Cardinal points

When we need to locate, orient ourselves or find a certain place, we use the cardinal points. These have a close and direct relation with the movement that the sun has in the sky during the day, as a direct consequence of the rotation movement that the earth experiences. The cardinal points can always be found on the four sides of the map. They represent the four directions that we can find in space: north, south, east and west.

What are the cardinal points?

The cardinal points are the four different points that make up the Cartesian reference system, which are related to the sun and are used to obtain an orientation or location on a map on a given land surface.

Which are the cardinal points?

The four main points we can find when looking for an address are: north, south, east and west, which are also known by their first letters, generally written in capital letters: N, S, E and W. These four addresses are also known by the name of cardinal addresses:

It is important to mention that, on the abscissa axis of a system of geographical coordinates, the ordinate axis would be described by north and south lines. This division produces four angles of ninety degrees that at the same time are divided by the bisectors, generating the following cardinal points: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast.

What are the cardinal points for?

Cardinal points help us locate places either on a map or on the earth’s surface. Together, they form an important Cartesian reference system for maintaining the proper direction and location of the different places on earth.

How to locate the cardinal points

The cardinal points are easy to locate. In the maps, the north is always located in the superior part, when it is night, the polar star can be located that coincides with the North Pole, and there we will be able to locate the cardinal point. The south is at the bottom of the maps. The East we can locate it in the right part of the map, in a compass it is located to 90° to the right of the north, like in the rose of the winds. The West is located on the left side of the maps.

Mayan cardinal points

For the Mayans, the North was called Xaman, a word used to name the “Shaman” and the color that represented it was white. The white color for the Mayas is a memory of the snow of the North where the souls of the ahauob went when they died, and there was the Portal that allowed them to ascend to the heavens.

The South was represented by yellow and was named Kan K’in. For the Mayas, the South was painted yellow by the winds and marked the end of winter, as well as the beginning of the period in which they had to begin to prepare the lands to sow corn, a product that is also related to the yellow color.

The West was known as “Chick´in” and was represented by the color black.

The East is called Lak´in and was represented by the color red.

Stars of the cardinal points

The Polar Star will always indicate the north located in the greater Bear.

The South can be found when we locate the “Southern Cross”, which is a rhombus-shaped constellation.


Each cardinal point has a great importance, the north, for example, is very important to provide adequate navigation and determines at the same time, the other cardinal points, likewise the South, has helped in the orientation and the way to determine, mainly in antiquity, the instant in which the half day is given. The East is also used to determine the sign of the ascending zodiac in the astral charts, it is important to emphasize that this cardinal point also indicates the name of the eastern hemisphere. The West is also involved in the use of cartography, and in astral charts because it represents the sign of the descending zodiac.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.
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