Phoenix rising from the ashes in Book of Mythological Creatures
by Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch (1747-1822)
"A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration." - The Feng Shui Handbook, feng shui Master Lam Kam Chuen
Eternal and beautiful, the Phoenix represent hope and life in the face of calamity and destruction.
The Phoenix, a large bird the size of an eagle with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage.
According to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived in Arabia next to a cool well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Apollo stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song.
The reason the Phoenix is so famous lies in his ability to regenerate in a manner quite unique. As the Phoenix approaches its death, it is consumed by flames to such degree that its whole body turns into ashes. From these ashes a new Phoenix is born.
As the end of its life approached, the phoenix would build a pyre nest of aromatic branches and spices such as myrrh, sets it on fire, and is consumed in the flames. After three days the birth -- or as some legends say a rebirth -- the phoenix arises from the ashes. According to some sources, the phoenix arose from the midst of the flames.The young phoenix gathers the ashes of its predecessor into an egg of myrrh and takes it to Heliopolis, the city of the sun, to deposit it on the alter of the sun god.
The Phoenix therefore doesn’t engage in normal breeding so it is believed that only one phoenix existed at any one time, and it is very long-lived with a life span of 500 years, 540 years, 1000 years, 1461 years or even 12,994 years (according to various accounts).
Map of Arabia
As far as history can show, the oldest version of the phoenix can be found in the Benu bird a now extinct ancient type of Heron.
The Egyptians believed that the universe began with the cry of this bird and due to their cultural beliefs on immortality would hold this long lived bird in hight regard.
The Arabic version of the phoenix is the most popular in modern times.
It is said to be as large as an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. Making it's home near a cool well, the Phoenix would appear at dawn every morning to sing a song so enchanting that even the great sun god Apollo would stop to listen.
The mythical bird is also present in Persia, China and Japan in varied versions of it. You could look those up here.
China: In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is the symbol of high virtue and grace, of power and prosperity. It represents the union of yin and yang. It was thought to be a gentle creature, alighting so gently that it crushed nothing, and eating only dewdrops. Jewelry with the phoenix design showed that the wearer was a person of high moral values, and so the phoenix could only be worn by people of great importance.
Japan: The Ho-Oo has been adopted as a symbol of the royal family, particularly the empress. It is supposed to represent the sun, justice, fidelity and obedience.
Egypt: The Bennu was associated with the sun and represented the ba or soul of the sun god, Re. In the Late Period, the hieroglyph of the bird was used to represent this deity directly. As a symbol of the rising and setting sun, the Benu was also the lord of the royal jubilee.
Persia: The Huma is considered to be a compassionate bird and its touch is said to bring great fortune.The Huma bird joins both the male and female natures together in one body, each sharing a wing and a leg. It avoids killing for food, rather preferring to feed on carrion. The Persians teach that great blessings come to that person on whom the Huma's shadow falls.
Christianity: Due to the themes of death and resurrection, it was adopted a symbol in early Christianity, as an analogy of Christ’s death and three days later his resurrection. The image became a popular symbol on early Christian tombstones. It is also symbolic of a cosmic fire some believe created the world and which will consume it.
Phoenix rising from its ashes
The Phoenix is a simple creature to explain. It bears only two aspect to its myth: a fiery rebirth and strong healing power.
How could we “explain” these attributes?
The fiery rebirth.
Illustration from 12th century Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript
Part of the reproductive cycle of the phoenix is self-immolation which could be plained two ways.
Firstly, the ashes would protect and help the egg waiting the hatching. Secondly, the heat generated by the fire would bring the egg at the right temperature for it to hatch.
But how does the bird catches on fire?
As the myth goes, the bird collect and spices and gums with which to build its nest. These combined with the heat of Arabia and Egypt would create a buildup of inflammable oils on the feathers of the Phoenix creating a wicker effect which will make it prone to spontaneous combustion.
Secondly, parthenogenesis is a term in biology which means virgin birth. It is an asexual form of reproduction. Females lay eggs without fertilization by a male. Growth and development of embryos occurs with all genes inherited from the mother. It should be mentioned that most of the time the animal produced by parthenogenesis are female so consequently the Phoenix shall be as well.
The Phoenix tears’ healing powers.
This one is a little more farfetched but we could imagine that this same collections of spices and gums form an antiseptic balm which residues would be collected in the lacrimal glands of the bird.
The mythical phoenix has been incorporated into many religions, signifying eternal life, destruction, creation and fresh beginnings.
So, when you think you have crashed and burned you can “like a Phoenix rising from his ashes” be reborn and renewed. It’s never too late for a fresh start!
To answer the question, the Phoenix is definitely female!