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Myths of the Phoenix

The Phoenix exists in many various cultures, and each culture has it’s own name for the Phoenix. In Greek and Roman Legands the mystical red bird is called a Phoenix, for Egyptians, it is known as Bennu, Chinese Fèng Huáng, and Japanese Hō-ō. 

PhoenixEgyption Phoenix Myths

According to ancient Egyptian mythology, the Phoenix was a legendary bird living in Arabia. The first known description of Phoenix is believed to have come from ancient Egypt, where it was first depicted as a heron, with a long straight back, a head embellished with two erect feathers, and its plumage shaded in red and gold. The Phoenix was also considered a sacred bird in Heliopolis, the city of the Sun, where it stayed on a stone or obelisk, inside the town's sanctuary. The Arabian desert however, appears to be its true home from which it traveled to Heliopolis to die and be reborn. The Phoenix was associated with the Sun God Ra and with Osiris, God of the Underworld, who is credited with having given the secret of eternal life to the Phoenix.

Symbolically, the Phoenix represents rebirth, as it rises from its ashes like a new sun. In Egypt, when the Nile flooded the earth each year, the Phoenix is also a symbol of a new phase of wealth and fertility.

The fundamental myth of the Phoenix is that it created itself from the fire that burned on the top of a sacred Persea tree in Heliopolis. Another story recites that the heron Phoenix was the first life form to have appeared on the mound, which rose from the watery chaos of the first creation, which also links the Phoenix the Nile and its periodical floods. In one-way or another, the Phoenix personifies creation and life force. According to Herodotus, after five hundred years, the Phoenix flew to the Sun temple in Heliopolis. After building its funeral pyre with incense twigs, the bird climbed onto it and waited for the sun's rays to consume it with fire. As it went up into flames, sang a song of exceptional beauty, and according to Pliny, from the ashes emerged a small worm that the sun's rays turned into a new Phoenix. In another account, a new Phoenix rose immediately from the ashes, and accompanied by a flight of turtledoves, it flew with its predecessor's embalmed remains to Heliopolis.

Indian Cardinal legendGreek & Roman Phoenix Legends

According to Greek and Roman legends, the Phoenix is the symbol of immortality and resurrection. The name "Phoenix" is the Greek word for "red," which links this magical bird to fire and the sun, and is associated with the Sun god Apollo. For the Greeks and Romans, the mythical bird is said to resemble an eagle or a peacock.

The Greeks also believed that the Phoenix lived in Arabia, in a cool well. Each morning at dawn, it sang a beautiful song, so beautiful that the Sun god would stop his chariot to listen. One unique aspect of the Phoenix is that there may only exist one bird at a time. The Phoenix is a solitary bird without an ability to reproduce, which adds to its loneliness. As it is only death that will bring another of its kind to life, when it feels the end approaching, the Phoenix builds a nest with the finest of aromatic woods, sets it on fire, and is consumed by the flames. Then from the pile of ashes, a new Phoenix arises, young and powerful. Finally, it preserves the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh, and flies to the city of the Sun, Heliopolis, where it places the egg on the altar of the Sun God, Apollo.

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