The Mythology and Origins of the Phoenix

The Phoenix is an ancient mythical bird whose symbolism and mythology still intrigue us today. It is said to live 500 years or more, and when the old bird is tired, it flies from Arabia to land in Heliopolis, Egypt, the “City of the Sun”. There, it gathers cinnamon sticks and resin to build a spice nest atop the Temple of the Sun. The sun ignites the nest and the old phoenix dies in flames, giving rise to a new one.

The Phoenix has been inspiring stories and works of art since at least 1500 BC. C., symbolizing rebirth, renewal, immortality, healing and eternal fire. It has been used as an emblem by Coventry University, linking with the city in which it is based, and for the same reason that Coventry City Football Club wears a phoenix on its club's crest. Over time, the motif of the phoenix spread and gained a variety of new associations; Herodotus, Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Lactancio, Ovid and Isidore of Seville are among those who have helped to retell and transmit the motif of the phoenix.

The Phoenix was also known to have regenerative powers and was considered invincible and immortal, excluding the end of its natural life cycle when it was necessary for the next Phoenix to be reborn. Because the Phoenix is so closely related to the Sun, there are those who might hypothesize that the birth of the Phoenix could also be the birth of a new world. A variant of the story caused the dying phoenix to fly to Heliopolis and immolate itself in the fire of the altar, from where the young phoenix rose. Because many of the cultures that embraced the Phoenix were known to believe in the possibility of immortality through reincarnation (or transmigration), it is likely that the story of the Phoenix was created to give a more vivid description of the cycle of life and death.

The classic discourse on the subject of the phoenix attributes a potential origin of the phoenix to Ancient Egypt. The Phoenix is considered to be a single creature, rather than a species with several individuals, which makes it unique in its kind. Finally, a lesser-known version of the Phoenix story states that it begins to show signs of aging when it reaches its last few years.The Phoenix would then take an egg to Ra's temple - which Herodotus calls Helios' temple - giving it solar associations. While most commonly associated with Greek mythology, there were several other cultures that contain references to similar 'sunbirds' or 'firebirds' that have often been compared to the Phoenix itself.

Amelia Thorns
Amelia Thorns

Evil music geek. Pop culture guru. Proud zombie evangelist. Extreme twitter maven. Proud social media lover. Award-winning pop culture lover.

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