New witches often ask how they’ll know what new name to take at their initiation. Not every witch takes a new name, though I encourage my students to seek for one, as I think it is a crucial part of that rebirth. I’m also asked how one discovers their Spirit Animal guide. Seek them out in a meditative journey, I’ll advise. Most of the time, folks find that they’ve always known with which animals they feel that special kinship. For me, it was Great Blue Heron, and both revelations happened at once. This is my story…
Early in my witchhood, I’d selected Heron as a working name because I’d always loved them. As it happens, I’m tall, lanky and have ridiculously knobby knees; I’m also a water sun sign, but all my planets are in air signs, so water birds just feel like kin. Though, at the time, the spirit animal who would show up in journeys to work with me was beaver! (community building, etc.)
Later, as I was called to open The Sojourner and come out of my broom closet completely, I knew I had to merge all my secret internet personas, SCA name, pagan community names, and inner circle names, and simply be my legal self. Lunachic, Sorcha, Heron…all those enfolded into the reemergence of a more authentic Michelle: mom, witch, business owner, and citizen could be one person at last. Just after I began teaching Witchcraft, during a pendulum divination session with an alphabet mat, I asked what my new magickal name should become. No shit, it spelled, M I C H E L L E [LEGAL LAST NAME], plain as day. Okiedokie then!
It began with a Heron Haunting…
But here I was years later on the verge of a new initiation. In a recent weekend intensive with Christopher Penczak, I’d shapeshifted into Great Blue Heron as part of guided journey to find my fetch, which is the witchy term for “spirit animal guide.” Everywhere I’d looked in previous weeks, I’d seen Great Blue Herons. Actual Herons in flight, or staring at me from the marshy roadside ditches. Artistic Herons. Herons on television, and social media feeds. Herons coming up in conversation, and visiting me in dreams. It was a right and proper heron haunting.
When this story *really* kicks off, I’d JUST heard the call to the Priesthood in the Spirit Shrine at the Sirius Rising festival through one of my burning bush conversations. (I told that story here). Then I’d taken a class and discovered I could easily retrieve past life information. (I told that story here.) Then, while driving the 12 hours home from that festival, some ego-driven bruhaha erupts in our local community by one of our elder leaders, with Facebook as the unfortunate platform to spread the divisiveness.
Stepping up and Speaking Out
My opinion and position about that unnecessary drama was so crystal clear to me. I felt passionate in my opposition to their request for us to boycott the regional (wonderful) Pagan Pride Day festival that we all attend. My shop vended there for many years, and I completely supported the festival’s position in this ridiculous kerfluffle now unfolding on my feed. I objected to this elder’s call to boycott our most unifying festival, not just as a member of that community, but as a fellow “leader” within it. I finally felt like a peer of these people who’d long organized our local events. I’d respected and revered these elders, but now I could see how their wounded egos were about to cause our fragile pagan community dire harm.
I also finally accepted my role as a corporate entity who has a choice with whom I do business. I choose which groups and ideologies I endorse through my sponsorship and vending at their events. With these newly ordained priestess eyes, I could clearly see what devastating harm would come if their petty actions were left unchecked, so I checked them.
To quote Christopher Penczak, sometimes the responsible thing to say is, “I hold you in perfect love and trust, but right now you are being an asshole.” With a short, respectful, public comment on their Facebook thread, I made sure that my opposition was clear; I would not support their divisive actions, nor remain associated with the groups and individuals who committed them. I asked them to carefully reconsider their position, and then I said no more.
“With no fool a season spend, nor be counted as his friend.” ~The Wiccan Rede
I also felt the love and support from those people in our community who agreed with my stance, and were glad that I’d stood up to the bullies. The only social control I ever have is with whom I associate, am I right? There were many invitations to do social media battle with them, but I chose to decline those, too. Ultimately, with that nudge I gave, there was impetus to create healthy changes in the long run.
Great Blue Heron Medicine
The next day, I opened the Messages from your Spirit Animal Guides oracle cards by Steven D. Farmer, that I’d bought for my kids at the festival. When I opened the packaging for the first time, I was delighted to find that the image chosen for the back of the deck was Great Blue Heron! Another omen!
This is her healing message that arrived like a greeting card directly from my guides, just when I needed encouragement the most:
“Make a stand for what you believe in and do what feels right in spite of any judgment or disapproval from others. Trust your deepest sense of knowing what the right action is and do it, and don’t rely on others to tell you what to do or how to act. Not everyone will approve of the decisions you make, and if your choice goes against the grain of what people expect from you, you’ll no doubt run into strong criticism and judgement.
Stand still, look around you, and breathe. You’re doing just fine in spite of others assessments of you. Besides, your greatest and most fulfilling support will come from that place inside that guides you by revealing signs that tell you what path to follow. Heading these signs helps your soul be in alignments with Spirit’s intent for you.
You may have to get both feet in the water and wade through the dregs of other people’s disapproval, asserting yourself where needed…Trust in your inner knowing, and let that be the source of your strength to help you keep moving forward.”
This became my mission statement. I’ve since found that Blue Heron guards many esoteric secrets. She is a gatekeeper between the realms of life and death, a psychopomp guiding the soul’s journey through reincarnation. How appropriate that Heron would have always been a guide for me, as I struggled through the remembrance of my past life and death as a child! Then Heron made herself known to me as I grew into my abilities for Past-Life Retrieval with others.
But most importantly, Great Blue Heron medicine is about discernment to me. She strides the liminal places were earth, water and sky meet, carefully discerning shit from sustenance. She isn’t afraid to get her feet dirty, nor is she unwilling to fly free of the swamp. When necessary, she is patient, still and graceful, mindful and present, keen eyes watching all. But when the moment to strike arrives, she is stabbing swift, exacting precise, throwing her head back to swallow her prey whole.
A Priestess Takes a New Name
For my official Second Degree Priestess rites, exactly 4 years ago as of this writing, on April 4, 2015, I introduced myself to the Divine by my new Priestess name, conjoining my chosen Heron, with the name my parents gave me to at birth. Eventually, with the creation of this blog, Heron Michelle also became my pen name.
Through it all, Great Blue Heron remains my guide and guardian in all that I do, and I’m grateful for her lessons of discernment, both brutal and graceful.