What Is the Spiritual Meaning of the Red Cardinal Bird?

Cardinal FMNelly/Pixabay

The red cardinal has many symbolic meanings to people of different cultures and faiths. In Christianity, for example, it may represent the fire and vitality of the holy spirit as well as the blood of Christ. It can also represent hope and restoration, providing people who are down on their luck motivated so that they don’t give up hope. Some Christians even believe that a cardinal sighting is a message from God or a loved one who has died. Despite these beliefs, cardinals aren’t mentioned in the Christian Bible.

Cardinals and Relationships  

Male and female cardinals typically have strong relationships and often mate for life. The males woo the females by bringing them seeds and feeding it to them, a move some say looks like the birds are kissing. They live in the same areas their entire lives and raise their chicks as a family unit. For this reason, some people believe that cardinals bring good luck to a person’s relationship and home life. They may also represent security and happiness to some.  

Cardinals and Death of a Loved One 

Even beyond the Christian faith, some people believe the cardinal is a messenger from a deceased loved one. For these people, a sighting is a sign that the loved one who has passed on is thinking about them or sending them a message. Alternatively, some people believe that if a cardinal smacks into their windows, it’s a sign that someone they know will die soon. 

Cherokee Culture 

Red cardinals were important to many Native American cultures, including the Cherokee. They believed the red bird was the daughter of the sun and associated it with their own creation stories. For the Cherokee, seeing a red cardinal flying towards the sun is a sign of good luck. 

Choctaw Culture 

The Choctaw people believed that a cardinal was a symbol for changes in relationships. If you were in a relationship that wasn’t working out, a cardinal was a sign that it was time to make some changes. If you were single, a cardinal was a sign that you wouldn’t be single for much longer. 

Other Native American Cultures 

Other Native American cultures had their own beliefs regarding the red birds. They believed the birds offered them protection from everything from illnesses to enemies. Some believed cardinals predicted the weather, even though the birds are nonmigratory.  

Cardinals and Catholicism 

While people of the Catholic faith do not have a direct relationship to cardinals or their symbolism, Catholicism is where these red birds got their names. Colonists saw the birds and felt their red feathers reminded them of the red robes worn by Catholic Cardinals. Others have called the birds redbirds, crested redbirds, Virginia nightingales, and red blue jays. 

Cardinals as State Birds 

Cardinals are so popular in the United States that many states have named the northern cardinal the official state bird. They include Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina. 

Cardinals as Sports Teams 

Cardinals have even become mascots for many professional and college sports teams in the U.S. Major League Baseball has the St. Louis Cardinals while the National Football League has the Arizona Cardinals (formerly of both Chicago and St. Louis). Some colleges that have adopted the bird as their mascots include Ball State University, Wesleyan University, Lamar University, the University of Louisville, and Concordia University.