Immortality ― a truly fascinating yet alluring word for all of us which always takes our mind to heaven, and to Gods. From the beginning, immortality has occupied a special place in all mythologies. Maybe that’s why it has become a never-ending passion for us too. It’s a desire to live forever, and to witness every single thing in this world. In ancient mythologies, there’re stories about some divine creatures that have been recounted for their supernatural abilities and endless powers, and the immortal Phoenix Bird is prominently one of them.
Phoenix – The Bird Of Immortality:
According to the ancient legends, Phoenix is an immortal bird that rises from the ashes. A Phoenix Bird is said to live for several hundred or even for a thousand years before it bursts into flames and dies, and is reborn from its ashes.
In Celtic Mythology, the Phoenix is known as a Mystical Fire Bird born of Sacred Flame, which is said to have been the only living creature that was allowed to fly into Paradise.
Most legends convey that Phoenix lived on the wings, having a lifespan of 500 to 1000 years. It represents transformation, death, and rebirth in its fire. As a powerful spiritual totem, the Phoenix is the ultimate symbol of strength and revival.
Phoenix is mainly believed to be associated with the sun, which “dies” in setting each night only to be reborn in rising the next morning ― that’s how it obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. Due to this, Phoenix is also known as the “Sunbird” in some cultures. It is said that this bird had large feathers which were in red and golden colour just like a rising sun.
What’s Really Behind The Story Of The Phoenix Bird?
The Phoenix Bird is accounted in various forms and by various names throughout legends and chronicles from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the European regions. Phoenix is the symbol of resurrection, strength, fortune, hope and success.
The name Phoenix is believed to have come from the Greek word phoînix which literally means “blood-red,” perhaps for its fiery wings when it is reborn.
Actually, the Phoenix Bird has its influence on every culture, religion and civilization across the world and time. To say, in the ancient era, people blended in the Phoenix Bird with their rituals and cultural beliefs, symbolizing it in their own ways.
What Does Phoenix Symbolize?
Several symbolizations are associated with the Phoenix Bird. These are mostly associated with resurrection and revival. In them, the most well-known ones include:
- The sun
- The empire
- Life In The Heavenly Paradise
- The Exceptional Man
In ancient Egypt, the Phoenix was called the “Lord of Jubilees” and was considered to be the ba (spirit) of the Sun God Ra. In Mesopotamia, the Phoenix symbolized by the horned and winged solar disk.
Phoenix As The Alchemical Symbols:
The Phoenix is also an alchemical symbol. It represents the changes during chemical reactions and progression through colours, properties of matter, and has to do with the steps of alchemy in the making of the Great Work, or the Philosopher’s Stone. Alchemists generally used the Phoenix to symbolize the colour red and the successful end of a process.
The medieval Hermeticists used the Phoenix as a symbol of alchemical transmutation.
Modern additions to the myth in popular culture say the tears of the phoenix have great healing powers, and if the Phoenix is nearby, one cannot tell a lie.
The Story Of The Phoenix:
The story of the Phoenix is legendary and is significantly one of the most exoteric ancient myths in modern days. The legend of Phoenix consists of many engrossing elements including life and death, creation and destruction, even time itself is tied with the tale of the Phoenix.
According to ancient mythology, this majestic bird-like supernatural creature spent most of its life in Paradise where all the other creatures like it were known to live a heavenly good life. It was a land of improbable perfection and beauty and was said to exist somewhere beyond the brilliance of the sun. However, 1,000 years had passed, when Phoenix began to feel the effects of its age. And the bird was finally ready to move on.
The Rebirth Of The Phoenix:
First, the Phoenix flew west into the mortal world. It was necessary to come to leave Paradise and enter our world so that the creature could be reborn. It flew west until it reached the spice groves that grew in Arabia. It stopped there to collect only the finest herbs and spices, especially cinnamon, before starting its journey to Phoenicia. Phonecia is a unimaginably beautiful place named after the immortal Phoenix Bird. Once the Phoenix reached Phoenicia, it built a nest of the herbs and spices it had gathered and waited for the sun to rise.
The next morning, when the sun god began to drag his chariot across the sky, the Phoenix would turn east to face him as the sun rose above the horizon. It would then sing one of the most beautiful and haunting melodies known to mankind ― so perfect that even the sun god had to pause and listen to the sweet notes. When the Phoenix finished its farewell song, the sun god readied his chariots and continued his journey across the sky. This caused a spark to fall from the sky and ignite the nest of herbs and the Phoenix in flames. All that was left was a tiny worm.
This, however, was not the end of the cycle. After three days, a new Phoenix would rise from the ashes ― supposedly transformed from the worm ― and begin the next cycle of 1,000 years. It would carry the remaining ashes of its predecessor to the great Heliopolis and then return to Paradise until its cycle came to an end.
Alternate Versions Of The Phoenix’s Rebirth:
While the above tale of Phoenix coming back to life through its ashes is the most common version of its rebirth, there are alternative versions that are also passed down.
The first is that instead of flying to Phoenicia to end its cycle of life, the Phoenix flew to Heliopolis and gave itself to the fires of the sun city. From these fires, the new Phoenix emerges and then flies back to the land of Paradise.
There are also some versions where the Phoenix completes its journey as described above ― from Paradise to Arabia and then Phoenicia ― and then dies with the rising of the sun the next morning. The body begins to decompose. Most versions of this story say this process lasts for three whole days. Once it has reached the final stages of decomposition the new Phoenix emerges from the remains of the dead.
Finally, a lesser-known version of the story of the Phoenix claims that the Phoenix begins to show signs of age when it reaches the final years of its lifespan. It flies to the mortal world ― losing many of its beautiful feathers and lovely coloration along the way. When it finished building its nest, it sets itself on fire (similar to the first version) allowing the next Phoenix to come forward.
The Burial Process:
When the new Phoenix comes into the next cycle of life, the first thing it does is create a cremation egg to place its predecessor’s remains inside. To do this, the Phoenix flies off and begins to gather the finest myrrh it can find to form into a ball. It gathers as much as it can carry and then flies back to the nest it emerged from.
Once back at its nest, the Phoenix begins to hollow out the egg of myrrh and creates a small opening on the side so that it can begin to put its predecessor’s ashes inside. Once it has gathered all the ashes and put them inside the egg, it seals the opening in the cremation egg with myrrh and carries the remains back to Heliopolis, the city of the Sun.
After that, Phoenix leaves the remains on top of an altar in the temple of the Sun God Ra and then begins its new life by flying back to the land of Paradise. “The Phoenix in Egyptian, Arab, & Greek Mythology” is a book written by Tina Garnet, where this story has been described in detail.
Where Does The Phoenix Live?
There are several variations on the tale of the Phoenix, but most versions say that the Phoenix resides in Paradise as it was previously cited. This land is said to be a perfect world that was beyond the sun and was sometimes considered to be a representation of Heaven. However, there were also other versions of the story that gave other locations as residences of the Phoenix.
One location that was claimed to be the home of the Phoenix was the Heliopolis. This may be because the Heliopolis was where the Phoenix was entombed after death. In some versions of the story, this is also where the Phoenix was reborn. It is said that, there was a sacred hill in Heliopolis, from which the sun rose for the first time.
The Greeks claimed that the Phoenix was known to live next to a well in Arabia. According to their records, the Phoenix bathed itself in the well every morning at dawn and sang a song so beautiful that Apollo, the Greek Sun God, himself had to stop his chariots in the sky to listen to the melody.
What Does The Phoenix Bird Look Like?
The Phoenix was known to be one of the most beautiful and perfect creatures on Earth ― it’s because the creature was associated with Paradise where all things have to be perfect. Most accounts of the Phoenix describe it as red, orange and yellow, though there are many variations. Legend has it that the feathers of this supernatural bird were so unique and alluring that anyone who ever saw it once, would never forget it.
In Greek mythology, there is also an association with the colour purple ― possibly because of their city, Phoenicia. The city of Phoenicia was known for its brilliant purple dyes that were used for royal robes. It is thought that giving this mythical creature the name ‘Phoenix’ is a way of referencing the purple coloration that could also be found in the bird’s feathers. Many works of art inspired by the Greek version of the myth show birds with brilliant yellow, red, and purple feathers.
There are also several variations in the eyes of the creature. Some sources claim that the eyes of the Phoenix are a brilliant shade of yellow, while others claim that they are like two shining sapphires.
All accounts of the bird emphasize the size of the creature, leading some to wonder if the Phoenix could have been inspired by a species of the giant bird.
Where Do The Legends Of The Phoenix Bird Come From?
While the majority of information that concerns the Phoenix can be found in Greek mythology, there are those who wonder if the ancient Egyptians are to credit for the origins of the story. This is due to the many similar elements of the story that can be found in each culture. In Egyptian mythology, there is a mighty bird called Bennu that is known to hold similar powers that are described by texts depicting the Phoenix. However, because of some contradictions that surround the Egyptian texts, the origin of the story of the Phoenix is often credited to Greek mythology.
Phoenix In Some Great Mythological Figures And Deities:
While the Phoenix is most commonly associated with Greek mythology, there were several other cultures that hold references to similar “Solar Birds” or “Fire Birds” that have often been compared to the Phoenix itself. The most commonly connected bird is the goddess “Bennu” from Egyptian mythology who is almost identical to the Greek Phoenix. However, there are also similarities that can be found in Russian, Indian, Native American, and Jewish Mythology.
Bennu – Egyptian Mythology:
The Greek Phoenix is commonly traced back to the Egyptian deity Bennu. The creature called Bennu was known to be a bird that was similar to a heron. Bennu was said to have lived on top of stones and obelisks and was worshiped by the people of ancient Egypt similar to the way in which Osiris and Ra were worshiped. In fact, it was thought that Bennu was a living symbol of the god Osiris.
Bennu bird was thought to have symbolized the flooding of the Nile which was known to bring wealth and fertility to the land. Because of this, she was one of the most respected creatures in Egyptian mythology. Additionally, the cycle of birth and rebirth is identical to that of the Phoenix, though the timeline is slightly different. Instead of being reborn every 1,000 years, Bennu was reborn every 500 years.
Milcham – Jewish Mythology:
Jewish mythology also makes references to a creature that is believed to be the Phoenix. In their version, the Phoenix is known as the Milcham.
The story begins in the days when people were still allowed in the Garden of Eden. It is said that when Eve gave in to the temptations of the serpent and tempted Adam with the fruit, she also offered the fruit to the other animals in the garden. The Milcham bird was among the animals that refused to partake of the fruit and remained faithful to God.
Therefore, Milcham was rewarded for its faithfulness. It was given a heavenly beautiful place where it could live its days out in peace eternally. Every 1,000 years, the Milcham bird would end one cycle of life, but being immune to the Angel of Death it would be reborn again from its ashes.
Garuda – Hindu Mythology:
Garuda is a solar bird that is known to be the mount of the Hindu lord Vishnu and was also seen as a protector against the evil serpent. He is known to have been described as “the King of all birds” and is often depicted as being a giant bird in mid-flight.
Thunderbird – Native American Mythology:
The Thunderbird is also thought to have a secret connection to the Phoenix. Similarly to Garuda, the Thunderbird is known to guard against the evil serpent figure and is thought of as a protector.
Firebird – Slavic Mythology:
The Slavic Firebird has obvious ties to the Phoenix and was likely created in their folklore when the ancient cultures exchanged stories and legends on their trade routes.
It’s a large bird with majestic plumage that glows brightly emitting red, orange, and yellow light, like a bonfire. It is said that the feathers do not cease glowing if removed, and one feather can light a large room if not concealed.
In later iconography, the form of the Firebird is usually that of a smallish fire-coloured falcon, complete with a crest on its head and tail feathers with glowing “eyes”. The falcon symbolized ultimate masculinity in the Slavic culture. The Firebird was beautiful but dangerous, showing no sign of friendliness.
In addition, the Slavic Firebird was different from the traditional Phoenix because of its life cycle. The Firebird was meant to symbolize the different seasons. The bird ends its life cycle in the fall months but is revived again in the spring. With its revival comes beautiful music that brings happiness and new lives in the world.
Ideologies That Adopted The Legend Of The Phoenix:
The myth of the Phoenix was not only common in ancient mythology, but it was also adopted by several religions and was sometimes used to represent theoretical ideas and the reign of powerful kingdoms. The element of rebirth in the story has often been used to describe a wide range of ideas.
Symbolism In Ancient Egypt:
Although the Phoenix was known as Bennu in ancient Egypt, the two mythical creatures have been identified as the same entity. In Egypt, however, the sign of the solar bird was used to symbolize rebirth and immortality. The story of Bennu’s rebirth was thought to closely follow the rebirth of the human spirit as well.
Symbolism In Ancient China:
The Phoenix was the symbol of the Chinese Empress and was also thought to represent feminine grace and the sun. It was considered to be good luck if a Phoenix was spotted. This was known to symbolize the ascension of a wise leader and a new era.
The Phoenix was also known to represent some of the most valued virtues like goodness, reliability, and kindness.
Symbolism In Christianity:
In addition to being used in ancient cultures, the Phoenix is known to have been adopted into modern-day as well. One such adaptation was made by the Christian religion.
The early Christians used the Phoenix to represent the terms of Christ’s death and resurrection. This connection can clearly be seen in the death of the Phoenix and Christ, both followed by a period of three days, during which a rebirth occurred. After the third day, the new life cycle began.
The two ideas are so closely related that the Phoenix was used on early Christian tombstones to help symbolize the connection between the two figures. The symbols of the Phoenix in Christianity also serve as a reminder that death is not the end – it is simply a new beginning.
The Summed Up Facts About Phoenix:
- There are different ethe in mythologies concerning the age of Phoenix at which it dies to be reborn again. Some legends insist that the divine creature lived up to 1,461 years, while others claim that it lived for 1,000 years. Other sources estimate the bird’s lifespan of more than 500 years.
- The Phoenix was also known to have regenerative powers and was considered to be both invincible and immortal in its whole life span―except for the ending of its natural life cycle when it was necessary for the next Phoenix to be reborn.
- The tears of the bird are also generative abilities that can be harnessed by humans. Additionally, new mythology concerning the Phoenix claims that it is impossible for a person to tell a lie if the creature is nearby.
- The Phoenix is known to have a different diet than the birds of this world. Instead of eating fruits and nuts, the Phoenix was said to have consumed frankincense and aromatic gums. It is unknown if this plays into its impressive lifespan.
- The bird doesn’t collect normal herbs or spices until it is preparing for its cycle to come to an end and the new Phoenix to emerge. When it is time for this, the bird will gather cinnamon and myrrh to construct its funeral pyre.
- Seeing the Phoenix in the sky was considered good luck in many cultures. It was considered to signify that a good leader who was very wise had been given ruling power. It was also considered to be the sign of a new era.
- Later many spiritual leaders, as well as some world leaders, were fascinated by the endless power and the spirituality of the Phoenix Bird so they used this mythical creature as a symbol of their ideologies.
The Possible Explanations For The Creation Of The Phoenix Myths:
People from all around the world have always tried to find out and speculate the thing that actually had inspired the legends of the Phoenix.
Cosmic Fire And The Creation Of The Earth:
The story of the Phoenix has also been hypothesized as a possible way of retelling the creation of the earth. Because the Phoenix is so closely related to the sun, there are some who would hypothesize that the birth of the Phoenix could also be the birth of a new world. This birth would result from a cosmic fire that could be symbolized by the bright colours of the Phoenix’s feathers, as well as the flames from which it arises.
When exploring this version of the story, it is often concluded that the death of the Phoenix describes the death of a world or galaxy through the explosion of its sun. However, this explosion is not the end of life, as it makes way for a new world to be created.
In Greek mythology, it is often thought that the story of the Phoenix is used to describe a philosophical term called “metempsychosis.” This reflected the spiritual beliefs of many who lived in Ancient Greece.
Metempsychosis is known to be “the transmigration of the soul.” This is the process in which the spirit of a person is reincarnated after death. The use of the Phoenix to symbolize this belief helps to explain that the soul of a person never really dies. It is simply transformed and rebirthed into another life as it moves from a person’s body in death and back to the Earth when it is ready to enter a new life cycle.
The Flamingo Of East Africa:
Some hypothesize that the Leser Flamingo of East Africa could have served for at least part of the inspiration of the tale. The flamingo birds live in an area that is too hot for their young to survive. Because of this, it has to build a mound of earthen materials in order to elevate its nest so that the eggs and hatchlings can survive the heat. It is said that the convection currents around the mounds created by this bird are similar to the movement of a flame ― which could have been why the Phoenix was associated with fire. Flamingos are well adapted to tolerate little frost or near-boiling heat. They can tolerate salt and mineral lakes both.
There are also those who speculate that the story of the Phoenix was perhaps inspired by a prehistoric species of Megafauna that is no longer living. It is thought that the tale of the Phoenix could be an embellishment that described an actual species of bird from the prehistoric era.
The Artistic Manner:
Imagine an enormous comet that hit the Earth and killed every being, turning earth into a pile of ash. After a million years, a new range of species would evolve and thrive on earth ― life would thus be reborn from the ashes. A storyteller uses a Phoenix to tell this story in an artistic manner. He uses his literary licence and forgets the million years time gap. Therefore, Phoenix may be an animal, a tree, a bird, a human or any other living being. In that sense, Pheonix does exist.
Did The Immortal Phoenix Bird Really Exist? If So, Is The Phoenix Bird Still Alive?
Some people believe that the Phoenix Bird still exists in this world but it is so rare that we have not yet found any proof of its existence. However, mainstream scientists have rejected all these Phoenix stories and the claims of its existence. According to them, Phoenix is nothing but a man-created mythical creature that doesn’t fit in the real world. The creation of this strange bird is actually based on the religious beliefs and fears of our ancient ancestors.
On the other hand, if you think in an artistic manner and forget the gaps of millions of years, then it’s possible the Phoenix still exists on earth. Because we all including our planet, star and galaxy are reborn from the ashes, representing the cycle of creation that everything is bond to.
Though scientists have concluded as per today’s world, it cannot be said clearly whether the story behind the Phoenix Bird was is real or not in the distant past. But even today people get equally excited when it comes to real Phoenix Bird sighting.
Now many believe that Phoenix birds are actually the Philippine Eagles and people travel from places to get a single look of this bird. Mostly people come to see the bird because of the fact that this bird proves to be extremely lucky and everyone wants some good luck in their life. This bird looks like an eagle but a big eagle indeed with some long and dense feathers all around their body.
The legends of Phoenix have survived for centuries. This wonderful supernatural creature never died permanently. Legend says it existed when the universe was created. It knows the secrets of life and reincarnation, and the knowledge that even the most powerful Gods do not possess.
Many of the ancient cultures that embraced the Phoenix were known to believe in the possibility of immortality through reincarnation or transmigration. Therefore, it is likely that the metaphorical stories of the Phoenix were created to give a more vivid description of the cycle of life and death through spirituality.
The Phoenix represents the idea that the end is only the beginning, thus it will be reborn over and over again in human legends and imaginations.