Tag Archives: Loved One

Cardinal for a loved one

BACKGROUND: My informant, MP, was born in the US but as a child, MP traveled with her parents all over South America. Her parents share an Irish heritage and the following piece is one belief that was passed down from her parents to her.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation I had with MP about her family’s beliefs.

MP: Also, I grew up being told by my parents that if you see a cardinal, it’s like a sign from a loved one who has passed.

Me: Do you know why a cardinal?

MP: I think it’s supposed to be that the cardinal carries [the deceased’s] spirit or something.

THOUGHTS: I think in many cultures there is either a resounding fear or acceptance of the dead. In this case, I feel like MP’s community is more accepting of the dead. Where the appearance of the dead in other forms may be unsettling to some, in this case, it seems like something that brings comfort to the deceased’s family. I think part of that is the form in which the deceased is returning. I definitely think a cardinal — a pretty peaceful bird — may be less threatening than a decomposing phantom.

Signs from the Dead

My informant for this piece of folklore was recalling a time shortly after her father had died over two years ago. My informant, now 54, discussed with me a charm that she spotted that brought a sort of closure to his death. She told me that outside of her home window, just a week after her father’s death, she saw a Western Meadowlark, Oregon’s state bird, flying in her backyard.

My informant says that this specific bird seen incredibly rarely, and that she had never seen one before in her life, despite living in Oregon for over 40 years. Many cultures, my informant says, “believe that the dead send messages to their loved ones in a form that they are likely to recognize as a sign that they are on their journey and that all is well”. She says that her father loved birds, and throughout his life always had a birdfeeder in his backyard. She says that she and her only sister had grown up with a love of birds because of this, and shared a deep connection with their father on this topic.

“It must have been more than just a coincidence to have one of these rare birds even be spotted outside our home, let alone hang around for almost an hour flying in our yard for my family and I to see”, she said. Even more amazingly, her sister, who lives about an hour away, and is an “amateur birder”, had the same experience just a day later! My informant remembers being in awe when she spoke to her sister and they realized that they had both had the same experience with these birds. “What are the random chances of that?” asked my informant. “It must have been dad”.

She said that both her sister and her found that a sign from their father in the form of a meadowlark was “so appropriate” and that they believe that this was a sign sent down from him as a form of parting words or symbols.

My informant’s take on this occurrence was also grounded in reality, as well. “An openness to messages and miracles from beyond reveals some pretty comforting, awe inspiring experiences”, she said. It’s a way of comfort and of closure.

I agree with my informant in this case- the rarity of such an event, especially happening to both her and her sister, points to something supernatural occurring here. I believe that this folklore, of signs sent back from the deceased, likely dates back very far, possibly to the Native Americans and beyond, like my informant said. It is a way for those still living to find comfort in knowing that their loved one is safe in whatever new life they are leading now, depending on the beliefs of those who still live. I thought that this is a pretty phenomenal piece of folklore and example of it in action, and that it is important to share and archive for the future.