else happened, and, even though I’ve been looking up the significance of some animals, I didn’t think I would look up the heron because I’ve seen it so many times. The other animal I saw, uncharacteristically, was a swan early this year.

    It is simply remarkable at how closely this resembles me and my current situation. And, what’s more, my take away message from my meditation session before looking on the internet was that I had to realize that I needed to adjust my attitude and be grateful for every moment I have.

    I’ve also always loved learning about other cultures. Surprisingly, I have a strange connection with Native American cultures as well. When I was very young, I was out camping with my family. I was laying down in the grass and two bald eagles flew above me. I ran inside and told my Grandpa, he said he saw and told me my name, if I were native would be two eagles. And, since then, even though he was joking, I’ve always been interested.

    What, if any, recommendations do you have for me as I have been in a funk just graduating college and looking for employment? I’ve always felt constrained by society and right now I’m almost in a state of paralysis.

  14. elizabethe on August 23rd, 2012 7:38 am

    good morning
    i have recently had a heron sit on a rock waiting. then it left only to return with another swooning over the river. there seems to be alot of turmoil in my life at this moment. my website explains my story. i have not taken this to its highest potential. does the bird represent anything.
    thank your confused and bewidered

  15. Margy on August 27th, 2012 9:07 am

    What is the meaning of seeing a great blue heron taking off and flying from the east to the west. I saw it during the middle of receiving a reading.

  16. Maureen on September 22nd, 2012 4:12 am

    Fascinating article. Rencently a beautiful two-headed Heron appeared in my dream, and when I looked closely at it, there appeared a third smaller head attached to the same (sitting) body. I’m trying to figure out what this means. A number of two-headed animals have been appearing in my dreams this year: a dog, a cat, and now this bird. Any idea what this might mean?

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