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Rebirth of the Mythical Phoenix
There is a bird called a phoenix which never dies and is the only one of its kind. Of course it’s purely a myth and its’ characteristics have been exaggerated. But, what is interesting is in how many cultures a similar creature is also found. Its’ origins have been traced back to traditions of ancient Phoenicia and has similar counterparts in many other cultures.
The phoenix is a sacred bird found in mythology of the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese and Phoenicians. And each civilization had their own versions of this mythical creature, but all were strikingly comparable.
Some legends contend it had gold and red plumage like the Greeks while the Romans pictured it more like an eagle or peacock. The Egyptians, on the other hand portrayed it as a heron or a stork.
The Phoenix lives a long life of about 500 or in excess of 1,000 years, depending on who’s telling the story. As it is dying the phoenix is consumed by flames, only to immediately rise again from the ashes. Therefore the beautiful Phoenix usually symbolizes rebirth or recovery.
Some of the earliest accounts of the Phoenix date back to about 800 years before Christ. Traditionally it lives near a well where it bathes and sings each morning. Its’ said their beautiful song is Mesmerizing enough to make even the Sun God stop to listen. It’s also said the bird can heal itself if injured.
The Phoenix's being reborn from its’ own ashes suggests it is immortal. However, in some variants the new Phoenix is just the offspring of the previous one. A few stories say they are able to change into people.
Typical powers attributed to the mythical bird differentiate slightly from culture to culture. However most have common attributes such as the ability to heal wounds with its tears or the power to heal itself. Some say the feathers have magical properties that are imparted to objects they are used in.
Phoenix lore seems to be mainly connected to themes of rebirth, rising from destruction to begin again such as the daily rebirth of the sun. In many cultures it is also linked with peace and harmony. Some stories say, the bird lives only on dewdrops and never causes harm. Instead its’ rejuvenating powers bring comfort.
Since the Phoenix, represents survival, strength and a new beginning it has been adopted as an official design by some. For example, it has been incorporated on the county and city of San Francisco flag and also on the flag and seal of Atlanta.Religious groups, political parties, organizations, countries and communities, such as Phoenix, Arizona have all used the image of the Phoenix.
The phoenix has gone through a variety of depictions in art and literature from being totally birdlike to having the head of a dog. Typically, it is considered benevolent. Did you know the Phoenix has even been linked to Christianity’s resurrection since the first century? In Christianity, the story has been interpreted as a metaphor for the resurrection of Christ. In contrast, the Chinese version the bird is known as the Feng Huang and lives eternally without having to undergo a cycle of death and rebirth. It simply lives without end.
In a typical version of the myth, the phoenix is said to have been an eagle-like bird with red and gold plumage that lived in Arabia. Only one existed at any given time. As it felt its life drawing to an end, the phoenix would build a nest of frankincense, myrrh, and sweet smelling woods. It would set its nest on fire and be consumed in the flames. Three days later, the phoenix would rise again from the ashes. Early Christian writers justified using this myth because the word appears in Psalm 92:12, but it actually refers to a palm tree, not a mythological bird.
Saint Clement of Rome makes the earliest known connection to the resurrection. Clement wrote in the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, “Do we then think it great and remarkable for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird he shows us the mightiness of his promises?”
Legend tells the phoenix is a bird that will not die because it did not eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The Phoenix Christian Symbol represents the Resurrection and of eternity.
Catholic Christian symbolism in art illustrates people or items of religious significance. The origins and ancient customs of Christian symbols date back to when many were not able to read or write and printing was nonexistent.
The phoenix has also made its’ way into modern entertainment playing an important role in the "Harry Potter" novels. In one book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", tears of a phoenix save Harry’s life after being mortally wounded by the evil basilisk.
Of course, artists have produced amazing images of this beautiful bird. And as a work of art the Phoenix makes such an exquisite image many have had their bodies intricately tattooed with it.
Eternal life is a topic that has fascinated people in all cultures. Maybe the fire is symbolic and represents trials and difficulties experienced by all cultures.
One author described the Phoenix as "a crimson, gold, and purple bird with sweeping tail and jeweled eyes. Greatest of mythical birds, the phoenix is the triumphant symbol of rebirth and renewal of the human spirit."