The Phoenix is mentioned or represented in many cultures. It was thought to have originated in Assryia, but there are the Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Egyptian, Greek and Native American counterparts (FÍng-Huang, Ho-oo, Firebird, Benu, Phoenix and Yel respectively). All of these birds are identified with the sun.
In Assyria, the Phoenix is represented as the following:
The Phoenix does not live on fruit or flowers, like most birds but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. Itís life-span is five hundred years, when these 500 years are at an end, it will build itself a nest in the branches of an oak, on the top of a palm tree. It will the collect cinnamon, spikenard, and myrrh and use these materials to build a pile, on which it deposits itself. Thus when it dies it can breath itís last breadth amidst the odors these materials release. Then from the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix is born, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this Phoenix has grown and gained sufficient strength, it lifts the nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent's sepulcher), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the sun.
The Egyptianís name for the Phoenix was the Bennu and was often depicted as a heron, but also as a peacock or an eagle. Itís plumes were a brilliant red and golden colour. Bennu was the sacred bird of Heliopolis. Identified as a heron with its long straight back and head adorned at the back with two erect feathers, the Bennu was later named Phoenix by the Assyrians/Greeks.
The story of the Phoenix is as follows:
The Bennu lived on the ben-ben stone or obelisk within the sanctuary of Heliopolis and was worshipped alongside Ra and Osiris. Similar to what is said in Assyria it created itself from fire, in this case the fire that burned on the top of the sacred Persea tree in Heliopolis. It was said that the sun rose in the form of the Bennu each morning and that the Bennu was also considered a manifestation of Osiris, said to spring from his heart as a living symbol of the god. It also symbolises rebirth as it rises from the ashes, just as the new sun rises from the old.
The Chinese called the Phoenix the Feng-Huang and was envisaged as a symbol of high virtue and grace, it representing power and prosperity and reflected the empress, because of this the empress was the only one allowed too wear itís symbol.
In China there is the male Phoenix, the "phuong", and the female, the "hoang".
It is said that the Phoenix only appears in peaceful and prosperous times, and hides when there is trouble. This makes the a sign of peace and a symbol of disharmony. The Phoenix is a bird symbolizing the union of yin and yang
The Chinese imagination conceived the Phoenix in the following form:
The Phoenix has a large bill, the neck of a snake, the back of a tortoise, and tail of a fish. It carries in its bill either two scrolls or a square box that contains sacred books. According to tradition, the Phoenix's song includes all the five notes of the traditional musical scale; its feathers include the five fundamental colors and its body is a composite of the six celestial bodies: the head symbolises the sky; the eyes, the sun; back, the moon; the wings, the wind; feet, the earth; and the tail, the planets.
The Greeks along with the Assryians named this bird the Phoenix and according to there text was placed in Arabia.
The story of the Phoenix goes as follows:
ĒThe Phoenix lives close to a cool well. Then every morning at dawn the Phoenix will go and bath in the well and sing a beautiful song. This song, being so beautiful, causes the sun god to stop his chariot and listen.Ē
In Greek Myth there only exists one Phoenix at a time. When the Phoenix is about to die (every 500 or 1461 years) it will build a nest. The nest is then set on fire, and the Phoenix is consumed by the flames. From the pyre springs forth a new Phoenix which then embalms the ashes of it's predecessor in an egg of myrrh and flies with it to the City of the Sun. There the egg is deposited on the altar of the sun god.
The Phoenix Constellation:
The Phoenix is a constellation in the Southern Hemisphere near Tucana and Sculptor. Phoenix was named by Johann Bayer in 1603 in his catalog, Uranometria. It lies between Grus and Eridanus. The constellation, universally recognized as a bird, has also been called The Griffin, The Eagle,
The Young Ostriches (Arabic), and The Fire Bird (Chinese).
The Phoenix was first mentioned by Hesiod in the eighth century B.C., and the most detailed early account is by the Greek historian Heroditus. He says,
ĒI have not seen it myself, except in a picture. Part of his plumage is
gold-coloured, and part crimson; and he is for the most part very much like an eagle in
outline and bulk.Ē
In the fourth century A.D. the myth of the Phoenix myth had changed so that the mature bird
self-immolated after turning its nest into a funeral pyre. Then after three days, it rose to live
again. This then led onto the Phoenix becoming identified with the resurrection of Christ and became a symbol of both immortality and life after death.