Since ancient times phoenix mythology has existed in cultures throughout the world.
The Myth of the Phoenix
You can find the legend of the phoenix in various cultures throughout history. One of the most popular versions is that of the ancient Greek culture. According to Greek phoenix mythology, the mystical bird lived in Arabia.
The Legend of the Phoenix
According to ancient legend, when the fire bird of the sun, called the phoenix, grows old and tired and is nearing the end of its life, it builds a pyre nest of spices and beautiful smelling branches. Once the nest is completed, the phoenix sets it on fire. As the fire rages, both the phoenix and the nest are reduced to a pile of ashes.
After several days a young phoenix rises from the ashes, ready to begin life as the solitary phoenix of the time. The young bird carefully gathers the ashes of the old phoenix placing the remains into a myrrh egg. The new phoenix carries the egg to the city of the sun named Heliopolis, where he places it on the sun god's alter.
The beautifully colored phoenix, with its vibrant gold and scarlet plumage, is now ready to spend its life singing a beautiful melodious song to the sun every day. The magnificent gentle bird, often described as eagle-like, does not kill anything, living completely on dew. In its gentleness, it never crushes anything that it touches.
Other Names for the Arabian Phoenix
Throughout the centuries, the Arabian phoenix has been referred to by many names.
- King of birds
- Bird of the sun
- The Egyptian bird
- The long lived bird
- The bird of Arabia
- Bird of Assyria
- Bird of the Ganges
The Phoenix in Different Cultures
The popular mythological accounts of the phoenix, or its counterpart, existed in many cultures. In each culture the birds are all identified with, or connected to, the sun. The following are examples of the many different countries and cultures that share the legend of the bird of the sun and the names the bird is known by:
- Greek - Phoenix
- Chinese - Feng huang
- Japanese - Hou-ou or Ho-oo
- Native American - Yei
- Hindu - Vena in the Rig Veda
- Russian - Firebird
- Jewish - Milcham
- Egyptian - Benu or Bennu
Common Variations of the Legend of the Phoenix
The following are several of the most common variations of phoenix mythology:
- The number of years the phoenix lives varies from culture to culture. According to different mythological accounts the life span of the phoenix was commonly said to be 500 or 1000 years. However, other accounts relate life spans of:
- 540 years
- 1461 years
- 12,994 years
- Some myths tell of the young phoenix rising from the flames. Others say it rose from the ashes after the fire burned for anywhere from one to three days.
- The phoenix is often described as being like an eagle or a heron. The Chinese phoenix counterpart, the feng huang is said to have the:
- Face of a swallow
- Beak of a cock
- Breast of a goose
- Neck of a snake
- Hindquarters of a stag
- Back of a tortoise
- Tail of a fish
Chinese Phoenix Mythology and Feng Shui
As the young phoenix rose from the ashes it quickly grew with grace, power and strength. The legendary bird of the sun also represents the four Confucian virtues:
The last of the celestial animals, the Chinese phoenix is rich in symbolic meaning. For example, its symbolism represents:
- The union and melding of yin and yang
- Prosperity and power
- Grace and high virtue
- The Empress and the Emperor (represented as a dragon)
Phoenix: Yin Energy
Representing yin, the phoenix is often paired with a dragon which represents yang. Together, in feng shui, they perfectly complement each other. In total balance the dragon and the phoenix create a happy celestial couple. A statue or painting of a dragon and a phoenix is a symbol of marital bliss and everlasting love. It also strengthens and rekindles relationships.Many feng shui practitioners place a red phoenix statue, symbolizing the element of fire, in the section of their space representing Fame and Recognition.
Phoenix Mythology Resources
The following websites are excellent resource if you would like to learn more about phoenix mythology: