As a fan of the Harry Potter movie, the best depiction of the Phoenix bird I can make in my mind is that of Dumbledore’s Fawkes. The majestic red and golden creature, among other things, can carry objects far heavier than its body weight, and their tears can heal mortal wounds.
It won’t be anything less than phenomenal to see this creature with our own eyes, if only it were true.
According to Greek mythology, a Phoenix is a long-lived bird that symbolizes resurrection as it regenerates or reborn from the ashes of its previous self. It is usually associated with the Sun.
From the accounts of ancient Greek historian Herodotus to modern-day literature and cinemas, we have handpicked certain details about the Phoenix bird that you may find interesting.
Let’s Start With Quick Facts
16. “The Phoenix and the Turtle” by William Shakespeare is considered by many as one of his most enigmatic works. In the poem, he describes a funeral arranged for a turtledove and Phoenix, both of whom were lovers.
15. Apart from carrying tremendous weights and healing wounds, Phoenix in the Harry Potter universe can apparate out of thin air. The Phoenix song instills courage in pure-hearted and strikes fear in evil.
14. The famous rock band, Queen’s logo, features a Phoenix on the top. It was designed by their lead singer Freddie Mercury.
Queen Poster for their 1977 world tour | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
13. Ho-uh, a bird-like legendary Pokemon in the Pokemon universe, is based on the Phoenix legend (more precisely on Fenghuang, Chinese analog of the Phoenix).
12. In Marvel Comics, Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity that represents life, as well as the forces of creation and destruction. It is indestructible and immortal.
11. The Phoenix Force is closely associated with mutant Jean Grey, who has proven to be the only ideal and rightful owner of the cosmic power.
10. There is a mission in the popular fantasy MMORPG RuneScape in which the player is tasked to help a dying Phoenix in her rebirthing ritual. In exchange, the played is bestowed with Phoenix feathers that can be used to summon her.
9. The Phoenix and the Carpet, a popular fantasy children novel by Edith Nesbit, illustrate a friendly relationship between the mythical bird and a human family.
8. The Dota 2, a widely popular multiplayer online battle arena game, features a unique hero called Phoenix. It is inspired by the mythical creature.
7. In Ark: Survival Evolved (survival action game), you can domesticate or tame a Phoenix. In the game, phoenixes never land on the earth’s surface and continue to fly until they die by turning into ashes.
6. Origin of the Phoenix Bird Myth
Perhaps the earliest instance of the Phoenix bird or something similar can be found in Egyptian mythology, in which it is described as a self-created being associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth. The ancient Egyptians, however, called it Bennu or Bennu-bird.
Bennu, according to Egyptian mythology, was the soul of Ra (deity of the Sun and sky) who played an essential role in the creation of the world itself.
Various historical texts indicate that the ancient Greeks could have derived the name ‘Phoenix’ from Egyptian ‘Bennu’ as they have similarities.
In his account of the majestic bird (based on the narrative of the residents of Heliopolis), Herodotus wrote, a sacred bird, Phoenix, appears only once in 500 years and comes, all the way, from Arabia.
5. Analogs Of The Phoenix Exist In Different Cultures
Since the ancient Greeks (or Egyptians), the legendary Phoenix has been incorporated into various cultures and folklore around the world.
The most widely known analogs of the Phoenix include the Chinese Fenghuang, Russian (Slavic mythology) Firebird, and Hindu Garuda, among others. These mythical creatures have many striking similarities.
Depiction of the Anqa in Qazwini’s The Wonder of Creation
In Arabic mythology, Anqa, a large female bird with four wings and vibrant colors, has been closely linked to the Phoenix. The term ‘Anqa’ is often used interchangeably to identify the Simurgh bird of Persian mythology.
Garuda serves an important role in Buddhist, Jain as well as Hindu mythology. Indonesia and Thailand use Garuda as a National Symbol.
4. It Symbolizes Resurrection And Rebirth
Phoenix does not only represent the Sun but time, sanctification, the Empire, Christ, and metempsychosis as well. In the Old English Exeter Codex, the Phoenix is viewed as an allegory for the resurrection of Christ.
Due to its association with resurrection and rebirth, the Phoenix was a widely popular symbol in early Christianity. Many believed that it symbolizes the cosmic fire which created the world and one day would devour it.
Mythical creatures in other cultures, such as Konrul in Turkic mythology and the Milcham in Jewish folklore, possess similar powers (such as immorality and reincarnation).
The popular culture has given rise to a few contemporary myths such as tears of the Phoenix have immense healing power, and you cannot lie if the bird is near.
3. The appearance of The Phoenix Bird
The Phoenix bird has been portrayed in various ancient literary works, but its description has never been consistent. The earliest surviving literary and artworks featuring phoenixes often include a halo or nimbuses (bright rays) similar to that of Helios, the Greek god of the Sun.
Though the Phoenix is usually perceived as vibrant and colorful, sources contradict each other on its coloration in general. Lactantius, an adviser of Constantine the Great, described the bird having sapphires like blue eyes and golden-red legs.
Herodotus, on the other hand, claimed the bird to be bright red and yellow. This version of the Phoenix bird was supported by many others, including Ezekiel, the Dramatist.
Scholars like Pliny the Elder, Solinus, and Herodotus have compared the size of Phoenix to that of an eagle. Ezekiel the Dramatist, on the contrary, claimed it to be much like a rooster. Some even claimed it to be larger than an ostrich.
2. It Lives Up To 500-1000 Years
Rising from its ashes
The age at which the mythical creature dies and then resurrect itself is also unclear. It differs from culture to culture.
In some mythologies, it is stated that the Phoenix lives up to 1000 years, while others claim it to be close to 1500 years. Zakariya Al-Qazwini, in his book, the Wonders of Creation, claims the bird lived for about 1700 years.
However, most accounts concerning the lifespan of the Phoenix mentions its age to be 500 years before it’s reborn again. Furthermore, no records have been found to date that claims the bird dies anytime before 500 years or that of exceeding 1500 years, apart from few exceptions.
1. The Phoenix Serves As an Alchemical Symbol
In alchemy, the Phoenix is used to represent changes during chemical reactions and properties of matter. Along with birds like swan and raven, Phoenix is associated with Magnum opus, an alchemical term that defines the process of creating the philosopher’s stone.
There are four original stages of alchemical work; nigredo, that represent decay or putrefaction; albedo, meaning purification; citrinitas, for awareness, and finally; rubedo, a red stage which is represented by symbols including blood, a phoenix, a rose, or a figure wearing red clothes.