The Phoenix (thepheenixeyri) wrote,
The Phoenix

Next installment of the phoenix

Here for your reading pleasure I present:

Other phoenix legends from other countries.


This bird, the Chinese equivalent of the phoenix, has three legs and lives in the sun. The Feng is the male and the Huang is the female, together symbolizing everlasting love. They have the head and comb of a pheasent and the feathers of a peacock. The plumage blends the five colours and the song of the bird is the harmony of the five notes. It has sometimes been associated with the roc.


The Ho-Oo is the Japanese phoenix, the Ho being the male bird and the Oo being the female. It comes to earth to do good deeds for people, and this appearance symbolizes the beginning of a new era. The bird then ascends back to heaven to await a new era. It is much like the Chinese Phoenix the Feng-Huang. The Ho-Oo has been adopted as a symbol of the royal family, particularily the empress. It is supposed to represent the sun, justice, fidelity and obedience.


The Benu bird is another bird that can be linked to the phoenix. This Egyptian sun bird is identified with Ra the sun god. The word Benu in Egyptian means both purple heron and palm tree. Just like the phoenix, this bird was identified with the temple to the sun gods at Heliopolis. Many think that the myths surrounding the phoenix were a misunderstanding of the Egyptian myths of the Benu. This bird was also known to be a symbol of Osiris incarnate, renewing itself. The similarities with the phoenix are numerous.

the myth

Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent's sepulcher), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the sun.

-- Ovid

As Ovid tells us, the Phoenix comes from Assyria, however, this bird appears in many places at many times. There are Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Egyptian, and Native American counterparts. (Fng-Huang, Ho-oo, Firebird, Benu, and Yel respectively). All of these birds are identified with the sun, and are very similar to the bird described by Ovid. The first known mention of this bird was by Hesiod in the eighth century B.C., and the most detailed early account is by the Greek historian Heroditus. He says,

"I have not seen it myself, except in a picture. Part of his plumage is gold-coloured, and part crimson; and he is for the most part very much like an eagle in outline and bulk."

Like Heroditus says, the Phoenix is a large eagle like or heron like bird with red and gold feathers (although the Chinese phoenix has five colours). The bird is also known to have a beautiful song. The bird is supposed to be very long-lived with a life span of, according to various accounts, 500 years, 540 years, 1000 years, 1461 years or even 12 994 years. This is the Phoenix as we know it, the bird that is self-reincarnated from its own ashes.

By the fourth century A.D. the phoenix myth had changed so that the mature bird self-immolated after turning its nest into a funeral pyre. After three days, it "rose again". Thus the phoenix became identified with the resurrection of Christ and became a symbol of both immortality and life after death.

One possible explanation for the phoenix myth: some large birds spread their wings over fires so that the smoke kills parasites.

As the bird kept appearing in writing, its origin changed a little. In Pliny's account of the Roman senator Manilius' report of the genesis of the phoenix. He stated that a small worm grew from the bones and marrow of the dead bird. This worm eventually develops into the new bird.
Oh and all of the stuff that you have been reading was given me by none other than...

When we were still firmly ensconced in our friendship. Now however...well most of you know. Those who don't, comment and I may have to call you. Long story.

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