Symbolic Meaning of the Heron
My friends Ted and Dana have magnificently manicured landscaping around their home in the woods. It’s quite impressive to see their perfectly tailored yard butted against an untamed wilderness.
You could call my friends nature-lovers, but they had a bone to pick with the heron.
At first, my friends were enchanted by the heron’s house call. That is, until they discovered the heron was dining on the koi fish from their Zen-style water gardens. When they figured out their koi fish (at $300 a pop) was a heron-buffet, they lost their Zen attitude, and began employing dissuasion tactics to keep the hungry heron out of their ponds.
I tried to tell them their efforts would be fruitless. The heron is shrewd, intelligent, resourceful and also very determined. Whatever heron wants, heron gets (oh, that’s Lola – but you know what I mean).
Even before diving into culture and myth for symbolic meaning of the heron, it’s a good practice to take a look at its physical traits, its environment and behaviors to mete out deeper understanding about this bird.
Comfort in multiple elements is also symbolic of easy transitions. If you find yourself in liminal spaces, that is, if you find yourself ‘in-between’ phases, places or people in your life, the heron can give guidance on how to easily move through those ‘in-between’ moments of your life.
Meaning of the heron deals with being comfortable in spaces that are neither here, nor there. It prefers hunting at twilight, which is a symbolic and magical time of ‘in-between’. The heron will have one foot on land, and one foot in the water – this action has been recognized by ancient cultures as a sign of liminality – of crossing into the a space that is neither here, nor there.
All this talk about being in the space ‘in-between’ illustrates a remarkable lesson. We are not our environment. We are not even our bodies. And the ‘in-between’ represents a space suspended – without time or place. It’s what Eckhart Tolle might refer to as the “NOW” in his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Heron’s are in the Now. They can help us be in the Now too, which is a vital practice in maintaining stability, calm and fluidity in living life.
It’s not just the liminality that establishes the heron as a present-moment icon. It’s the heron’s way of hunting that also illustrates how graceful the heron exists in the Now.
There’s big juju there. How many of us can stand stock-still for more than three minutes, much less an hour? How many of us can exert the kind of patience the heron does in waiting, watching, being ready for our reward? How many of us are prepared to take immediate action and strike in the instant our opportunity swims by? I don’t know how many of us can do these things (I sure struggle in these areas), but I do know the heron can help us achieve this kind of intense tranquility.
How? Simple focus on the heron will initiate contact with the Zen-zone. Whether you are physically in Nature, or in your mind’s eye during meditation, contemplate no-action through the heron. Consider the heron immersed in highly focused stillness – reflected by the very water into which it’s gazing. Let the stoic presence of the heron imbue with a quality of stillness that is both fluid and steely.
But the heron would tell us there’s more symbolic marshes to wade through and more expensive fish to be plucked from the ponds of life.
To wit, the heron is almost exclusively a solitary creature. It prefers to seclusion, privacy, and even favors hunting alone rather than with a group or mate. The only time the heron breaks its vow of sequester is during mating season. If the heron is your totem or guide, you can completely relate to this. Heron people prefer complete isolation…but are equally at ease in a crowd of peers.
Who knew the meaning of the heron could be so forthcoming with life-lessons? To be sure, it’s a regal bird with limitless capacity for extolling profound wisdom to those of us who are inclined to receive it.
Regrettably, Ted and Dana weren’t so inclined. They’ll tell you their Zen has been wrecked by the heron playing havoc in their ponds, but I can tell you they are missing the Zen right under their noses. They are missing the Zen portrayed in the heron, on the grandiose stage of Nature.
I hope you enjoyed these observations on the meaning of the heron as a totem, guide and friend. If you found this article interesting, you may also like my blog post citing a few cultural myths on the meaning of the heron. Be sure to check out the links at the end of this page for more related symbolic meanings too.
The heron offers lots of life lessons, if only we are prepared and open to pay attention.
As always, thanks for reading!
May all your heron encounters be resourceful.
Other Articles Of Interest On This Site
More Air Totems and Bird Meanings
Bird totems are symbols of strength (both physical and mental) and sovereignty. But bird meanings are so much more diverse. This article offers a list of birds and their symbolic meanings. Get all symbolic bird meanings here.
Symbolic Meaning of the Stork
A close cousin of the heron, the stork has a special set of symbolic meanings. This article explores why it’s thought to delivery babies, why it is a good luck symbol in ancient Rome, and more. Learn all about symbolic stork meaning here.