Phoenix: The Sacred Bird

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Some Arabic legends assert the Phoenix rose from the ashes three times later, but others say the Phoenix was reborn and emerged from the still burning flames. The Phoenix features in mythology from many Middle Eastern countries.

The conventional Phoenix lived near a cool well, and each morning would seem to sing a song to greet the brand new day. So enchanting was the tune the Greek sun god Apollo would stop to listen. It had been believed only one Phoenix existed at any 1 time. The youthful Phoenix would collect the ashes of its predecessor to an egg made from myrrh and deposit them on the sun god’s altar at Heliopolis, the city of the sun. The Phoenix resides on the morning dew, and no one has ever seen one eat. It kills nothing and crushes nothing it rolls. When hurt the Phoenix can regenerate itself, so it’s immortal and invincible and a mysterious sign of divinity. A Phoenix can be a healer, since its tears can cure wounds.

They called the bird Benu (or Bennu), and it had been depicted in the form of a heron, with long legs and two long white feathers on both sides of its head. The sacred bird of Heliopolis, the Benu is related to the sun, and its image has came to signify Ra. The Egyptian Phoenix is credited with the invention of the Nile river, and was the very first life form that appeared on the isolated rocks and islands following the flooding that gave birth to the river. Its call is the cry that marked the start of time, and it’s the god of time – and thus of the hours, days, nights, weeks months and years.

In Chinese Mythology the Phoenix is called Feng Huang (or Fung), and is the next most respected creature after the dragon. It’s a symbol of high virtue and grace, of riches and power, representing the marriage of ying and yang. It’s called having the beak of a rooster, the surface of a swallow, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, the hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish – certainly an odd looking bird! The Feng Huang’s feathers are colored in the five basic colours: black, white, red, yellow and green, representing the Confucian virtues of loyalty, honesty, decorum and justice.

The Japanese Phoenix is named based on sex: Hou-Ou or Hoo-Oo – Hou is man and Ou is female. It looks like its Chinese counterpart in appearances, and is frequently depicted nesting in the paulownia tree. It only appears at the arrival of a virtuous ruler, also marks the new age by flying down from the skies to do good deeds for people before returning home to await the arrival of a new age. Some traditions claim the Hou-Ou only appears during times of peace and prosperity – Quite simply very rarely!

“Huma” is Persian for”mythical bird”. And if it alights upon somebody’s head, even for only a moment, that individual will become king. The Huma has the capacity to free the mind, breaking all constraints so the individual will be a wise and considerate king. It doesn’t kill for food, choosing instead to feed upon carrion.

Another Arabian mythical bird is the Cinomolgus or”cinnamon bird”, which builds its own cinnamon nest near the peak of the cinnamon tree. Aeons ago cinnamon was a really rare spice, and much sought after. People would throw stone or shoot arrows in the Cinomolgus’ nest in a bid to dislodged the cinnamon sticks when the bad bird took flight. Another narrative claims the Arabians would scatter parts of oxen or other beasts of burden at the base of the nest. The Cinomolgus, not able to resist such a yummy treat, would swoop down and take the meat back to the nest. The weight of the meat would break the nest, leaving the joyous Arabians to collect the cinnamon sticks out of the floor. This is the reason the Cinomolgus started to nest in cinnamon trees from Human settlements, and sightings became extremely rare.

The Avalerion is a very rare bird from Indian mythology – there’s only ever 1 set of these birds. Every sixty years they create two eggs. An interest myth… sadly I have been unable to find much more info on these birds.

Russian folklore’s Zhar-Ptitsa is a magical, luminous bird from a faraway kingdom. Better known as the Firebird, its name means”heat bird”, and it’s both a boon and a curse to some captor. A large bird with a fiery crest and luminous eyes, the Firebird’s plumage glows orange, red and yellow plumage, giving the illusion of firelight. When removed the feathers continue to shine, and one feather has the capacity to illuminate a large room. The hero finds out the feather, and sets out to catch the bird – usually after a request from a parent or his or her king. The protagonist begins his quest with noble ideas about the Firebird, but as his search becomes more difficult he starts to blame the bird for his or her problems. Many fairy tales utilize this quest to present a multitude of fantasy characters, lots of whom are prepared to help the hero catch the bird and return with him to his dwelling.

There are different stories about the Firebird. Legends state during flight the Firebird’s eyes glow and he drops pearls drop from his beak. Peasants gather the pearls that are traded. The most popular legend tells of a tsar who, fed up with the Firebird stealing his gold apples, tasks his three sons with catching the bird. The tsar’s apples were rather special, empowering those eating them with strength and youth. The sons tried really hard, but were not able to catch the elusive Firebird. But they did come close, and captured a few tail feathers. Regrettably they brought back the feather to their father, whose disappointment turned into joy when he saw how the feathers lit up the palace chambers.

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