Since I’ve begun to truly embrace the idea of shamanism, I have had notable encounters with eagles, spiders, pelicans, squirrels and crows. These were spirit guides; each of these appearances was designed to bring me a specific message. And though I have been seeking a revelation of my Power Animal, I came to the conclusion that none of these was it. Perhaps my confused and none-too-focused method of going about my quest was to blame for the fact that I had yet to encounter my Power Animal. Or maybe I was simply never destined to have an adequate connection to things beyond the visible, beyond the corporeal, to move forward on a spiritual path that was all about mysticism and realms beyond perceived reality.
But I figured Heron must have a message for me. I consulted my tomes to try to puzzle out what that message might be. None of what I read resonated with me. Nothing seemed to apply specifically to any of my most recent struggles. All the exhortations were for doing things that I already did all the time. Sometimes more than what might, to others, seem healthy. That in itself should have been a clue…
I expanded my research a bit. In a dictionary of bird totems, the first words under the heading of “Heron” jumped off the page and smacked me between the eyes:
MOST SIGNIFICANT ESSENCE: aggressive self-determination and self-reliance
Heron was not bringing a message for me. Heron was me.
As I read, a picture began to take shape. A picture of a person whose knowledge of herself, and stubborn determination to conquer the next new thing, coupled with a tendency toward solitude and “aggressive self- reliance,” may have made her a force to be reckoned with; but may also have made her life more difficult than it might have been had these traits not been an essential part of her being.
"…those with this totem [need] 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 promptings of others.
"Heron medicine is the power of knowing the self by discovering its gifts and facing its challenges. It is the ability to accept all feelings and opinions without denying emotion or thought...
“You are a person who does not need the security of a 9 to 5
job, pension plan, group insurance and the assurance that every day will be the
same. You are one of those rare breeds that can live on the razor's edge of
life, and have an in-born instinct about what will and what won't work for you.
You are happiest when you are exploring many things, learning many skills, and
are often known as a "jack of all trades". While this may give the impression
that you are flighty and irresponsible, quite the opposite is true. If one thing
fails you, you have an assortment of knowledge and skills to fall back on. You
are never without, and adapt into new working situations with ease.
“While you enjoy a social life, it is not a necessary part of your
existence for you are quite at home alone, with your own thoughts and devices.
You are comfortable with yourself, and have no need to be surrounded by people.
You are not impressed with status symbols, or accumulating "things", and have no
need or desire to play the game of "keeping up with the Joneses".
Heron medicine is strong and courageous. It is not afraid to take responsibility for
every aspect of life. It will never pass the buck, or deny an act or deed. It is
the totem of character and strong will, but it will never use those gifts to
bully or take advantage of others.
“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.’
"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 a stability and security to it."
A picture of…me. Of the “me” I realized I had always been. My mother’s favorite story about me was how, as a toddler, I used to rattle the bars of my playpen and holler “Get me out of dis darn t’ing!” Some of the earliest evidence of that “aggressive self-determination,” I would say. And I can see now, it has never changed. Or got any easier.
Many of these traits were ones I had discovered (through my characteristic—some would say obsessive—self-examination) were the very things that seemed to complicate my life almost beyond endurance. I have never felt like I was on the same page as the rest of the world. I thought there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I change? Be more willing to follow? Less of a maverick? Be happy with the 9 to 5, the house in the suburbs, the 2.5 kids and the two cars in the garage? Oh, my life would have been SO much easier!
Only recently have I come to appreciate that my personality—the essential “me”—has been as much a blessing as a curse. And now, seeing this image of myself in black and white, words on paper—words with a distinctly positive spin—has been invaluable. It has answered desperate questions, some of which I had not yet thought to ask.
On this day when I felt that my most recent incarnation of myself had been yanked off like a mask, exposing the hurt, confused, questing spirit who had been trying to hide herself behind it, Mother Earth offered me a most amazing gift: The gift of who I really am. The knowledge of the Animal Spirit with whom I am inextricably linked, and what that might truly mean. The opportunity to celebrate that discovery, to revel in it, to explore it for the good thing that it is.
And, incidentally, the answer to why I have been so drawn to herons, for years.
One of my reference books suggests that, once you discover your Power Animal, you should consider acquiring images or representations of it to place around your home, to remind yourself of your connection to it. I had to smile at that...my home already looks quite like a shrine to Heron.
Now I know why.