South Symbolism & Meaning

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Cardinal Directions:
South Symbolism & Meaning

The Cardinal Direction of South embodies the Fire Element and solar energies. It’s the spark of life, intense or gentle heat, and illumination. Metaphysically we associate South with the season of Summer when the earth is abundant with blossoms and ripening fruits and vegetables. In agricultural times, this provided a moment of comfort – knowing that for now providence reigns.

In terms of human growth, South represents our middle childhood to teen aged years. This manifests with exuberant energy, playfulness, a sense of wonder, passion about simple things and growth. In the South we are fully alive and active in our life. This is a truly wonderful feeling. Trust in the South as the beginning of a concept that’s growing to fruition.  

Physically South offers strength; mentally it provides an ever-increasing sense of self-assurance. Emotionally it is the Cardinal Direction of love and the very heartbeat of the world. Conversely South can become anger or hate, two emotions that burn out of control. When you work through those feelings, you can tame the fire and enjoy the warm coals instead. 

In the Greco-Roman era there was a creature tied to the Southern flames called the Salamander. This dancing creature lives and dies by the fire. This Spirit has a very strong mind, intense passions and impressive convictions. Salamander creates with but a tiny spark. 

For some of the more unusual critters that come under the Southern Quarter’s dominion we have several insects for consideration. First it’s the Tardigrade (aka Water Bear or Moss Piglet). This tough bug endures heat upward of 300F degrees! They are often found living in hot springs. Conversely, they also like the cold, and live under the ice in the Himalaya. While the dichotomy may seem odd, think about how “hot” very cold ice feels in the hand. It can burn! By the way, scientists feel this little guy may be a perfect part of crews to outer space because of its endurance. 

Next is the Pompeii Worm who, as the name suggests, lives in the region of Pompeii. They abide under water near hydrothermal vents that are close to the temperature of water at full boil. The upper end of the worm’s heat tolerance is about 175F. 

Finally, we come to the Sahara Desert Ant. This land-loving ant can be found out foraging for food even when temperatures are above a balmy 122F. A neat feature in this ant is long legs. This protects its underbelly from the heat of desert sand, which is often ten degrees or higher than the atmospheric temperature. 

South Etymology
South comes from sunnon or suo both of which mean sun or direction of the sun in Old English. In Finland we find etela, which was “front” or the direction that the front of a home should face when built. In the Talmud the words for south meant dry, or path of day based on the arid temperatures in the south of Jerusalem.

Wolf: Animal of The South

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Wolf is the Totem Animal for the Cardinal Direction South. Understanding this complex Spirit takes a little time. For early people Wolf was fearsome, wandering together as predatorial teams. What we know now is that while they are certainly great hunters, they are also family-oriented creatures who seem to love play.

Wolves have a rather large array of howls that have specific meanings. So, Wolf energy can be a reminder to find and use whichever ‘voice’ you need at the moment.

The Wolf spirit reminds us that, like the sun in the South, we need to shine a light on certain people or situations to see what is truly real. What is it that we are not “seeing”? Are you really listening to your gut? Are you being vigilant?

People who walk with Wolf are true individuals who also know the value of tribe. Being wild and free does not have to mean loneliness. There are so many ways to connect in this world and Wolf is happy to show them to you.

If Wolf comes to you as an Animal Spirit Guide your life may be a little out of balance. Maybe you are being too defensive, or not defensive enough. You don’t always have to look for a fight, nor do you have to shrink back into the shadows. When you find your TRUE voice, speak up. Howl out your vision with joy.

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South and The Fire Element

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Fire is the element of South. From the time it was first discovered Fire has been one of the most important ingredients of life for communities. It was a gathering place that offered safety and sustenance. It became the “oven” and a spot to share stories and oral histories, and welcome friends and family. The Fire Element has been and continues to be sacred in spiritual practices – it represents the very heart of our “tribe”.

Smoke from a communal Fire was used by Shamans as a means of preparing ritual tools. It symbolized our prayers moving toward the heavens. It also represented the birth of new ideas (i.e. that “ah-ha” spark).

Any Fire must have sound building and nurturing, so it doesn’t burn out or rage out of control. In many tribes, specific people has the honor of keeping the Fire until its purpose was completed. It wasn’t uncommon for people to take a piece from their tribal source when moving to a new place, bringing all that important energy with it.

Metaphysically the Fire Element gave birth to the Universe. The Sun provided warmth and life. Overall this element represents energy, motion, our primal passions, power, bravery and our will. Fire’s season is summer.

In ritual, meditation or spell work, you can honor the Fire element by setting up your sacred space, so your main tools and decorative elements face the Southern Quarter. Candles make an excellent addition to your efforts in that they can be used as components in ritual/spells as well as a focal for the Fire energies embodied by South. Besides this consider mystical crystals aligned with the South/Fire (Amber, Carnelian, Fire Opal), altar covers in the colors of red or gold, and fiery incense (Cinnamon; Dragon’s Blood). 

South and Healing Crystals

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Two healing crystals tied to the south quarter are Carnelian & Red Coral. Carnelian is one of those stones with a wonderful warmth that feels like gentle sunlight on an Autumn morning. This is a healing stone for those who feel stuck or lacking in enough energy to finish what’s been started. The ancients trusted Carnelian to help them make brave and eloquent speeches, while warriors wore them as amulets. In the Middle Ages it was carried to safeguard the bearer from the plague.

Those involved in any type of “building” projects (be it literally like an architect, or figuratively like community building) would do well to work with Carnelian. That stone was made for you. When your motivation starts waning just use it like a worry stone. Carnelian also seems to attract good luck particularly with money and avert injuries with tools.

From a Healer’s standpoint, Carnelian may be used much like Bloodstone. Emotionally it lessens jealous tendencies and helps you re-evaluate the situation. Better still, Carnelian provides focus and a little more “reality” vs. wild guesses. In the aura, Carnelian vibrates with Sacral Chakra energy just above the pelvic bone.

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Red Coral is a healing stone that gives us the gift of coming to peace with the changes in life. It is a beautiful stone whose energy is hard to describe if you’ve never held a piece (warning there are a LOT of false products that claim to be Red Coral). If you look in the mirror and feel ugly or unworthy, Red Coral is your go-to stone. Let it restore self-love.

Those wishing for children can use Red Coral as a fertility charm. You may also use it to “birth” figurative children like a beloved project. Mentally it improves a happy perspective and creativity. Spiritually Carnelian reminds us that WE are sacred too.

Visit our sister-site to read all about the healing crystals and stones Carnelian & Red Coral.

Native American Symbolism and Meaning for South

Native American teachers tell us that South is a purifier that creates new opportunities. It is the region of the playful Coyote, pack-oriented Wolf, and fertile Rabbit. As with Western symbolism the Element here is Fire, the season is Summer, time of day Noon, and embodies the human stage of youth to teen. The vibrations of South are upbeat, encouraging and replete with passion. You can represent it in your sacred space as red or burnt orange. 

South is filled with light that chases any shadows away. It is the Summer of transformation and acceptance. South feels playful and somewhat emotional. There is still vulnerability here because we haven’t turned the Wheel of Time to adulthood. When the sun is at noon is perfect time to reflect on the South and its meaning to you personally. 

Similar to the Celts, Native Americans have an animal astrology system.

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South begins in the sign of Beaver (April 20-May 20). As a spirit animal Beaver says, “get down to business and play later”. Beaver medicine is all about efficiency and learning to adapt. People with the Beaver totem have sharp minds, compassionate hearts and seem always helpful. The only things that Beaver must watch are her words. Tact didn’t read well on Beaver’s DNA. 

We move on to the Stag (May 21 – June 20). Stag has a keen wit and mind. This creature is also quite the conversationalist. People born under the Stag as a result are “chatty Cathy’s”. You want to invite this person to social events, much to the delight of everyone. Deer people take pride in their appearance and seem to always have a knowing sparkle in their eyes. Deer spirit can be very helpful to young relationship or those that have become stale. 

Finally, for this Quarter of the Directions we have Woodpecker (June 21- July 21). Shamans tell us that Woodpecker is a nurturer, someone who has active listening skills and deep understanding. Woodpecker comes to people as a Spirit aid when they need support the most. Other lessons from this guide include romance, frugality, organization and devotion. 

The Direction of South in Divination

When used as a holding point in some divination methods, South represents actions. This may be those you’ve made, or are about to make. In talking about the past, South reminds you that burning bridges may not have been the best course of action. For the present, there is something about your choices that is very important to your future. Don’t rush this, but be aware that you do have to move soon.

Celtic Symbolism and Meaning for South

Celtic tradition associates the South with the symbolic values of inventiveness, energy, passions and the Element of Fire. One of the common animals to come under this Cardinal Direction is the Rooster. Rooster medicine is about being reliable, aware, brave and virile. The Cock/Rooster has ties to the Sun, particularly the dawn. In Celtic myths Rooster appears as a spirit of illumination. 

Other emblematic animals include the Boar, who is a fierce fighter. The Cow who is associated with the Goddess Brigit and the fairy realm. Fish that magically appear at sacred wells or springs and represent renewal or healing and Sheep who have the distinguishing history as being the symbol of Imbolc, sheep giving birth.  

Celtic tradition has an Animal Zodiac Signs system that we can refer to for more insight on the West.

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Visit our sister-site to discover and learn all about your Celtic Zodiac Sign.

There are three signs associated with the South:

From Celtic Tree Astrology comes the Sea-serpent (April 15-May 12). The Sea-serpent symbolizes renewal and growth. Those born under this sign are people with the ability to unify groups. Additionally, they make excellent healers be it body, mind, or soul. Sea-Serpent is seductive and eye-catching. But for all that external beauty remember that Sea-Serpent will fight when the need arises. If Sea-Serpent swims into your life as a fantasy Spirit Animal, it bears a message that you need to coalesce some part of your life into a harmonic whole. 

Next (standard Celtic Zodiac) is the Fox (May 13-June 9). These mischievous creatures are very smart and shrewd. They are known for loving a good adventure that ends with a similarly good story. People born under this sign are very exciting and cunning. As a Spirit Animal, Fox brings counsel on cunning and shrewd business decisions.  

The Final Southern animal for this system is the White Horse, representing purity, spirituality and a connection to the Divine. People with the White Horse as a totem have incredible stamina. They use this to aid others in need. They also like their freedom. White Horse won’t remain tethered too long. In a dream, White Horse portends a fortunate financial turn or other bit of luck. 

Astrology & the Direction of South

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In astrology, South’s association with Fire comes into play. The three Fire signs of the Western zodiac are Aries (the undaunted Ram), Leo (our brave and noble Lion) and Sagittarius (half man; half horse). The basic personality for Fire signs are being strong leaders, zealous, extroverts, a bit of a rebel and courageous in even the most daunting of situations. 

Fire signs are warm and nearly glowing. They like to “go it alone” but also love companionship. Their love of life rivals few. Even like the ember’s glow, Fire people can truly inspire all manner of things in others personally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Certainly, Fire signs can be harsh, but they also cleanse. They revel in fun and spontaneity. Just judge your distance according to their mood.

Click to discover all your Zodiac Animals by Birthday.

Visit our sister-site,, for the most comprehensive information on Zodiac Signs.

Cardinal Direction South in Chinese and Japanese Traditions

Shinto Temples associate Rooster with the South and often have them running free at the temple. Fire Dragons are another South/Fire association. They embody the power of the sun and are said to be beneficent Spirit guides. In dreams Dragons portend good luck, adaptation, admiration and overall success. 

In Hinduism Agni is the Fire God having three forms: sunlight, lightning and fire. Agni serves as a messenger to and from the Gods. In Renaissance China, there were magical garments woven from the Salamander spirit. These clothes were unhindered by any fire. Historians think this may have been a type of silk. 

The mythical creature of Japan and China associated with South is the Vermilion Bird. It appears reddish like the iron-rich soils of southern regions. There are also two Zodiac signs – the Snake and Horse.

Snake people really honor life’s experiences. The lessons they learn now (or in a past life) carry with them, providing construct. It’s very hard to fool a Snake. They’re not going to let you get away with much.

In relationships Snake people need time alone periodically to shred their skin and grow, but they always return better than before. If you give them this time with compassion, you will discover some amazing things about friends and family born under the Snake sign.

If you care about Snake you need to give him or her time to adjust. They can’t just jump into trusting. The time is worth the effort. Snake likes to lead, and talks a great talk, but people often only see Snake’s exterior. Look further.

As for Horse – this is a sign that has two sides. One is free and the other is bridled. Horse people like to speak from the gut, which makes things difficult sometimes. There is no ulterior motive here, but folks go looking for one nonetheless.

Horse people don’t see notoriety but receive it. Their constancy as friends always shines. They are also pretty good at helping solve problems. The Horse’s kindness goes a long way toward good relationships. You will know when a Horse person likes you because they keep talking.

Overall Horse has a fairly simple outlook. They like uncomplicated pleasures. Horse will adapt (at least somewhat) to changing people and circumstances.

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