The Phoenix: A Mythological Bird
The Phoenix is a mythological bird known throughout all cultures and all ages. It is immortal in that is constantly being reborn from ashes, living 500 to 1000 years at a time. It's a colorful bird, but most often described as being crimson and gold, although other colors such as blue or purple are sometimes also included. It's often compared to the beauty of a peacock, but the size of an eagle, showing that it not only has beauty but strength. The Phoenix's cry is also considered to be a beautiful sound much like an elegant song. Through its beauty and unusual death, the phoenix has come to be a symbol of immortality, renewal, and rebirth.
Although no one knows for sure how the myth of the phoenix began, there are traces back as far as the bible, and in every continent where people live. Some believe its legend began from mysterious birds that people truly came across. Most likely no one will ever know.
Origin of the Phoenix
One bird that the legend is believed to be derived from is the flamingo, who will nest on salt flats that are too hot for a flamingo chick nor its egg to survive. Instead, the flamingo builds a nest that is above this causing a very unique convection effect that is similar to that of the convection of a flame. The flamingoes family name in the scientific world is Phoenicopteridai, which is derived from the more generic word, Phoenicopterus which means Phoenix-winged.
Another belief is that the legend was derived from the peacock, which would match its size, and beauty. Although from majority of the descriptions, it is the golden pheasant that most resembles what we view a phoenix to look like. Although a golden pheasant is much smaller than that of an eagle, as the phoenix size is compared, it does have the same beauty and same crimson and gold colors with the beautiful long tail. Some have blues and purples, just as phoenix's are sometimes depicted as having.
Golden Pheasant: Inspiration for the Phoenix
The Myth of the Phoenix
The Phoenix used to roam the Earth just like any other bird, but one day the sun god laid his eyes on this magnificent colorful bird, with it's gold tail feathers and red roughage. He could not believe his beauty. The sun god came down to see the bird closer. As he got close, the phoenix felt charmed by the sun god, and began to sing his beautiful melody.
Realizing that the Phoenix was one of the most beautiful birds with a beautiful voice, the sun god decided to allow this bird to live forever. Although, the phoenix loved spending time with the sun god, and singing beautiful songs to him, his bones were not meant to last forever. After five decades he began to fly slower, and his song was a little more haggard.
The sun god had mercy on the bird, and told him to build a nest of cinnamon bark and myrrh. After the aging phoenix built his nest, he laid down. As he was resting, the sun god shone his bright light on the bird and the phoenix burst into flames. In its place was an egg, the egg began to hatch as the last of the fire was extinguished, and out came a baby phoenix, exactly like the one before.
Every five hundred to a thousand years, as the phoenix begins to feel his bones deteriorate. He builds his nest of cinnamon and myrrh to have the sun god to have mercy on him time and time again.
Statue of Phoenix
Famous Books About The Phoenix
Not only is there many legends surrounding the phoenix, but many stories have picked up on this legendary creature and made it their own.
Harry Potter: Most recently, JK Rowling wrote of a phoenix owned by Dumbledore, which much like the legend burst into flames and becomes a baby. The bird also is fiercely loyal to Dumbledore and even helps him in battle, just as the myth says the phoenix is loyal to the sun god. Dumbledore's phoenix also sings, not only as it goes into help Harry defeat the diary version of Voldemort, but also after Dumbledore's death.
The Phoenix Bird: Hans Christian Anderson was another famous writer who wrote of the tale, although his tale more closely followed the bird. He wrote about how the phoenix was born under the tree of good and evil, the very one Eve ate from that gave her knowledge of good and evil. He hatched from a rose that blossomed underneath this tree, and in some way it was Eve's fault there is only one.
The Bible: The bible references this mythological creature, although it states it as the Hol. It's a short reference, but nonetheless it is there, which shows how far back this legend persists. Job states, "I shall multiply my days as the Hol, the phoenix" (Job 29:18).
The myth of the phoenix has lasted throughout history as far back as the bible, and much before. It is such a common myth that few people have not heard of this legendary immortal creature. Although, due to its extensive history in several cultures, the true origin of where the legend began is unknown. Regardless, it has infiltrated its essence into our modern world.
© 2011 Angela Michelle
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