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Mythical Creatures - Phoenix

Updated on May 10, 2014

Phoenix

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Variations

The most common idea of the phoenix is that it is a flaming bird that lives for 500-1000 years, and at the end of its life it bursts into flames and reemerges as a new bird. However, there are multiple versions of the legend in different areas such as East Asia (Feng-Huang), Russia (Firebird), Egypt (Benu), and Arabia (Phoenix).

Fenghuang (鳳凰)

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East Asia

In Chinese and Japanese mythology, the phoenix had very positive meanings. It symbolized high virtue, grace, and the union of yin and yang. It was often portrayed with a dragon to represent a relationship between husband and wife (or, sometimes, the emperor and empress) and the empress was the only one allowed to wear the phoenix symbol.

Parts of its' body represent the six celestial bodies. Its head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail is the planets. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, blue and yellow.

Japanese Phoenix

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Slavic Phoenix Legend

The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880). Oil, canvas.
The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880). Oil, canvas. | Source

Russia

In Slavic mythology, the Firebird is described as a large bird with majestic plumage emitting red, orange, and yellow light like a fire. In later iconography, the Firebird was portrayed as a smallish fire-colored peacock, with a crest and glowing 'eyes' on its tail.

In typical fairy tales, the Firebird was the object of a difficult quest that the hero set out on (typically at the bidding of a father or king) which he would be assisted by magical helpers on.

Bennu

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Egypt

The Bennu was an ancient Egyptian deity who symbolized the sun, creation, and rebirth. It may have inspired the later phoenix in Greek mythology. It was associated with Ra(Sun), Atum(Creation), and Osiris(Rebirth). Thus, it was said to have played a role in the creation of the world by flying over the waters of Nun, landing on a rock, and issuing a call that determined the nature of creation.

It was often portrayed with two long feathers on the crest of its head and crowned with the Atef crown of Osiris or the disc of the sun. It was also occasionally portrayed perched in Osiris' willow tree.

Arabian Phoenix

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Arabia

The Arabian Phoenix may be the most well known variation. It is said to be the size of an eagle, with scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. Legend says that it would sing its song every day, and even the great god Apollo would stop to listen. Apparently only one phoenix existed at any one time, and it would live anywhere from 500-13,000 years. At the time of its death, it would build itself a pyre nest and be consumed in the flames. After three days, a new phoenix would arise from the ashes to take the place of its predecessor. Similarily to the Bennu, it represented death and rebirth, as well as the sun. It is said to live on dew, killing and crushing nothing it touches, and is sometimes called the king of birds.

Phoenix rebirth

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Thanks for reading!

I had a great time and learned a lot while writing this hub, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Thanks!

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      Donna 3 years ago

      Enjoyed reading your post,would like to see some more