The Phoenix (Phoenos immortalis)
Soaring birds have a magnetic fascination to us. They symbolise the spirit of freedom and peace. Some like the colossal Thunderbird and the huge Roc frighten us. Others, like the healing Caladrius, the shrewd Simurgh and the Phoenix have stirred love or awe.
The Arabian Phoenix, the ancient and beautiful gold-red plumed firebird, both mythical and sacred resembled a very large eagle -which when caught in the sun’s fire appeared to flare and flame, shimmering in the sky. With a tail of gold, rainbow-hued wings and scarlet feet the King of all Birds, the Greek-named Phoenix was spoken of in myth and legend as the Spirit of Fire.
Originating in regions of Europe, Central America, Egypt and Asia it made home the wooded dells in Central India. It lived on dew, touching neither fruit nor flowers, leaving anything it touched unharmed, killing nothing.
Greek mythology says the Phoenix lived in Phoenicia adjacent to a well. Every sunrise, it bathed in the well’s water, and its aroma and song were of such allure that all Earth’s birds followed it. Even Apollo the Greek sun-god stopped his chariot (the sun) to hear it sing.
Immortality and Rebirth
Towards the end of its life, said to be 500-1000 years, the Phoenix migrated West, gathering leaves and branches of cinnamon, myrrh and other spices from the Arabian Peninsula before continuing onto Phoenicia (Modern Lebanon)
Three days later the Phoenix would set itself and its nest of twigs ablaze, burning fiercely until it was completely consumed by flames and reduced to ashes. When arising from the ashes the new young Phoenix, collected its parents ashes into a myrrh egg carrying them to Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, in Egypt to deposit them on the altar of the sun-gods in the Temple of the Sun, before flying East back to India.
In symbolising rebirth the Phoenix also has a lifecycle that defies biology. In this process of self-destruction it shows us the only way to achieve this dreamed of state of genetic immortality-living forever. It is a very powerful human symbol of spiritual rebirth viewed by Egyptians to be a symbolic representation of fire, divinity, and rebirth.
The Phoenix was said to regenerate when injured by an enemy. Essentially it was indestructible, and considered immortal.
Now extinct its beginnings as its end are veiled in a smoke screen of mystery. But its possible Mediterranean Europeans high demand for spices lead to over- exploitation of Arabian Spice Groves, on which it depended. With a population of one the Phoenix was unable to adapt or evolve and by the end of the 16th century its delicate existence was terminally interrupted and one of nature’s most extraordinary creations had been lost forever.
Chinese and Japanese Phoenix
The Chinese Phoenix (Feng Huang) and Japanese (Hou-Ou/Ho-Oo) are viewed in Chinese mythology to be a symbol of grace, influence and affluence and an excellent example of dignity, bravery, respect and leadership. Representing the birth of the new emperor or the dawn of a new age, the Phoenix symbolizes the cleansing power of fire and the Chinese principle of yin; imperial grace and elegance, immortality and rebirth; purity and piety.
Believed to appear only in times of peace and opulence Feng Huang is the second of four supernatural creatures, the dragon, the unicorn, and the tortoise. It presides over the southern quadrant of the universe, and therefore symbolizes sun and warmth for summer and harvest.
It shares the benevolent nature of the unicorn harming nothing. Settling nowhere but the wu t’ung tree, feeding only on the bamboo seeds it satisfies its thirst only at the sweet fountains.
The Japanese call the Phoenix Karura, or The Ho-Oo (Ho being male and Oo being female) and he is an enormous fire breathing eagle with golden feathers and magic gems adorning his brow, the Karura or Ho came to the earth to do good deeds for mankind. Representative of the beginning of a new age, the Ho-Oo represents the sun, loyalty and conformity.
In Astrology, by Hesiod’s calculations the Phoenix’s birth date would have coincided roughly with the instant all the stars return to their starting positions beginning a new orbit in a perpetual sequence. This is known as the Great Year and effectively, the Phoenix becomes a reflection of the universe.
Phoenix is a constellation in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere near Toucana and Sculptor. The Phoenix cluster is a dense expanse of unexplored stars, and is also linked with the Phoenicids meteor shower of December 5th.
“The Phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune’s spite; revive from ashes and rise.”
~ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Rising from the ashes, the Spirit of Immortality…the Spirit of Fire…the Spirit of Freedom and Peace…PHOENES IMMORTALIS – THE KING OF ALL BIRDS.