Heron Symbolism: The Many Spiritual Meanings of the Heron

Often associated with personal transformation and wisdom, the heron is a beautiful bird of great spiritual meaning. Described as medium to large-sized freshwater and coastal birds of the Ardeidae family, these elegant birds have a fondness for wading through shallow water with messages of peace, serenity, and grace. They belong to a group of birds called wading birds or waders.

Tolerant with a tendency to be dominant, this article discusses the importance of the heron in symbolism and its spiritual implications, as well as some other interesting facts about this beautiful creature.

What birds can have their bills more peculiarly formed than the ibis, the spoonbill, and the heron?

Alfred Russel Wallace

What does the heron symbolize?

Featuring long legs and necks which they can bend into an S-shape, the heron has long fascinated many for its natural beauty and its countless spiritual symbolism. Found in most regions of the world except in areas with climates of extreme cold, areas in high mountains, and dry deserts, let’s paddle and splash into the heron symbolic meanings.

Going the extra mile

While this magnificent bird has a life expectancy of only 5 years, the oldest recorded heron lived for 23 years. This indicates our capacity to go beyond what is expected from us.

These regal birds remind us that though we may be going through some tough times, our difficulties shouldn’t stop us from inspiring others to do the little things to make a big difference.

Independence

Observed to be a solitary bird, particularly during fall and winter, the heron symbolism teaches us the value of individuality and freedom. Reverting back to their colonies comes the breeding season, it signifies how we should learn how to work with others, all while enhancing our ability for self-expression.

Serenity

Typically seen quietly feeding near the edges of the water, the heron’s presence indicates how we constantly long for some peace and calm. They appear to help us realize that to reach our full potential and identify new opportunities in our lives, we also need to have these qualities within.

Calmness

Known for their fondness for keeping to themselves, the heron inspires us to maintain our composure regardless of the demands of our daily lives. Often flying in at the most stressful times, they teach us how a life of chaos and uncertainty is not going to breed success, abundance, or positivity.

“Like the air-invested heron, great persons should conduct themselves; and the higher they be, the less they should show.”

— Philip Sidney, English poet 

Persistence

Admired for their ability to remember the exact same spot of its seasonal exodus, these migratory wading birds have long been considered a symbol of willpower and determination.

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Cant believe

Their appearance tells us to turn down the pleasures of instant satisfaction in pursuit of the realization of our long-term goals. Its determination, patience, and confidence are things we should strive for, especially when it comes to being successful in business, personal relationships, or in life in general.

heron near water

Good judgment

Herons can often be found on the edge of the water, patiently waiting for the next fish or reptile to make an appearance. When the perfect moment comes along, they strike quickly and with confidence.

They remind us how we should steadily wait for the most opportune time before making our move for it promotes a higher chance of success.

Steadfastness

The heron’s swift call to attack should remind us that it is important to take action when we see an opportunity so we can continue to progress and level up in life. When we pass on opportunities for fear of not being comfortable with change, we can miss out on a lot! More importantly, remaining in the same place with the same habits creates a stagnant environment that does not serve our higher purpose.

heron in flight

Elegance

While they are mostly found in wetlands feasting on a diet of fish, amphibians, and reptiles, heron symbolism is surrounded by an aura of nobility and style. This magnificent bird reminds us of the importance of showing grace under pressure for it gives us the capacity to think clearly, act timely, and effectively get things done.

Stability

Growing to as tall as 5 feet, herons are widely seen as symbolizing certainty and confidence. Their imposing presence indicates that you are satisfied with the gifts you have. They tell us that while it is not wrong to want more, finding fulfillment in our current situation provides us with great comfort and gratification.

Adaptability

The heron has the unique trait of dropping down feet-first to pick off its prey from the water. Its ability to fly, swim and run motivates us to adjust to life’s varying situations. By giving us the power to cope with the changes in our environment, the heron is the ideal creature to motivate us to face the challenges that the future brings.

heron in water

The Heron’s Meaning in Different Cultures

Across the world, the heron spirit animal is considered a heavenly creature that inspires spiritual growth and represents wisdom. While this may arise from their solitary nature, they present themselves to introspection and take time for solitude to gain enlightenment.

As the heron symbolism is brimming with interesting scientific facts and information, did you also know that across different cultures, herons have certain spiritual symbolism, myths, and lore?

Native American Culture

Native Americans see the heron as a sign of good luck and patience.

Native American fishermen from the northwest coast believed that if they spot a heron, it is a sign that their fishing trip will be bountiful. This makes sense considering what an amazingly patient fisherman this bird is.

Since this spiritual animal possesses such amazing judgment when it comes to its hunting skills, it is also seen as a symbol of wisdom.

However, some Native American cultures use the heron as a symbol of a restless loner. Though these birds are monogamous and work together with their partner in building a nest and raising their young, they still prefer their own space and time alone.

Thriving at the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State, the Makah Indians perceived that people share similar traits with certain animals.

As a heron native legend has it, when the world was still young the two brothers of the sun and the moon came to earth. Named Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things,” they came to ensure that earth is ready for a new race of native people that would keep watch of all the creatures in the world.

One of them was a fisherman who was always wading in the water with his long fishing spear. The fisherman constantly kept his weapon ready to thrust into some fish and he always wore a white cape over his shoulders.

Greatly admiring his patience and persistence, the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into a great blue heron. 

Native American Symbolism

Christian Culture

Much like in other beliefs and traditions, the heron symbolism is seen as a symbol of patience and persistence by the Christians.

Since they are viewed as birds that are patient, peaceful, and content in their lives, the heron’s biblical meaning serves as a symbol of good luck and long life. There are also several hymns that praise these attributes.

Christians believe that the happiness and gratefulness the heron displays should serve as inspiration for how we should be grateful for the gift of life given to us. Considered a symbol of the Christian virtue of devotion and persistence, it was believed that the heron was a personification of Jesus Christ who appeared to deliver a message from heaven.
While staying on the righteous path has its merits and rewards, trials and tribulations may still arise to test our faith. The heron’s presence serves as our motivation to remaining pure and noble as we go along our spiritual journey.

heron catching fish

Celtic Culture

As Celtic folklore provides us with quite a few mentions of the heron, the Celtic people saw this bird as a symbol of perseverance, long life, and independence.

Herons are said to be the reincarnations of the goddess, Rhiannon, who was very beloved by the Celts. Rhiannon served as a protector who would help lost travelers find their way home. Revered as the goddess of lakes and waters, such is the reason why this particular bird is commonly referred to in Celtic tradition as “The Lady of the Lake.”

The Celtics also designed the knotted heron symbolism that stood as a representation of peace and harmony (read here about animals representing peace.) According to Celtic lore, it is akin to the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol of balance and how dark cannot exist without light, sadness without happiness.

Celtic godess Rhiannon

Japanese Culture

In Japan, the heron symbolism stands for purity, longevity, and peace. It represents our spiritual journey to enlightenment as it sequentially goes through physical death, purgatory, and rebirth from water.

Herons in Japanese art are shown with their necks gracefully curved back in flight or standing on one leg while nesting – both reflecting dignity.

A heron’s nest was offered as a special gift because its beauty suggested that love will endure no matter what obstacles life may throw at you. The gentle sound of raindrops falling into shallow pools near their nests was said to be “the voice of God”.
The heron’s ability to walk, fly and swim has led the Japanese to see them as animals that are well-attuned to the Earth’s elements. Such flexibility reminds us how we are capable of adapting to life’s varying situations for it helps strengthen our character and broaden our horizons.

Japanese culture
Heron in Japanese culture

Greek Culture

Believing that they were messengers from the gods, the Greeks thought that herons were sent by the goddesses Athena and Aphrodite as their guides and to keep them away from harm. As one legend has it, Athena once sent this impressive bird as Odysseus’ company on his journey.
Regarded as some of the most harmless creatures, heron symbols are often used in celebrations such as weddings because there was a belief that it brings about peace and happiness in family life. They were also considered bringers of souls into heaven after death.

Herons are also found as motifs on Greek vases. In the company of women, herons are seductive and enchanting creatures. This suggests that these birds may have been associated with female fertility; some scholars even argue they served a role in first menstruation rituals.

Greek scene with a heron.

Ancient Egypt

Displaying great similarities with Ancient Egypt’s Bennu-bird, the heron is believed to have announced the beginning of time according to myth. Recognized as a symbol of prosperity and abundance, the double-headed heron taught the Egyptians to strive in achieving a happy and spiritually fulfilled life.

As Egyptian legend says, the Bennu possessed the soul of the Sun God Ra which makes it a respected symbol of immortality. Believed to have risen from the flame of a sacred tree, it symbolizes the end of a difficult period in our life and the arrival of a fresh start.

While other stories say that it came to life by squeezing out from a crack in Osiris’ heart, the Bennu is often shown with two long feathers and the crown of Osiris on its head. This indicates our ability to lead a life of nobility and grace.

Along with its huge similarity to the Phoenix, the Bennu is considered a symbol of rebirth and is highly associated with Christ’s suffering, eventual death, and resurrection.

Bennu, Egyptian
Bennu, the Egyptian Heron

Heron in dreams meaning

Since dreams can be interpreted in many different ways, it’s always important to look at what you are currently dealing with in your life. This will serve as an excellent indicator of how you should interpret the dream.

Now that we have a good amount of background on the heron and its symbolism, what does it mean if you see one in your dream?

In general, a heron in your dream represents independence, permanence, tact, and planning. Seeing their image as we sleep tells us that as long as you’re smart and informed in your decisions, you are going to be successful!

Another possible meaning of a heron dream is that we should exercise our ability to explore our spirituality.

heron totem animal

If you want even more insight into the meaning of your dream, then recalling the color of the heron will provide you with just that:

  • A black heron indicates that even though you are avoiding opportunities because you’re concerned you might fail, you need to put those fears aside and make things happen!
  • A blue heron is a sign that before you make a decision, you should seek some input from those who are important to you. Their advice will prove extremely valuable and help you plan what your next steps should be.
  • A white heron often comes to you in your dream as your spirit guide and is trying to advise you on something.

The spiritual meaning of blue herons

If you have discovered the blue heron as your spiritual guide, there are several reasons for this. One of the first reasons is because you are more of a loner with an independent spirit who can still find their happy place in a group.

Shy and solitary in nature, blue herons prefer to be a creature of solitude. However, they are glad to put in the time and effort to complete a task because they know it takes collective effort to effectively achieve a goal.

By possessing the blue heron totem, you probably have the same qualities where alone time is preferred. However, you can also adapt to working as part of a team if necessary.

The blue heron symbolism says that while you are an average person who enjoys your independence, you still find time to help others in many ways. Being independent gives you the opportunity to explore more of your abilities and what you really want out of life. You do not need approval from others, and you certainly are not concerned with having a “normal” life.

You enjoy discovering all your unique talents and abilities and are resourceful with how you use them.

fish

The heron spirit animal

As herons soar high above their surroundings, they see what others don’t. They are gifted to have an overview of things that escape us on earth and can become seers as they discover new landscapes from their unique vantage points.

The heron symbolism as your spirit animal is also a reminder that when an opportunity comes up, you should “strike while the iron is hot.” Waiting or delaying decisions could result in missed opportunities. If you are currently in the process of making a decision, it is best to make it sooner rather than later.

In the same sense, the heron also symbolizes not being too hasty or making ill-informed decisions. When this bird is hunting for food by the water’s edge, it waits patiently and calmly. It knows when the perfect moment to strike is and doesn’t ruin its chances of a successful hunt by being careless.

So, while you shouldn’t pass up opportunities that seem like a good idea, you also shouldn’t just jump into situations blindly without having some background or knowledge of what you’re getting into; it’s all about timing.

Another quality you might possess as someone who has the heron as their spiritual guide is a great determination. They remind us that even when the odds might be against you and life can sometimes be a battle, you never give up.

Those who have the heron on their side are more likely to face challenges head-on and come out of those situations even stronger than they were before because of their determined spirit.

So, if you’re currently going through a difficult time, do not worry. Your determination and spirit will guide you through. Remember, it’s the struggles in life that give you character and teach you some of life’s most important lessons.

heron showing feathers

The heron animal totem

Totems can be natural things such as animals, plants, trees, and stones. They can also represent qualities that we aspire to have in ourselves. Each type has its own spiritual significance which is important when considering your totem animal’s meaning to you personally.

Featuring long legs and an equally extensive neck, it offers them an excellent vantage point at what takes place below their nests. This indicates how we are constantly watched by our spirit guides from the heavens.

Being your totem animal, the heron symbolism means that you are a contemplative person and may be inclined to get lost in your thoughts. Largely living in solitary, their appearance signifies that you enjoy being alone, but still crave companionship when the mood strikes.

Males compete with each other for females by performing elaborate displays at lakesides or ponds. The blue heron totem motivates us to use our talents efficiently as they are often enough to help us achieve what we want.

The heron is a powerful totem animal for those who have lost their way or are seeking guidance. Herons represent the deep-seated need within all living things to find a balance between intellect and instinct.

The heron’s association with water (it feeds by standing still at the edge of ponds waiting for prey) also points to its duality. It embodies our own journey through life: we must sometimes travel blindly when faced with difficult decisions.

Heron in Dreams Meaning

Conclusion

For centuries, the heron is a fascinating bird that has been celebrated in cultures all around the world. It’s also one of my favorite animals! Having played an important role in several cultures, it has gained its place in the spiritual world as an advisor and a guide.

If we want to be successful in our careers and our relationships, it’s important for us to act as the heron does – with patience, wisdom, and determination.

I hope this post sheds some light on what these beautiful creatures have meant to people throughout history and why they are so important to our spiritual well-being today. Keep an eye out next time you see a heron flying by, or when someone tells you about their experience with them. It may represent a much deeper meaning than just another animal passing through your day.

We also compared the crane vs heron, check it out. Sometimes the heron gets mistaken by an egret – also see our post: egret symbolism.

[Video] The Heron Totem

FAQs

What does it mean when you see a heron in your path?

Along with their ability to evolve, such an encounter is a reminder of our need for determination and self-reliance.

Are herons a sign of good luck?

Seeing them is always a welcome sign for they signify prosperity, perseverance, and good fortune.

What is the difference between a great blue heron and a blue heron?

Great blues sport a yellow bill and a dark crown. The smaller blue heron boasts a maroon neck and head.

4 thoughts on “Heron Symbolism: The Many Spiritual Meanings of the Heron”

  1. I had a Heron in my campsite all 4 days and I have one near my boat in the Marina, so it is obvious to me that they are my guides. However, what does it mean when the Heron is, literally, attacked by 4 Ravens? This happened at my campsite. The Heron got really angry and flew off chasing them before returning to the campsite.

    Reply
    • The ravens may have been nesting and would see the heron as a threat to the eggs/chicks! I have seen ravens attacking and chasing a hawk away from their nesting ground.

      Reply
  2. I have been looking up herons forever and I cannot find one site that tells me what it means when you see a pair of blue herons flying over you. I didn’t just see what they were a pair. Then when I got home I was sitting in the kitchen looking out the back window and two more blue herons flew by and this was way past the time that I had seen the other birds and nowhere near where I had seen the first pair! That has to mean something!

    Reply

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