Cardinal Meaning

Cardinal birds hold very significant meaning to me.  They are beautiful birds and their beauty goes beyond what meets the eye.

I lost my dad suddenly and unexpectedly in May 2016.  He always cared for me and protected me.  Ever since my dad’s death I have been visited by a male cardinal. I have seen cardinals at my window, while walking my dog outside, and in the car.  These visits and sightings happen almost every day and sometimes multiple times a day. They comfort me in my pain.

Many say cardinals are visitors from heaven.  With my experience, I cannot dispute this claim.  I have done extensive research on cardinals since my visits and found the cardinal bird’s characteristics and symbolism speak powerfully to life and relationships.  Here are some of my findings.

Cardinal Characteristics

  • The male cardinal is territorial and fiercely protects his family.
  • The males shares duties of parenting and cares for the mother during and after incubation. The male male’s bright red color will change to a duller shade of brown to become more like his female partner while caring for their young. Therefore, he makes sacrifices to help him fulfill his duties as a dedicated parent.
  • Cardinals represent a 12 month cycle. They are residents all year round.  Cardinals lay eggs that hatch within 12 days.  The number 12 is considered significant in that it represents the spectrum of seasons and full circle of life, ex. 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year.
  • The cardinal’s call sounds like “cheer, cheer.” Their calls are very clear and loud. In this way, many say they come to cheer us up or cheer us on.  Their call is an attempt to gain our attention.

Cardinal birds are messengers. They remind us of our life cycle: life, death, and renewal.  We see this in nature with the changing of seasons, in our own life, and in the promise of an after-life.  They invite us to remain cheerful, elevated, and to communicate with clarity.  Most importantly, cardinals display the importance of care, duty, dedication, and transformation in our lives and relationships.

Cardinals and Christianity

  • Red color – symbol of vitality everlasting, the blood of Christ and his ultimate sacrifice to save us. Red also is known as symbol of steadfast faith.
  • Cardinal means “of the greatest importance; fundamental.” Jesus is cardinal of the Christian faith.
  • There are 4 key words that stem from the root translation of the word cardinal. There include:
    • Cardo – This word was used in antiquity to mean same as the word ‘key’ which also means vital, significant, crucial, important. Christ is key to our knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of God.
    • Hingecardo is also the root word of cardinis, a word used for hinge of a door or that on which something turns. In Latin, cardo literally means hinge or axis, something on which all else depends. A hinge is the place on which a door swings and is always moved.  A Christian depends on Christ and is always moved when in relationship with Him.
    • Heart – In Latin, cardium also originates from root word cardo, which means “heart.” The Greek term, kardia, means “the affective center of our being,” or “heart.”  The heart governs and moves the whole person, just as a hinge moves a door.  Just as the heart is the life preserving organ of our whole body’s functioning, Christ is the central and life-preserving Spirit for humanity.  The heart is the center where Divine love resides within each of us.
    • Cross – the root word of cardinal is also connected to the word, cross. Cross comes from Old Norse word, kross, and Latin word, crux.  Ancient Romans used the Latin word crux to mean “a guidepost that gives directions at a place where one road has been split into two.” We all come to roads split into two in our lives, a time when we must make an important choice and need guidance to do so.  This is called a “cardinal crossroad” where we have to make a “cardinal choice.”  Christ is the Christian’s guidepost.  The cross has 4 points.  In life, there is also power in the number 4. We have 4 directions, 4 seasons, 4 elements, 4 winds, 4 Gospels, and 4 chambers in our hearts.

As you can see, the cardinal bird is not just an animal in nature, but a gift and messenger. The spirit of the male cardinal has shown me that I am never alone, that there is always a Father above who will always protect and care for me.  I believe it’s through the grace of God my dad stays connected with me in this beautiful and tangible way.  For this blessing, I am so thankful and filled with hope in midst of my suffering.

Next time you see cardinal birds, perhaps you too can feel a sense of peace, love, and hope.  May the cardinal birds remind us of the importance of love and transformation… a call to cardinal caring for ourselves and our loved ones.