Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Phoenix

The Phoenix is found across cultures. Ancient legend paints a picture of a magical bird which lives for several hundred years before it dies, bursting into flames. It is then reborn from the ashes, to start a new life. It is an image that is still used commonly in popular culture and folklore. The legendary phoenix is associated with the rising sun and fire.

It builds its own funeral pyre and ignites it with a clap of its wings. After death it rises gloriously from the ashes and flies away.
Egyptians seem to have been the first to incorporate a bird into the concepts of immortality, resurrection and rebirth. Egyptians referred to a Bennu in their mythology. Bennu has been depicted as a tall bird that resembles a stork or a heron. The Book of the Dead describes Bennu as the heart and soul of Ra and the guide of the gods of the underworld.

In Greek and Roman myths, the phoenix has been portrayed either as peacock-like or an eagle-like bird bearing crimson and gold feathers. It has been chronicled as the most beautiful of birds.
The Huma is a mythical bird of Iranian legends and fables. The Huma bird is said to never come to rest, living its entire life flying invisibly high above the earth, and never alighting on the ground.

In some Huma myths, the bird is said to be phoenix-like, consuming itself in fire every few hundred years years, only to rise anew from the ashes. The Huma bird is a 'bird of fortune' since its shadow (or touch) is said to be auspicious. Even catching a glimpse of it is sure to make one happy for the rest of his/her life.
The Chinese version of the phoenix is Fèng Huáng and is a union of male and female traits. According to the oldest surviving Chinese encyclopedia, the Fèng Huáng has a head of a swallow with a rooster's beak. Its neck resembles that of a snake's, the back is that of a tortoise's and tail of a fish's. The myth says that it appears only at places which are peaceful and devoid of chaos.

The phoenix is Milcham in the Jewish tradition. The legend says that after consuming the 'forbidden fruit' in the garden of Eden, Eve became envious of the other creatures who enjoyed their immortal existence. Therefore, she convinced them to eat the 'forbidden fruit' as well so that they lose their immortality and become lowly mortals. The only creature she could not persuade to do so was the phoenix, who remained immortal.