What Does It Mean When You See A Red Cardinal? Symbolism & Spiritual Meaning Explained

Photo: Jeff Caverly / Shutterstock
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You're walking in real life or are in a dream when suddenly a red bird flies by. You see a red cardinal.

Is there a spiritual symbolism and meaning behind seeing a red cardinal?

Cardinals are very special songbirds native to North America. Cardinal birds are also found in woody areas of Canada and Mexico in the Southern borders. Their bright colors and physical appearance catch attention immediately; in fact, it's hard not to be amazed at their vibrant red coloring.

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What does it mean when you see a red cardinal?

The cardinal presence is believed to symbolize something in your life. See a cardinal might cause you to wonder how seeing this bird can be significant to you.

Understanding what cardinals symbolize gives you a good sense of what to expect if you see one in person. But to do this, you must first be able to identify them from other birds.

Cardinals look very similar to robins but have a unique bright red color on its body. The colors of their feathers are bright vibrant red with black accents. Usually seen in woody forests, they occasionally are seen in neighborhoods, eating from bird feeders.

Cardinals are birds of the finch species, which means they are romantic yet fierce leaders. A red cardinal shows its love for its mate by singing songs that are very beautiful and charming to the ear.

The direct spiritual connection you feel when you see a cardinal comes from the natural instincts they exhibit. For example, cardinals wake up early in the morning to start their day. They look for food, find items to nest with and look for partners during mating season (plus, they are consistently avoiding predators).

These activities take a lot of energy, and the bird must be diligent and hardworking to live long enough to reproduce. We can take a page out of this bird's book by learning how to be diligent in everything we do. Many things in life can be challenging and scary sometimes, but it’s important to not give up because you will see the reward for it in the long run.

​Many people believe that seeing a cardinal means someone in your life wants to reconnect with you.

This is because the cardinal has a way of grabbing our attention with its presence. But do cardinals mean an angel is near in this sense? 

Some say that having or seeing a cardinal spirit animal is a visit from a loved one who might have crossed over. Therefore, seeing a cardinal can mean that an angel is near, or it can symbolize that your recently passed loved one is an angel now. 

Another interpretation is that someone in your life who is deceased, or someone you want to get back in touch with, is trying to contact you. The bird is a sign that your loved one is sending you a message through nature.

The symbolism behind seeing a cardinal has many different interpretations. But the most common are celebration, health, joy, and success.

Is seeing a cardinal a good sign?

In some cultures, cardinals are a sign of good luck. But another reoccurring interpretation of cardinal is a sense of external awakening.

The meaning of a cardinal appearing is related to something or someone in your life you haven’t given enough attention to, as they are spiritual messengers who send you this external awakening. You are reminded of this when you see certain symbols or sequences. 

Sometimes, life has a way of making us feel detached from reality. We spend a lot of our time chasing materialistic pleasures and forget about the most important aspect of life: feeding your soul. Nature has a great way of bringing people back to earth in a short period of time by being surrounded by animals, plants, and fresh air. 

Red Cardinal Symbolism

Cardinals represent balance in someone’s life. For example, adult cardinals have a very well-balanced family unit where one bird will find food and the other will watch their offspring. This dynamic helps ensure their offspring’s growth and survival in the wild.

Balance in the context of our life is a major component in our growth and stability. Examples of this could be anger versus joy, work versus play, diet versus indulge, and so on. Take some time to think of the best place where you can implement balance in your life.

The cardinal is also a symbol of confidence. Male cardinals have a special song they sing to attract female cardinals during mating season. They must be very loud and confident to get attention from other birds.

In the animal kingdom, the animal that comes out on top is less likely to die before reproducing. This can be applied to us through the importance of confidence. This doesn’t mean we need to be loud or arrogant to get our point across; rather, confidence is when you are comfortable with who you are and your capabilities.

When you enter any situation with a confident attitude, you’ve already won half of the fight because success is all in our heads.

Photo: Jeff Caverly / Shutterstock

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Cardinals also represent a change in season. During the wintertime, cardinals are most active. In the winter, most plants and vegetation die as the floor begins to fill with snow and ice. 

Despite this, the cardinal stands out in the middle of the snow with its bright and vibrant colors. This can represent the idea of not allowing environmental factors to stop you from doing your everyday tasks.

Red Cardinal Spirit Animal 

Spirit animals are our guides in life who appear when we are in need of support, inspiration, or direction. In the process, they help us learn lessons along the way.

If you have a red cardinal spirit animal, a new relationship may be on the horizon or you need to learn a valuable lesson in your relationship. Cardinal spirit animals are meant to teach us about wisdom, strength, and how to find our voice.

A cardinal is a reminder to be true to yourself and recognize your own power, not letting your insecurities control you.

Red Cardinal Animal Totem

Totem animals are our spirit guides that stick with us through our entire lives, helping us discover our true self.

Cardinals are known for standing strong and tough through the hard change of the seasons, as they don't migrate in the winter. So, if you have a red cardinal totem, you can call upon it in tough situations when you're in need of strength or support.

People with a red cardinal animal totem are unique in whatever way they express themselves. Their personality, clothes, voice, song — you cannot take your eyes or ears off them.

If you identify with a cardinal as your animal totem, you have a strong sense of bravery, are always persistent and never give up. You have little patience for people who don't respect you and invade your territory. You enjoy the company of others and always bring in a positive attitude. 

Red Cardinal Power Animal

Power animals are the spiritual energy we turn to when we need advice, unlike spirit animals which guide us towards positivity. Power animals stay with us throughout our lives and eventually help us see our hidden true selves.

Red cardinal power animals help give someone their inner strength in protection, confidence, vitality, or romance. For instance, someone who is afraid to ask out a person they like might call upon the strength and boldness of the cardinal to guide them.

Native American Red Cardinal Symbolism

According to Native American culture and legends, the red cardinal has very strong ties to native ancestors and are known as the messengers of the spirits. In Native American folklore, cardinals represent loving relationships, courtship, friendship, loyalty, and devotion.

Native Americans believed cardinals played a role in nature, but in a divided way. Some thought they were signals that rain would come, while others thought they were signs that the sun and good fortune would come.

If a single Native saw a cardinal, that meant love was in their future; if a married Native saw one, there would be a new spark of romance in their relationship. 

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The number 12 is also significant to Native American culture and has a close relationship to the red cardinal. The cardinal almost always lays 12 eggs, and the Native Americans associate the cardinals with the number 12 because of that, as well as the fact that they are seen throughout the 12 months of a year.

If you see a cardinal, it means good luck will come to you in a matter of 12 hours, days, months, or at either noon or midnight. 

Red Cardinals in Folklore

The red cardinal in folklore has close ties with the phoenix because both creatures have vibrant red colors. In Greek folklore, red cardinals were believed to be birds of the sun, and when they sang, everyone (even the sun) would stop and listen.

The Cherokee Indians also believed in cardinals as birds of the sun, and one story told the tale of the first red bird being the sun's daughter. 

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Biblical Red Cardinal Symbolism

Cardinals are a highly regarded symbol in the biblical sense, as high officials of the Catholic Church are named cardinals who wear bright red robes to resemble the bright-colored red feathers of the cardinal. The cardinal also is said to represent the blood of Christ and possibly past ancestors. 

A cardinal is a sign from God that shows what we need and want. And if you should seek the kingdom above, all of that you want will be provided to you. 

Japanese & Chinese Red Cardinal Symbolism

Both in China and Japan, the red cardinal has a spiritual and magical presence. A red cardinal is seen as a red bird related to the mythical phoenix, which represents fidelity, rebirth, transformation, and integrity.

The red bird represents good fortune, new horizons, and that an end is coming, which could mean an end to war, the end of an era, or the reign of a new ruler or emperor. China, specifically, considers this red bird as a guard who defends and protects, standing watch to warn of any evil on the horizon. 

What does it mean when you see a cardinal in your dreams? There are a few common interpretations.

Red Cardinal Symbolism in Dreams

1. You need to let your true self shine.

If you see a cardinal in your dream, you aren't being true to yourself. A cardinal is confident and strong and doesn't care what others think because they radiate confidence and boldness.

If you're pretending to be someone you aren't or are hiding from who you are inside, it's time to come out of the shadow and shine in the bright light that you naturally have.

2. You have something big weighing on you that needs to be finished.

You might have a big project or an overarching dream you haven't been able to fully dedicate yourself to because you're either overthinking, having a difficult time, or not dedicating yourself to it.

Whatever it is, seeing a red cardinal is a signal to push through and finish it, because then the small things will seem easier to finish.

3. Something good is coming.

Another red cardinal meaning is that there is something positive in the future. Pay attention to all the little things in your life to see if anything has changed for the better. It might even shock you as something you weren't expecting.

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Maatie Kalokoh is a writer and former contributor to YourTango who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.