Bird Totems – The Cardinal

There are many bird totems in Native American beliefs. Today, I want to talk about the Cardinal and its totem meanings. My friend Joan recently blogged about some bird feeders that she was having trouble getting birds to feed at. She related a story about her granddaughter, Jessica, and how she was fascinated with the Cardinal sounds even as a tiny baby. Jessica helped her Grandma by inviting the cardinals to come and eat. My first thoughts were that Cardinal must be one of Jessica’s spiritual totems, one she has been connected to since infancy.

The native symbolism of the Cardinal is the recognizing of self importance. In earth spirituality there is a rhythm of 12 associated with this bird totem. We can be reminded that there are opportunities to renew our own vitality and identify our life roles. We most probably will see patterns emerge in 12 hours, 12 days, 12 months, or even 12 years depending on what Cardinal is working with us on.

A cardinal has a distinct whistle. It is usually loud and quite clear. A whistle is a reminder to listen closely and pay attention. When Cardinal is your totem it is an indication that the feminine aspects of creativity and intuition should be maintained and listened to.

Cardinals, due to their red coloring remind us to add color to our lives and to become like them in knowing that everything we do is of importance. I would be curious to know if little Jessica is a colorful person and surrounds herself with colorful things.

In Joan’s blog post she asked if we thought it was possible to talk to the animals and birds and of course I believe we can communicate on a physical and spiritual level.  Cardinal is not one of my totems but there is a special spiritual connection with this bird, my own Grandmother, and myself.  Grandma always said that if she could come back to earth to check on us after she had passed that she would come as a bright red cardinal. Cardinals are pretty plentiful but I always know when it is Grandma and not just any bird. She will capture my attention and look me in the eyes. I always get the message, “I’m here, Child. You are protected. You will be just fine.” She even came to my husband Terry once. I was at the hospital with my Mom who was rapidly losing her battle with cancer. Terry called me at the hospital to check on me and he said, “Bev, the weirdest thing just happened! There is this bright red cardinal that won’t leave me alone. It keeps chirping at me and diving at me and landing on the car!” I didn’t even hesitate. “Terry, that’s Grandma and she is trying to tell you that you better come to the hospital because I’m going to need you.” We lost Mom just a few hours later.  Grandma was there sitting on the window sill.

The spirits of the ancients and sometimes even our loved ones can and do communicate with us through the animals. Sometimes as a totem that works with us to learn life’s lessons and to give us strong medicine to live by and sometimes just a brief visit to let us know that they are watching over us. Either way, it is powerful medicine for our souls.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

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Beverly Two Feathers

Beverly Two Feathers is my spiritual name, other places I use my Anglo name you can find me as Beverly Owens on Google +

24 thoughts on “Bird Totems – The Cardinal”

  1. Oh yes, Bev! Little Jessica is an artist, and loves bright happy colors! I am crocheting an afghan for her and believe me, the colors are bright and interwoven and happy! She loves that yarn!

    Enjoyed the story of your grandma, too! My brother appears as a hummingbird and there is no doubt when he is visiting!

  2. Hello,
    Yesterday and today, and maybe a few days prior.. a male cardinal keeps landing on my air conditioner at the first floor window which faces East. At first I thought… LOL.. he’s reminding me that their feeders are empty. I filled the one this morning, but this male cardinal keeps on coming back to this window. He looks in directly at where I am sitting.. looks at me for a few moments and flies away… and keeps repeating this. Now I am upstairs in my office, and now this male cardinal is landing at this window which faces North.
    I do believe that animals can speak to us as I have been taught a great deal by my best friend whom I’ll be visiting in a few weeks. I had to postpone my trip due to his sister passing away and he also will be having surgery next month because he has cancer.
    I have been somewhat depressed and just feeling ill these past few days… so with knowing all of this, what do you think this male cardinal is trying to tell me?
    Thanks so much for your help!!

    1. You didn’t mention that he is chirping at you so I don’t think he is telling you to listen or pay attention. You said that first he came to your East window and that would make some sense because typically birds are associated with the East. East is a time of new beginnings. It can signify a time of change or new ideas. It is a time for things to grow and awaken.

      You mention that you have been feeling depressed and ill…by Cardinal coming to you in a North window he could be telling you that you will begin to heal. North is the place of wisdom and healing. Cardinal is associated with the rhythm of 12 so it could be that he is letting you know that you will start to feel better in an increment of 12…12 minutes, 12 hours, 12 days.

      Because Cardinal came to you from the East and the North, I would think that he might be telling you that it is time to awaken and grow in some area and that you already have the wisdom and it is time to heal. It is time to make a change of some sort.

      If he comes to you again, be sure to thank him for his visit! Start trying to think of things that might need to be changed or nurtured into growing. Things that will make you happy again and trust that the healing will take place.

      Thank you for stopping by and I hope this helps you in some way.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply.

        I don’t recall “chirping” standing out much. Just that he definitely seemed to want to get my attention as he looked right at me and made sure I saw him. He repeated this quite often throughout the day and it began in the morning. At the North window he seemed to flutter his wings in an effort to make sure I knew he was there. Once I saw him perched on the edge of the window, he would fly away.. only to repeat this several times. It was amazing to me that he came to this other window where I was at!!

        **Just now, while I am writing this, he fluttered again at my North window… and I will note that I hadn’t seen him at my East window this morning yet.

        As far as healing, yes I am not only in need of physical healing, but there is a person in particular who I need and am working on trying to forgive. Perhaps that is what the message is about.

        I was afraid that after reading some of what others had posted on another site, that the cardinal means death, but I think that is only superstition and I do not believe in superstitions.

        My friend whom I will be going to visit is ill with prostate cancer. He is Chocktaw and Cherokee. He has been my mentor and teacher for years now. He has taught me about how animals and nature can and will communicate with us, but we must be willing to be still and listen.

        Anyway, since I have written this, the male cardinal has come twice and fluttered his wings making his presence known. I will thank him and see if there is any other message.

        I appreciate any input you are willing to offer and feel free to ask me any questions if need be.

        Thank you so much,

        1. It is now 07/28/12 and this male cardinal has been around for almost 2 weeks soon. I noticed that pretty much all of last week he would begin landing on the air conditioner at the East window around 6am or so and begin chirping. He would go back and forth a lot. Then he would find me up at the North window of my office. My friend who also lives here noticed that he also came to the 2 bedroom windows which are also North facing while he was working on our house.
          I have also noticed that when he flies from the North facing window, he always head in the West direction which interestingly in the direction that I will be taking in a few days to visit that friend I mentioned who has cancer. The West is also from where I get my Native name of LooksWithinBear… it is about introspection and “looking within.”
          Anyway, if you have any other comments or questions for me about this cardinal visit… I would love to hear them!!
          Thanks so much!!

  3. What a beautiful story. After my son passed and I returned home from the funeral home three Doves appeared on the roof at the house next door. I was out in the yard with my two Dachshunds, which one was very close to my son. The one Dove flew down and walked behind my son’s Dachshund while the dog was walking around the yard. This went on for about 10 minutes then the Dove looked at me as if to say goodbye and flew off with the other two Doves. Since that time the Dove visited my sister on my son’s birthday and perched on her shoulder and would not leave until the Dove was ready. The next time was when I was going through a difficult time three Doves came to visit me. The one Dove flew down, walked in front of my house on the side walk for about 10 minutes as if to say “I am here” and then again the three Doves flew off. I know it is my son without a doubt. Thank you for this site.

  4. Today while walking my dog, I found a dead cardinal in the snow. It never snows in NC, but this is the second time that it snowed this year. Please tell me whether the death of the bird is a bad or good omen. Does it mean that I might be loosing all hope and I should just give up in life? Thank you.

    1. I know the weather has been strange down your way, it has been unusual just about everywhere. I would not take seeing the dead bird as any kind of omen. The poor bird probably could not find enough food and may have eaten something that caused its demise. It could have also been attacked by a predator. I am sure it upset you to find it, I know it would break my heart. Do not be disheartened, it was not a sign. It does sound as if you might already be depressed by the way you formed your question. Try to look for things that will lift your spirit up.

  5. Thank you for your respond. I have been going through some hard and down time lately. Around this time last year, I found a dead owl while on my walk — in a residential neighborhood — and within a year, I moved across the country. Thank you for your fast respond.

  6. These stories are all so beautiful and I definitely feel like I have a spiritual connection to cardinals. Specifically, I had a visitation from a male cardinal 3 years ago when I was going through a really tough time. It was in January 2011 and I was caring for my 84 year old mother who had broken a hip in December. My sister and I were alternating spending each night with mom in the rehab facility. One night in the nursing home I began to have some spotting that was unusual since I had been postmenopausal for at least a year. I followed up and I was told by my gynecologist that by the looks and characteristics of the large mass on my ovary on the ultrasound he felt this was something sinister. He recommended I follow a “wait and see” course of action and would do another ultrasound in 4 weeks to see if it is growing or changing. I was beside myself with worry. Not so much about myself but that I might not be able to care for my mother and to inflict this on her and my dad at this time was unbearable to me. I spent a very reflective weekend after hearing this news and I meditated and became more spiritually attuned than I had ever felt before. I reached out for a “sign” that everything was going to be okay. I only wanted to know so that I could quit worrying about myself and could tend to my mom when she needed me the most. It was a grey winter Sunday when I requested that the sign be in the form of a cardinal (I had not seen any Cardinals in my yard and I had seen a robin that made me think of a bird being the sign) I mentally asked for a cardinal to appear in my tree just outside my family room window where I had been praying and meditating. An hour or so had gone by and I looked into the tree and thought I was seeing the robin again but as I looked closely, I realized it was a female cardinal. I felt good, but I mentally conveyed that I really wanted to see a Red Cardinal….I wanted an “in my face” bright red cardinal to show me everything was going to be okay. I left the house and went to a Barnes and Noble to look for books on spirituality, angels, etc. When I returned home it was dark. I opened the patio door to let my two dogs out and a bird flew right in front of me. I actually felt the wind from its wings. It startled me and I just stood there saying in a very timid voice “are you a cardinal?” I closed the door and I swear the hair on my arms was standing straight up. I felt this overwhelming sense of peace. When I opened the door to let the dogs back in the house a few seconds later, the bird flew to the light right by our door. It was a beautiful big bright red cardinal and it sat on the light that was close enough to me to be able to reach up and touch it. It did not fly off. I grabbed my phone and when back and it was still sitting there looking down at me with wise eyes. I took several pictures of him and he still didn’t leave the light perch. I knew this was my sign that whatever I had, I was going to be okay. I named him Angelo and he came to my light every night for the next several months. I would not know if the tumor was malignant until surgery and if the pathology came back during the surgery as cancer then they were to go ahead and remove, stage etc before I woke up. I had surgery and the tumor was benign. I slept so well every night leading up to my surgery and right up until I entered the Operating Room I was so peaceful and calm. The nurse asked if I needed something to relax me and I said no I am fine. Funny too that as I was waiting to go into the surgery there was a sign on the wall that said “CardinalHealth” and my husband said Angelo is watching over you. I am so thankful for this intervention. My mother is still living. She is frail and has been declining since the hip surgery and is experiencing the onset of dementia but I am thankful she is still here with us. I share my story every chance I get. Since then, I have always looked for Angelo on my light and have asked for him to return and then last week he returned. I am not positive he is the same bird but I am really wondering why he has come back. Today I communicated to him to fly from the tree to me and he flew directly to me, touched on the light perch then flew away to the right. I have thanked him for returning and I am asking him to reveal the message I need to hear from him. It is truly inspirational to have this happening and I feel blessed to have experienced it. I would love to have any suggestions on how I can get the message he is trying to relay to me.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your moving story! You asked what you can do to get the Cardinal to give you the message that you are supposed to hear. Personally, I don’t think that there is anything that we can do, the message comes when we are ready. I would recommend staying calm and being open to receiving the message. We can’t rush these things because none of it is in our own timing but in the timing of the Great Spirit and the spirits that help him. The number twelve is very much attached to the Cardinal so maybe pay attention to that number, it could be 12 seconds, minutes, hours or even days. I do believe that he is there for a reason just be patient and you will get your message.

  7. My male cardinal is still visiting my light each night and stays until dawn. I have noticed for the last several weeks he has been there at times during the day. Now I see his mate and he are attempting to make a nest in my artificial tree that sits just below the light he has perched on. I feel blessed he trusts me and the location so close to our door that we use to go in an out of and let our dogs run in and out through. I hope the nest is successful and produces a successful offspring(s). Perhaps I can see that as a meaningful renewal of life and the hope of the ever-after. I have figured out that he has been here this time for me to “stay calm and carry on” as my 87 year old mother’s mental and physical state has started to decline in the days following his return to my light about 5 weeks ago. It has been a challenging time for me getting used to more caregiving and support for her and my dad. I feel comforted that he is here watching over me.

  8. Hi I’m making this comments because something very interesting happened today. I live in San Antonio, TX and there are many beautiful birds here. Today I had a pair of cardinals take turns knocking on my window back and forth. I would catch their attention and swear they were looking at me. I go around to the other side of the house and there they were again looking in (both birds) and knocking on the window. Very beautiful and interesting. What does it mean. I did not sense anything negative in their gesture. Any insights would be appreciated. Thanks.

  9. Reading these stories was amazing and surprising! Since a child I have had an incredible connection w cardinals!! My mother always believed it was her guardian angel her father and passed the believe on to me at a young young age! Her father passed a few days before I was born so I never had chance to meet him physically, but the cardinal has always been w me! Every significant experience in my life I have seen one, it’s like they go out of their way to make themselves visible to me! In the last year I have been going through a lot and my cardinals have always been w me even leaving me a feather when I needed it most( I have a large tattoo of a cardinal in flight under my bicep ! Today my heart broke when one flew across street an hit my dads windshield while driving, I made him stop instantly he is not as religious or spiritual as me an my mom but I saw how upset he was! The cardinal fluttered and I didn’t know what todo except just hold it an pray! I held until it calmed and layed in a nest I made I left fruit an some bugs I could gather but our locked eye contact in killing me inside! The cardinal is my gaurdian angel my protector and very very special to me, I jus feel I took away that protection when I needed it most! I should of kept it until I knew it was ok! I jus hope the birds alive and so is my gaurdian angel, i ALSO Just wanted to apologize to the bird an those of us that find the cardinal as special as I do!!!! I’m sorry…..

    1. Hi Cody,
      My heart is so sad for you! You have not lost your Guardian Angel! Angels do not die. The bird that hit the windshield might have physically passed but it’s spirit did not. It will still be with you. I’m getting the message that for you something had to die so that something new could grow. The physical bird gave its life for you to be able to grow in some new way. That isn’t a bad thing, Cody. I know it is hard and we don’t like to feel responsible but that isn’t sometimes what the real message is all about. Don’t despair but instead rejoice and sing a song of thanksgiving. The spirits may have seemed harsh in the physical realm but they just gave you a gift. Say thank you and watch for a cardinal to come to you soon.

  10. Last Sunday I was getting out of the shower. There is a small window in my bathroom and outside the window is a small spindly tree. I live right downtown in a big city. I saw a female cardinal come onto a branch. And then another and another and another until there were eight cardinals. Some made eye contact. It was the most exciting animal moment of my life. I knew there was a message. I’m not sure what. And then, one by one by one they flew off. A moment later one red male soared across the sky. Incredible. I truly felt as though they had come for me.

    1. Hi Susan, thank you for sharing your cardinal story. I would pay attention to the number 12. Since it was mostly female cardinals who grabbed your attention I feel they were reminding you that you are important (perhaps you haven’t been feeling that lately). Pay attention to your female intuition.


    1. Typically, the visitor from the other side will be a bright red cardinal but my Mom comes to me as a sparrow so it is not a hard set rule. The robin is a sign of new growth so it would make sense that your Mom might visit you as a robin instead of the cardinal. I believe it is your Mom and here is why: both your sister and you seem drawn to this robin when it visits. I am sure she is proud of you and she lets you know each time she visits.

  12. In March of 2016 I had a visit from a Cardinal. It came to my bedroom window on the east side of my house. It would fly at the window and peck repeatedly almost frantically. I would move to the kitchen on the south side of house to get away from it and there would be there cardinal flying at and pecking at my back door. This would go on for 30 to 45 minutes. It happened day after day for about a week. Then my best friends mom passed away and the cardinal stopped visiting. About three weeks later once again my cardinal visitor returned in the same manner as before. It kept visiting me off and on until my husband and I moved in June from Kansas to Oklahoma. The following January 2017 my husband passed away pretty unexpectedly with a bacteria in his blood that attached to his artificial heart valve. Once again in July of 2017 I began seeing a flood of cardinals on the north side of my house. In August 7 months to the day my husband passed my mom passed away. Cardinals gone again.

  13. Today I was in my living room and heard a thump against the window. I went outside to see if it had been a bird and found a bird upside down in one of my boots that was under the window. It was still alive so I gently got him out of my boot and held him in my hands. He chirped loudly for a few minutes and then stopped. I thought he was perhaps injured and dying but I continued to hold him in my hands and talk softly to him. I took him inside and noticed his eyes were open and he could move his head ok. I gave him a drop of wAter which after a minute he swallowed and kept watching me. I felt him move his wings so I took him outside and sat down with him still in my hands. I opened my hands with him close to the ground so he could move away if he chose. He continued to sit in my open hands grasping my fingers and cocked his head to watch me closely. Then suddenly he chirped and flew off to a nearby tree where he sat watching me for a few more minutes. It felt very special to hold him there seemed to be a connection with him. A few days ago after some prayers I noticed a tree close by was full of cardinals. Wondering if there is anything significant about this encounter today with the one I was able to help.

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