Claiming my Cardinal

I’m becoming increasingly interested in spirit guides, animal guides and totems.  If one can claim an animal spirit guide or totem, I think I’m ready to claim mine, or at least accept that mine has claimed me. This has a lot of back story.  When my great-grandmother used to sit in her rocking chair, brought over from Sao Miguel in the Azores, and looked out over Uncle Manny’s magnificent garden at Tia Lilly’s house she would tell people she wanted to come back as a cardinal when she died because it was her favorite bird.

Soon after her death, as the family legend has it, cardinals appeared with regularity in my grandmother’s yard across town.  I included this piece of family folklore in a song I wrote about the old family homestead, “Mattapoisett”:

When I was a child, summers by the sea

Lazy beach, hazy days, a cardinal in the garden.

Mattapoisett (click to play MP3)

I wrote this song while I was still in high school. And then… then…


Over the years the cardinal kept showing up.  There it was at Divinity School graduation, in the backyard of my house in Massachusetts, and when I bought a house in Texas, there’s a cardinal on the bush in the front yard.  I’d  be driving in the car, having an argument with my wife on the phone and a cardinal flies across the car, right in front of the windshield.  Last week in Salt Lake City for General Assembly, I went for a morning walk the first day in town and as soon as I turned off the main street, a cardinal flies across my path.  Saturday, just after we had finished Colonel John Ray’s memorial service, I was standing on the lawn facing out looking at the ocean and cardinal flies across the lawn and alights on a tree across the lawn, looking right at me.  Coincidences?  Perhaps. Yet, I’ve grown accustomed to these types of encounters with cardinals over the years.  I now expect them to happen.  Maybe I notice them more often because I now look for them. Maybe there’s a bit of post hoc ergo propter hoc going on, but…

Maybe the mystic is about seeing the meaning beyond the coincidence.  I’m ready to claim my cardinal.   I’ve begun researching the symbolism and meaning behind the cardinal as a spirit guide and totem and it fits well enough,  even though there seems to be a bit of  horoscope syndrome to some of it. I’ve looked at some of the other bird totems and they don’t describe me at all (not at all).

Cardinal Wisdom Includes (

* Courtship
* Fatherhood.
* Understanding the power of the wind.
* Finding your soul song.
* Renewed Vitality through Recognizing Self-Importance.
* Cycle of Power: Year-Round (often with rythm of 12-hours, days, months, and years).

from the book Animal Speak by Ted Andrews:

“These birds are named for the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, with their bright red robes. If it is your totem, it may reflect past-life connections with the church, or even a reviving of more traditional religious beliefs, regardless of denomination.

Cardinals brighten the environment. They catch the eye and add color to our lives.”

I’ve found the following in a lot of places, but can’t seem to find the original source. Again, the horoscope syndrome may be at play, but I think all this is spot on as it relates to my life, whereas  other animal guides or totems certainly do not correspond to me and my life.  Ah, the life of the mystical…

The Cardinal

The cardinal is a power packed bird that transforms and awakens us.  Its color and its voice are its two strongest characteristics.  It is a member of the finch family and is often recognized by its brilliant red color.

The eggs laid by the female hatch in about twelve days.  This, along with the cardinal being a year round resident, reflects the rhythm of the number twelve.  The number twelve often has important significance for those with this totem.  It can indicate a turn of events or a life changing situation.  When the cardinal flies into your life expect a change to occur within 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months or at the hour of 12.  Because this bird is a year round resident its medicine is available at all times and should be used by those with this totem whenever a need arises.

Cardinals have a loud whistle,  Whistles penetrate the air with sharp distinct tones.  They demand our attention urging us to hear what is carried through the air.  Both male and female cardinals join in the whistling.  This reflects the need to integrate our male and female characteristics into our day to day life.  Feminine energy is linked to intuition.  Male energy is linked to perseverance.  If both are operating within our life our intuitive knowledge has the perseverance and strength necessary to manifest our goals and dreams.

Cardinals eat many decaying weeds and injurious insects.  When a cardinal appears in your life it is telling you to pay attention to your eating habits.  Are you eating things that might be injurious to your health?  Is your diet nutritionally balanced?  Extra care should be given to the blood and circulatory system.  Past life ties to overindulgence or the consumption of poisonous substances is often linked to cardinal medicine people.

The bright red color of the cardinal is very symbolic.  Red represents the blood or life force of the Mystic Christ.  In yoga circles this vital force is known as the kundalini.  The kundalini lies dormant within us until activated by a disciplined spiritual practice.  Once activated spiritual power can be attained.  The cardinal offers safe passage into the world of personal power for those who ask for its help.

When a person with cardinal medicine steps onto a spiritual path there will be no turning back.  Everything else in their life will seem insignificant.  Extra care must be taken here to insure personal happiness, particularly in the area of one to one relationships.  Balancing spiritual ideals and physical pleasure will need to be instated in ones life so harmony on all levels is known.

Cardinals are named for the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church with their bright red robes.  A great love or a strong dislike for religion and churches is common amongst cardinal medicine people and can indicate a past life connection with one or both.

The cardinals voice is strong and clear and reflects an air of importance.  This power packed bird can teach you how to express your truth, develop confidence and walk you talk.  If you respect its teachings it will lead you home.

2 thoughts on “Claiming my Cardinal

  1. I have an interesting ancestry with possible Mayan as well as Native American Cherokee. To hear your spirit you must open your eye(some refer to this as third eye) but essentially it means seeing beyond the obvious, the hidden. When there are deep questions I am asking my soul, it produces them in the world through spirit(usually animal signs but sometimes there are other ways that spirit shows me what could be done. The cardinal appeard in my life at a time of strife, sickness, anxiety. I understand your words the cardinal is a very powerful totem you are lucky to be blessed with its energy.

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