Cardinal Symbolism

Symbolism of Cardinal in Literature

Cardinal, as symbolism in literature, are distinctly known for their bright red beak and vibrant color. Cardinal birds are also considered emotionally uplifting birds and divine messengers in Catholicism. Cardinals are also used in literature as symbols of love and loyalty. According to Hinduism, the cardinals are connected to the root chakra, which is commonly associated with Yoga, while blue jay is a symbol of the throat chakra. The word ‘cardinal’ is derived from the Latin word ‘cardinalis’, which is a noun used to address the head of the Roman church who wore bright red robes.


Native Americans, especially Cherokees, believed cardinals were daughters of the sun, and that the bird could predict the weather. Thus, symbolizing cardinals are weather messengers. Northern cardinals are also called redbirds and carry both good and bad news. Ancient Greeks symbolize the cardinal as a symbol of the sun god, Apollo. In Roman mythology, the cardinal is represented as a messenger of Jupiter. In pop culture, cardinal birds are the reincarnated souls of loved ones or family members who passed away. In Christianity, cardinals are represented as messengers from heaven and carry words of love at difficult times.


If a female cardinal comes in a dream, it symbolizes the new arrival in his or her life. Dreaming about the pair of cardinals is a symbol of working together on a significant event. If a person dreams of red feathered cardinals, it symbolizes critical situations at work or career. The brown cardinal in a dream is a symbol of upcoming happiness or a new beginning. A dead cardinal in a dream could symbolize warning or impending sadness in life. According to numerology based on ancient Greek culture, the cardinal dream is a symbol of power. Also, ancient Greeks considered cardinals as a symbol of harvest if he or she saw it in a dream. In Ancient Egyptian culture, dreaming of a cardinal symbolizes receiving a message from god. Native Americans believe dreaming of the cardinal is a sign of protection and guidance. In Christianity, a cardinal in a dream gives hope and a message of divine comfort. Ancient Romans believed that dreaming of a cardinal represented good luck and success.


In ancient Greek mythology, the cardinals symbolized phoenixes and associated the birds with the sun. Native Americans and Cherokee tribes believed that a cardinal was a sign of good luck; also, per the mythology in all the tribes, cardinals also represent a blessing or a message from god. In the United States, Canada, and Mexico cardinal is a symbol of love and loyalty. In Celtic mythology, cardinals symbolize a supernatural power.


Cardinal symbolizes wisdom as well as good luck, love, power, and wealth in all popular cultures. In Buddhism, the cardinal is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Native Americans also believe the red cardinal is a symbol of wisdom and good fortune.


Cardinal is a symbol of passion and boldness attributed to its looks and resilient wild nature. The red cardinal is a symbol of feminine energy in both man’s and woman’s life and also represents love and passion in life. In Roman Catholic belief, cardinals are associated with the heart of Jesus and symbolize god’s love and passion for humankind. Cardinals are symbols of romantic partnership associated with the color red is used worldwide to celebrate valentine’s day, and the heart within the color red is a symbol of passion and love.

Good Luck

In South-eastern native tribes in America believe that the cardinal symbolizes good luck. The Celtic culture considers the red cardinal as a symbol of good luck. In China, a cardinal is a symbol of good luck, and they are used in artwork, and decorative items, including sculptures. Native Americans associated the number 12 with good luck because cardinal nests usually contain 12 eggs. Additionally, among tribes in the American southwest’s folklore, seeing a cardinal will bring him or her good luck within 12 days. If a person sees a cardinal in their dreams, during meditation, or around them, it is considered as a symbol of good luck. The Pima tribe from southern Arizona, chihuahua and Sonora believe that the cardinal is a symbol of good luck and can predict rain, as they are also associated with thunder and lightning.

Red Cardinal

The cardinal is native to North America, mostly seen in red color, and is a symbol of fire which is one of the four elements. Red cardinal also symbolizes power because of its brave nature and handling challenges in the wild. Red cardinals also represent loyalty, friendship, guidance as well as healing when seen by other people. In eastern traditions, the red cardinal symbolizes transformation in life, relationship, or place. According to the Celtic culture, a red cardinal is also a symbol of good luck. Dreaming of Red cardinal is meant to bring feminine or maternal energy. Native Americans believe that if a red cardinal crosses a person’s path, it is a symbol of luck he or she can encounter on that day. The Greeks and the Cherokee associated the red cardinal with the sun. Thus, according to the ancient Greek and Cherokee traditions, red cardinals also symbolize good omen.

Grey Cardinal

Grey cardinals are also known as desert cardinals. In American culture, grey cardinals are symbols of adviser as they are not as boldly visible as red cardinals. Grey cardinals also symbolize power and authority.

Examples of Cardinal as Symbolism in Literature

Example #1

The Cardinal By Henry Carlile

Not to conform to any other color
is the secret of being colorful.

He shocks us when he flies
like a red verb over the snow.

He sifts through the blue evenings
to his roost.

He is turning purple.
Soon he’ll be black.

In the bar’s dark I think of him.
There are no cardinals here.

Only a woman in a red dress.

The above example compares a woman in a red dress with a red cardinal. Here, the cardinal symbolizes beauty and grace.

Example #2

Confession of a Bird Watcher By Chard Deniord

The windows are dressed in feathers where the birds have flown against
then fallen below into the flowers where their bodies lie grounded, still,
slowly disappearing each day until all that is left are their narrow,
prehensile bones.
I have sat at my window now for years and watched a hundred birds
mistake the glass for air and break their necks, wondering what to do,
how else to live among them and keep my view.
Not to mention the sight of them at the feeder in the morning,
especially the cardinal in snow.

In this poem, the poet is describing the cardinals resting and eating at the bird feeder. Among all the birds that visit his home, the poet is most taken by cardinals, especially during the winter season. Here, the cardinal is a symbol of wonder and beauty.

Example #3

Cardinals By John Jackson

She is brown and rose, like pears in October;
He is red as any ribbon on a wreath.
She provides, is practical and sober;
He is ceremony without belief.

Where she stays she vanishes, so when she sings
It comes at once from nowhere and all sides.
He is the source and center of everything
(The one bird all of us can recognize).

Suppose you had to describe her; a song addressed
From out of the ground or middle of a tree;
Feathers several colors in one breath
(More subtle than her mate could ever be).

The poet is describing a pair of cardinals, perhaps a couple in the same nest. He expresses the differences between them, especially the male cardinal’s beauty and strength and the female cardinal’s gentleness and practical nature. Here the cardinals are symbols of patience, love, strength, beauty, and gentleness.

Example #4

The Cardinal By Howard Moss

With summer eggs the birds repeat themselves:
Nest-building territories, wars of air,
Unnder the eaves another nursery
Of pipes and whinneys, of voiced demands.
One night a cardinal let go with song
Standing on a tree for long, red minutes,
And singing its heart out (so we thought) its red
More plush with every breath, with every change
Of light, the summer evening coming on
Before it silently flew into the trees

In this example, the poet uses cardinal seasonal routine and habit while using ‘red’ as hyperbolical replacements and symbolism for time, love, and life.

Example #5

Sacred Wandering: Growing Your Faith In The Dark By Dana Arcuri

“As we grow our faith, we wait in silence. As we listen for His voice, we have hope that He will speak. It may not be a loud boom or thunder, but a soft whisper. He may use a song, a butterfly, a sermon, a stranger, or even a red cardinal, but there is hope that God will come through for us.”

Here the author chooses pleasant things, including a red cardinal that God can use to give people some calm and hope. Cardinals, in this example, symbolize hope and messenger.

Example #6

Sentimental Journey By Holly Schindler

Cardinals appear when angels are near. Did anyone today even remember the old bit of folklore? Or did everyone scoot around it, avoiding such a sweet idea in the same manner they avoided stepping in potholes?

In this example, cardinals symbolize messengers or divine, as the author reminds us about folklore from Native American mythology about a cardinal’s presence if the angels are near a person.