North Symbolism & Meaning

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Cardinal Directions:
North Symbolism & Meaning

We complete our journey around the circle of directions in the North. This is a point of culmination and fulfillment. In human symbolism it represents mature wisdom, insight and keen mindedness. This is the space in which your past lives can begin releasing the lessons into your consciousness. 

The season on the Wheel of the Year is now winter, and the most powerful time of day – midnight. North brings us into our later years. From the final edge of our great adventure we find the Ancestor and Guides awaiting us. They are the gate-keepers for the time-not-time where angelic beings dwell. 

North represents a moment of serious contemplation where the lessons we’ve learned truly integrate. We become shining lights, beaming with spirituality and well-being. North also represents the in-between times and our afterlife in the Astral realm. Where you have been busy nonstop through the other three directions here is the place to stop, be quiet and listen to the Divine’s voice. 

North as the season of Winter speaks of frugality. We must use our resources wisely to remain healthy until East comes once more. Where West taught us about clear vison, North challenges us to live our truth inspired by that vision. Be honest with yourself; know your limits. Do your best and you will naturally find yourself surrounded by other seekers doing likewise. In this tribe of luminous souls resides the seat of power and magic. 

Etymology of ‘North’:
In Old German “nord” indicated a direction, mainly left (north is to your left when you face the rising sun). The Meso-American word for North was quite simply “up”. In the Marshal Islands the word for North has to do with weather, and translates as season of the winds.

Buffalo: Animal of The North

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Buffalo is the Totem Animal for the Northern quarter of creation. This Animal Spirit energizes our ties to “all-our-relations”. The Buffalo’s message is one of daily thankfulness and remembering that we walk on sacred ground even in the concrete jungle.

Buffalo is a humble animal. He embodies strength of character and isn’t afraid to take the “long road” if it makes a difference in quality living. Buffalo also symbolizes providence and abundance. When we approach our life with gratitude, our needs will be met.

Those who walk with Buffalo Spirit have an abiding connection with Mother Earth. These people are living examples of living respectfully and not taking our bounty for granted. Blessings come in many forms and Buffalo Spirit shows us how to SEE them.
In speaking of Buffalo we should recount the story of White Buffalo Woman who appeared to Native Americans long ago, teaching the ways of agriculture. In so doing, she also imparted a wise lesson: that our presence impacts everything in life’s network. To this day a White Buffalo is considered sacred and, if seen in real life, a vision or a dream is a very auspicious omen.

North and The Earth Element

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The Element of Earth is a bit more expansive for discussion because there is the “elemental” aspect and also Earth (the planet) to consider. Among the Aborigines its felt that no human owns the land – rather the land “owns” us. This creates an interconnected relationship similar to what we see in Native American culture. The Land… the Earth are part of each Aborigine’s sense of self.

The Native American symbol for earth is a circle with a cross. This not only represents our “home” but also the first four tribes of mankind (red, white, yellow and black). Metaphysically, The Earth Element has strong centering and grounding energies. If you are ever feeling flighty, get outside in bare feet and reconnect. The symbolism of the Earth Element connects with life’s cycles, physicality and material needs.

In working with the Earth Element on a spiritual level things can get very personal. Earth is part of you, down to your cellular level. You can use black or brown candles to represent the Earth Element on your altar along with salt, tree bark, rich soil and fossils. Decorate parts of your sacred space with sacred stones housing strong Earth Element vibrations like Agate, Hematite, Jet, Onyx, Black Tourmaline and Obsidian. 

North and Healing Crystals

Speaking of stones, two important healing crystals associated with the cardinal direction North are Malachite and Moonstone. Malachite is a growth-oriented stone. The energy here is all about your spiritual development while creating firm foundations for your beliefs and practices.

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Light Workers sum up Malachite as a stone of change. Working with this stone regularly acts as a metaphysical makeover. If you have been stuck with old ideas and patterns, Malachite helps get you going forward again. The additional benefit here is that Malachite heals your heart and rebalances your chakras. The past creates the present, but we don’t have to cling to it in order to learn those lessons. It’s time to be brave, watchful and start renewing.

Those who suffer with regular bouts of the blues would do well to carry Malachite with them. This helps keeps your emotions in balance. Just remember to cleanse your stone regularly since it will gather toxic vibrations around you, transmuting them into neutral form.

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Moonstone speaks to us of our soul’s contract on this planet. This is a ‘fate’ stone, tied to the on-going cycles of time. As a spiritual crystal, Moonstone puts us back in touch with the Sacred Feminine and our own sensual nature. When you feel uncertain, the nurturing nature of Moonstone clears away those doubts.

On a moment-to-moment basic, Moonstone reminds us that going with the flow can be very useful sometimes. It resonates with the Heart Chakra, which is why some consider it a symbol of love, including the love we should direct to ourselves. As a charm, Moonstone inspires creativity and makes us more aware of the wonderful potentials available to us.

The Spirit of Beauty resides in this healing stone’s matrix. There is something whimsical about Moonstone. It reawakens that part of us that isn’t afraid to reach for the moon, the stars and even beyond.

Native American Symbolism and Meaning for North

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In Native American tradition, specifically the Lakota tribe, North is a bitter, harsh direction that bring the cold and the winds of purification. The autumn leaves have returned to the Earth. The land wraps itself in a blanket of snow. The North represents difficult times for the Tribe through which they learn survival and fortitude.

In the Native American Zodiac three animals come under the domain of Earth, namely Ox, Sheep, and Dog. The Ox is a highly dependable creature with great strength and honor. They love family and country and relatively traditional ideas of life.

Sheep are people who like consistency. Rapid change results in confusion and frustration. These individuals have “best laid plans” that fit together like a puzzle. Organizational skills play into this of course. While kind and trustworthy, Sheep hesitates to let someone into their inner circle.

Dog is loyal, responsible and honest. This person speaks from the hip. Dog can be stubborn in protesting a friend’s fate. Dog laps up justice and duty. They stick with one job that they perform very well. In relationships, a dog will never cheat.
Besides the Earth animals, North has three Animal signs in the Zodiac associated with it. Snake (October 23 – November 22) is traditionally the sign of shamans. People born during this time have an eerie understanding of all things spiritual, including beings that can’t be seen with “normal” vision. Snake likes an air of mystery so he will often seem secretive. Nonetheless with the right partner Snake blossoms in love, passion and joix di vie.

Owl spirit (November 23 – December 21) flies with the changing winds. People with this totem are very laid back and friendly. In social situations they like to hit the ground running, particularly if an adventure is afoot. In positive environments Owl is versatile, creative, energetic and intuitive to all in their life circle.

Lastly, we have the loose as a Goose sign (December 22 – January 19). Goose has high goals and intends fully to achieve them. Goose can become so driven as to become an enemy of their own success. Goose is very good in highly driven business situations and they make good competitors. In relationships Goose people show passion, humor and sensuality. The only caution for Goose is not becoming too possessive or obsessive.

The Direction of North in Divination

When used as a holding point in various divination system, North can represent a holding time like the Earth in Winter. Things come to a stand-still superficially but if you dig a little deeper there’s a lot of healthy change happening. Shamans know that stopping and “holding space” are sometimes very necessary for refining our perspectives. Effectively North reminds us that there is a season for everything. Living in harmony with that Wheel is what leads to spiritual awakening.

Celtic Symbolism and Meaning for North

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The Celts regarded North as symbolizing wisdom, the warrior and the elder. The Owl resides here watching closely beneath the winter star. Historians believe that the Celts used the North Star to guide them in positioning the standing stones. 

The Celtic Animal Zodiac ascribes three signs to the North. First is the White Hound (October 28 – November 24). As with Dog spirit, Hound is loyal to the end. Hounds have great vision. You cannot hide anything from someone born under the Hound. As a spirit animal, Hound loves encouraging teachers and healers, providing them guidance for moving forward in their field. Hound medicine is old fashioned good advice.  People born under this sign are very gifted psychically and make great diplomats. 

Second is the Black Horse (interesting color dichotomy here). From November 25-December 23 the horse presages through the heavens as a commanding leader. In Celtic tradition Horse people have never-ending endurance and love competition. The best career direction for the Horse is anything that engages sportsmanlike rivalry. 

Third we come to the stately stag (December 24 – January 20). This is a heavily Earth sign, and one that fights environmental causes diligently. Those bearing a Stag totem are smart. They can truly think on their hooves. This quick thought process translates into speedy action with great technical skill. That is why many Stags find themselves in engineering or medical science. 

Astrology & the Direction of North

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In Western Astrology the signs of Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo align with Earth energies. Of these three we can explore Capricorn and Taurus for animal symbolism. People born under earth signs are Velveteen Rabbit real. They always have one foot on the ground, and instinctively know how to create a solid cornerstone for any endeavor.

Earth signs are cozy and welcoming. They make any space feel homey. Friend of Earth Signs know them to be loyal and very practical. The struggle with Earth signs is a strong focus on money that can turn into materialism.

Certainly Earth is constant, but it also offers great growth opportunities. Earth people inspire wonderful new things and usually stick around to see the finished results.

Capricorn, the Goat, is not one to seek out a lot of attention. They would rather work quietly in the background melting into a group with no one being wiser. Goat can take criticism well and will endeavor to earn respect through honorable intention. Goat spirit will never be unruly or reckless. Those aren’t even words in Capricorn’s vocabulary. In business, Goat prefers to work alone. If asked an opinion Goat will ether duck the question or give you a VERY honest answer. 

By comparison Taurus the Bull is the strong silent type. Bull measures people up, and if you start talking with him, you’ll have a very engaging discussion. As the word “bullish” implies once Taurus makes up his mind, just give up. They are immovable. There is no anger in this. Every step of making a decision is carefully metered and control. Bull is a home body. He likes this space for contemplation. When you need a rock solid friend – call on a Bull. 

Cardinal Direction North in Chinese and Japanese Traditions

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The direction of North at. Feng Shui tells us that this is the quarter that influences creativity, socialization, adaptation and humor. It is also a very grounded direction, rooted in the physical plane. This means that North also symbolizes good physical health through diligent hygiene, rest and nutrition.

North is ascribed to the ultimate male energies of the universe in direct dichotomy with Western custom. That means that in Feng Shui this energy represents the male energy of the household, and if there is a man in the house, it represents him. 

This portion of the home represents the ability to produce wealth and income through the efforts and advancement of the breadwinner of the household. The northwest energies can also represent opportunity, the help of others who assist you in your life, and ability to advance in your life. If there isn’t a man in the home, this corner represents the male energies of the home.

The Chinese pictograph for North ties to the idea of back (as opposed to front). North is in the shadow opposite of fire and sun to the south. Light and shadow play heavily in Chinese symbolism. Specifically, they credit this dichotomy for teaching how to judge time.

In the Chinese Zodiac there are four animals associated with North and the Earth Element. We begin with the hardworking Bull or Ox who rarely, if ever, gives up. Those born under this zodiac sign are very focused on duality. Things are either good or bad with little in between. This may explain an avoidance of social fuss. Their opinions can become a very heated source of discussion.

Sheep people watch everything and remember it. On the home front, Sheep people are good providers who have a creative, patient nature. This translates in business as well as relationships. Having a Sheep person for a friend is awesome. They are loyal and responsible and always return fidelity with devotion.

Next in our Celestial Animal band we have Dragon who is bigger than life. Dragons are often highly gifted (and they know it). They also seem to have that lucky touch. No matter a Dragon’s lot in life, in his or her mind they are at the top somehow. This sense of perfection sometimes leads to inflexibility and overwhelming ego.

Dragon talks in grandiose ways, but its usually worth a listen. Being an ancient soul gives one some handy perspectives regarding pressing matters. As the grow into maturity Dragons often land in influential positions where their enthusiasm overflows.

There is a charm about Dragon that’s undeniable. They love the newest “pretty shiny” thing but are also willing to share of their abundance. Generally, this person has a successful career in nearly anything, but art certainly holds a special place in their heart.

Third is the graceful Goat who are perhaps the most inventive of all the Chinese Animal Signs. Goat people put “Miss Manners” to shame. This characteristic attracts many friends, but Goat still feels insecure. And for heaven’s sake don’t confront this person or they will worry for months.

Goat would prefer a life of leisure if possible but if that can’t happen they seek out stability and security. People born under the sign of the Goat have a natural attraction to occult and other esoteric matters. Just don’t expect then to be very savvy with getting things organized. They make up for this in sensitivity and just enough romance.

Finally we have the faithful Dog. Dog people like their animal counterpart love helping others. They will stand by you in thick or thin, listen actively and respond honestly. Their sense of duty and honor knows no bounds. If you need someone to keep your secret, tell it to a Dog person.

Sometimes Dog will bark, but usually out of alarm or fear. Give them a little reassurance, and that calms down. The other thing that sets Dog into a growl is injustice. It is not in their nature to stand by and do nothing, so be ready for that road trip.

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