The bird proudly willing to burn,
So that he may live again,
Chooses the flames of fires
That burn the aged Phoenix
The nature stands still
Till a new young bird starts again,
and begins the legend of the Phoenix.
- Claudian (Roman author)
One day in the ancient times, the sun looked down and saw a large bird with bright red and dazzling gold feathers. The sun god blessed him, "Glorious Phoenix, you shall be my bird and live forever!"
The Phoenix was overjoyed to hear these words and sang, “I shall sing my songs for you alone!" But living forever didn’t make him happy for long. Men, women, and children were always chasing him, wanting some of those beautiful, shiny feathers for themselves.
Tired, the phoenix flew off toward the east, where the sun rises in the morning.
The Phoenix flew for a long time, and then came to a far away, hidden desert where no humans lived. Here, flying freely he would sing the songs of praise to the sun alone.
Five centuries passed. The Phoenix was still alive, but it had grown old. It couldn't soar so high in the sky, nor fly as fast or as far as it was young. It wasn’t as strong.
The Phoenix sang, "Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!"
The sun didn't answer. When the sun still didn't answer, the Phoenix decided to return to the place of its origin.
The journey was long, and because the Phoenix was old and weak, it had to rest along the way. Each time it landed, it collected pieces of cinnamon bark and all kinds of fragrant leaves.
Phoenix on the top of the tree
When at last the bird returned to its home, it landed on a tall palm tree. Right at the top of the tree, the Phoenix built a nest with the cinnamon bark and lined it with the fragrant leaves. Then the Phoenix collected myrrh, a sharp-scented gum and made an egg from it. It carried the egg back to the nest.
The Phoenix sat down in its nest, and once again, sang, "Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!"
This time the sun heard the song. It shone down on the mountainside with all its strength. Everyone, every animal, reptile, bird hid from the sun's fierce rays -- in caves and holes, under shady rocks and trees.
Only the Phoenix sat upon its nest at the top of the tallest palm tree on the highest mountain and let the suns rays beat down upon it beautiful, shiny feathers. Suddenly there was a flash of light, flames leaped out of the nest, and the Phoenix became a big round ball of fire.
After a while the flames died down. Strangely, the nest and the tree remained unaffected by the fire! But the Phoenix disappeared. Only a heap of silvery-gray ash remained in the nest. Suddenly, the ash began to tremble and slowly heaved itself upward. Rose a young Phoenix. It was small and, like new born, looked sort of crumpled. But stretching its neck it lifted and flapped its wings. Moment by moment it grew, until it was the same size as the old Phoenix. It looked around, and hollowed the egg made of myrrh. Placing the ashes inside it finally closed the egg. He resumes his Sun song.
As the song ended the climate changed. The clouds emerged, wind began to blow and all the living creatures emerged out of their hiding places.
The Phoenix, with the egg in its claws, flew up and away. At the same time, birds of all shapes and sizes rose up from the earth and flew behind the Phoenix. They sang, "You are the greatest of birds! You are our king!"
The birds flew with the Phoenix to the temple of the sun at Heliopolis. The Phoenix placed the egg with the ashes inside on the sun's altar.
Every 500 years...
And while the other birds watched, it flew off toward the faraway desert. The legend is that the even today the Phoenix lives there. Every five hundred years, when it begins to feel weak and old, it flies west to the same mountain. It again builds a nest atop the palm tree and the sun again burns it to ashes…
And from these ashes rises another Phoenix.
This legend has been around for centuries with some variations.
Te basic theme is that Phoenix is a supernatural creature. As it dies, it is reborn anew, and rises from the ashes to live again.
Other legends say that it lays a huge egg in the burning coals of the fire which hatches into a new Phoenix to resume the life cycle. Greek and Roman myths consider the Phoenix a symbol of immortality and resurrection, associated with the Sun god Phoebus (Apollo). Phoenix is the Greek word for "red", which links this magical bird to fire and the sun. It is said to resemble an eagle or a peacock.
The Greek legend is that the Phoenix lived in Arabia, in a cool well. At dawn, each morning, it sang a beautiful song, so beautiful that Phoebus (Sun God) would stop his chariot to listen. The Phoenix is a unique bird, there may only exist one at a time, which makes it a solitary bird.
It does not reproduce, which adds to its loneliness, as only its death will bring on another of its race. When it feels its end approaching (between 500 and 1461 years, depending on the legend), it builds a nest with the finest aromatic woods, sets it on fire, and is consumed by his own flames. From the pile of ashes, a new Phoenix arises, young and powerful. It then embalms the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh, and flies to the city of the Sun, Heliopolis, where he deposits the egg on the altar of the Sun god.
Phoenix has always been considered the symbol for resurrection, of rising again, of rising from the ashes…
Among the Egyptians, Phoenix is known as the Benu. The Benu bird was an imaginary bird resembling a heron. It had a two long feathers on the crest of it's head and was often crowned with the Atef crown of Osiris (the White Crown with two ostrich plumes on either side) or with the disk of the sun.
This name apparently was being associated during the earlier periods of Egyptian history with various birds: the crane, the heron, the stork or the flamingo. Later it was more clearly identified with the heron.
She was a kind of primordial god, which built its nest on the willow which is on the top of the primordial hill.
Hindu legend of Phoenix
This same bird was called Vena in the Rig Veda. The legend is originally believed to be Vedic. India and to be exact, Indonesia, is considered the true land of the Phoenix by a school of thought. The Greek and the Roman myths were believed to have been copied from the Egypt which had picked up from India!
Jewish have a different legend. The is Milcham for the Jews. The tradition is that after Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and ate it herself – losing immortality and chastity - she became jealous of the immortality and purity of the others in the garden. She persuaded every animal, every bird to eat the forbidden apple. Everyone fell. The only bird that refused to yield to the temptation, the wiles of the eve was the phoenix.
God rewarded the phoenix by setting him up in a walled city where he could live in great peace for 1000 years. At the end of every 1000-year period, the bird is consumed by fire and reborn from an egg found in its ashes.
This mystic bird was called Vena in the Rig Veda. The legend is originally believed to be Vedic. India and to be exact, Indonesia, is considered the true land of the Phoenix by a school of thought. The Greek and the Roman myths were believed to have been copied from the Egypt which had picked up from India!
Feng Shui belief
Feng Shui belief is that placing Phoenix – always red (symbolic of fire) – in the Fame & Recognition sector enhances it further bringing glory to people. We have several instances of film stars and politicians benefiting by keeping Phoenix in the Fame corner.
I have a different, very unusual version of the Phoenix.
This is the first Phoenix painted on the first generation silk and was discovered from a tomb near Changsha and the archeological studies trace it to be over 2500 years old. The head belongs to golden pheasant (a long tailed game bird from Greece), the beak of the parrot, the body of the mandarin duck, wings of the gigantic bird of east called roc, the feathers of the peacock and the legs of the crane.
Exclusive to the King, this Phoenix was considered a sacred and mysterious symbol that always led the emperor to victory. The common Chinese was strictly prohibited from using this pattern and especially on a yellow robe. Yellow, on any fabric, was reserved only for the royals.
There is a story about Indian Emperor Asoka, the Great asking for the powerful, mysterious and sacred Phoenix from a contemporary Chinese King before embarking on Kalinga war (265 BC or 263 BC). The Chinese (Jin Dynasty) obliged with a replica of Phoenix and the Indian King went on to win the war.
It is ironic that, this same King, because of remorse over the killings of thousands of people, embraced Buddhism and later propagated it in his empire.
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