The phoenix, or phœnix together it is occasionally spelled, has been one enduring supernatural symbol for millennia and throughout vastly various cultures. Despite such arrays of societies and times, the phoenix is consistently characterized as a bird v brightly colored plumage, which, after ~ a long life, die in a fire the its own making just to rise again from the ashes. From religious and naturalistic symbolism in ancient Egypt, come a secular symbol for armies, communities, and also even societies, and also an often-used literature symbol, this mythical bird"s representation of death and rebirth appears to resonate with humankind"s aspirations.

You are watching: Is a phoenix a real bird


2 Mythical Origins

General Description

Although many cultures have their own interpretation of the phoenix, the differences in nuance are overshadowed by the mythical creature"s more homogeneous characteristics. The phoenix is constantly a bird, usually having actually plumage of colors corresponding to fire: yellow, orange, red, and gold. The most universal characteristic is the bird"s capacity to resurrect. Life a lengthy life (the exact age can differ from 5 hundred to end a thousands years), the bird dies in a self-created fire, burning right into a pile of ashes, indigenous which a phoenix chick is born, representing a cyclical procedure of life from death. Since it is reborn indigenous its own death, the phoenix also took ~ above the features of regeneration and also immortality.

Did friend know?
Diverse societies include sport on the phoenix, a bird with the capacity to be reborn

Mythical Origins


Bennu –or HeronPhoenix in hieroglyphs

The earliest representation of the phoenix is found in the ancient Egyptian Bennu bird, the name relating come the verb “weben,” definition “to rise brilliantly,” or “to shine.” some researchers think that a now extinct large heron was a possible real life incentive for the Bennu. However, due to the fact that the Bennu, prefer all the other versions the the phoenix, is mostly a symbolic icon, the many mythical sources of the Bennu in ancient Egyptian culture reveal an ext about the world than the presence of a real bird.

One version of the myth claims that the Bennu bird burst soon from the heart of Osiris. In the much more prevalent myths, the Bennu created itself indigenous a fire the was melted on a holy tree in among the sacred precincts of the holy place of Ra. The Bennu was claimed to have actually rested on a sacred obelisk that was known as the benben-stone. In ~ the finish of that is life-cycle, the phoenix would construct itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignited; both nest and also bird burned fiercely and would be decreased to ashes, native which a new, young phoenix arose. The new phoenix embalmed the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg make of myrrh and also deposited the in the Egyptian city that Heliopolis ("the city of the sun" in Greek).

The Bennu was pictured together a grey, purple, blue, or white heron through a lengthy beak and a two-feathered crest. Occasionally it was portrayed as a yellow wagtail, or together an eagle through feathers that red and gold. In rarely instances the Bennu to be pictured together a male with the head of a heron, put on a white or blue mummy dress under a transparent long coat. Since of its link to Egyptian religion, the Bennu was thought about the “soul” of the god Atum, Ra, or Osiris, and was sometimes referred to as “He that Came right into Being through Himself,” “Ascending One,” and also “Lord of Jubilees.” these names and the connection with Ra, the sunlight god, reflect not simply the old Egyptian belief in a spiritual extension of life after physical death, but also reflected the natural procedure of the Nile River"s rising and falling, i m sorry the Egyptians depended on for survival. The Bennu additionally became closely associated to the Egyptian calendar, and also the Egyptians kept intricate time measuring gadgets in the Bennu Temple.


The Huma, likewise known as the "bird the paradise," is a Persian supernatural bird, similar to the Egyptian phoenix. It consumes chin in fire every couple of hundred years, only to increase anew indigenous the ashes. The Huma is thought about to be a compassionate bird and also its touch is stated 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 stays clear of killing because that food, quite preferring to feeding on carrion. The Persians teach that great blessings concerned that human being on whom the Huma"s zero falls.<1>

According come Sufi grasp Hazrat Inayat Kahn,

The indigenous huma in the Persian language means a fabulous bird. There is a belief that if the huma bird sits because that a moment on someone"s head the is a sign that the will end up being a king. That true meaning is that once a person"s thoughts evolve so the they break every limitation, he then becomes a king. That is the limitation of language that it deserve to only define the many High together something prefer a king.<2>


The Greeks adapted the indigenous bennu and also identified it through their very own word phoenix "φοινιξ", meaning the color purple-red or crimson. They and the Romans ultimately pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. Follow to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived in Arabia alongside a well. In ~ dawn, the bathed in the water the the well, and the Greek sun-god Apollo quit his chariot (the sun) in bespeak to hear to that song.



The phoenix (known as Garuda in Sanskrit) is the mystical fire bird i m sorry is considered as the chariot that the Hindu god Vishnu. Its reference deserve to be found in the Hindu epos Ramayana.

In China, the phoenix is called Feng-huang and symbolizes completeness, incorporating the straightforward elements of music, colors, nature, as well as the joining of yin and yang. It is a price of peace, and represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, and fidelity. The Feng-huang, unlike the phoenix i m sorry dies and is reborn, is important immortal although that only shows up in times of peace and also prosperity.<3>

Judaism and Christianity

In Judaism, the phoenix is recognized as Milcham or Chol (or Hol): The story of the phoenix begins in the Garden that Eden when Eve fell, tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. Follow to the Midrash Rabbah, upset by her situation and jealous that creatures quiet innocent, eve tempted all the other creatures of the garden to do the same. Only the Chol (phoenix) resisted. As a reward, the phoenix was given eternal life, life in peace for a thousands years and then being reborn indigenous an egg to proceed to live in tranquility again, repeating the bike eternally (Gen. Rabbah 19:5). Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, much better known as Rashi, comment that death has no power over the phoenix, "because the did not taste the fruit native the tree of knowledge."<4>

The phoenix also appears in the book of Job: "I shall multiply my days as the Chol, the phoenix" (Job 29:18), again indicating lengthy life if no immortality. This reference, however, is controversial since chol has been interpreted as phoenix, sand, and palm tree in various versions.<5>

The phoenix became a prize of Christianity in beforehand literature, one of two people from the ancient Hebrew legend or indigenous the incorporation of Greek and also Roman culture, or indigenous a mix of both. In any type of case, the ideological background of the phoenix right perfectly with the story that Christ. The phoenix"s resurrection from fatality as new and pure deserve to be regarded as a an allegory for Christ"s resurrection, main to Christian belief. The phoenix is referenced by the early on Christian Apostolic dad Clement in The an initial Epistle the Clement to the Corinthians. Most of the Christian-based phoenix symbolism appears within works of literature, specifically in Medieval and also Renaissance Christian literature that linked classical and regional myth and folklore with more mainstream doctrine.



The phoenix go not show up as a heraldic number as frequently as various other mythical creatures. However, the has showed up on family crests and shields throughout time, usually illustrated as one eagle surrounded, but not hurt, by flames. Jane Seymour"s heraldic badge includes a phoenix rising from a castle, in between two red and white Tudor roses.<6> some cities in Europe usage the phoenix in your municipal emblem to signify the one-time destruction and consequent rebuilding the the city, connecting come the picture of resurrection natural in the phoenix.

Phoenix, Arizona was called such since it was a frontier station resolved upon the damages of a aboriginal American site. The an initial European inhabitants determined to name their city in concurrence v the idea that from the damages of one city, one more was created.



The phoenix no longer appears significantly in any spiritual or social truths. However, the picture is still offered in literature, perhaps due to the fact that of every the mythical creatures native antiquity, the phoenix is the one that frequently expresses one enduring sense of hope and also redemption. Its beauty, beauty is no as otherworldly as most of the other creatures in myth, and its symbolism is conveyed v a extensive subtlety when offered in literature.

William Shakespeare made one of the most significant references in both his plays The Tempest, combine a number of other mythical creatures however placing the phoenix different and above the rest, and also in Timon the Athens, once a councilor metaphorically call Timon "a naked gull, i m sorry flashes currently a phoenix." In other works the Renaissance literature, the phoenix is said to have been consumed as the rarest that dishes—for only one was alive at any type of one time. Ben Jonson, in Volpone (1605) writes: "could we acquire the phœnix, despite nature shed her kind, shee were our dish."

Sylvia Townsend Warner"s 1940 brief story "The Phoenix" satirized the exploitation that nature making use of a phoenix maltreated in a carnival sideshow, revealing the modern preference because that violence and sensationalism over beauty and dignity. The majesty the Eudora Welty"s classic 1941 short story “A Worn Path” employs the phoenix as the name of the significant and virtually single character of a sparsely written, yet well-off story of regeneration and also the South.

Edith Nesbit"s famous children"s novel, The Phoenix and the Carpet is based upon this legend creature and its quirky friendship with a household of children. The phoenix was also famed for being a prize of the rise and fall of society in ray Bradbury"s Fahrenheit 451. The pattern of an over complacent and also abusive society"s damage yielding a fresh brand-new start was contrasted to the phoenix"s supernatural pattern of usage by flame, then resurrection out of ashes.

Sylvia Plath additionally alludes to the phoenix in the finish of her famous poem Lady Lazarus. The speaker of this poem describes her unsuccessful attempts at committing self-destruction not together failures, yet as effective resurrections, prefer those explained in the tales of the biblical character Lazarus and the phoenix. Through the finish of the poem, the speaker has transformed right into a fire bird, successfully marking she rebirth, i m sorry some doubters liken come a demonic transformation. The poem ends: "Out that the ash / I increase with mine red hair / and also I eat men like air."

More recently, take care of Potter series author J.K. Rowlings has used a phoenix together a central symbol in she stories. If the take care of Potter collection has drawn some debate from the Christian community, Rowling"s use of other timeless mythical beasts and also her timeless literature background argues that she is using the phoenix together a Christian symbol of purification and resurrection.

See more: How Long Is The Flight To Australia From $387, Flight Time From New York To Sydney




New world Encyclopedia writers and also editors rewrote and also completed the Wikipedia articlein accordance with brand-new World Encyclopedia standards. This short article abides by regards to the an innovative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 patent (CC-by-sa), which may be used and also disseminated with suitable attribution. Credit transaction is due under the terms of this license that have the right to reference both the brand-new World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors the the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this post click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The background of previously contributions by wikipedians is available to researcher here:

The history of this article since it was imported to brand-new World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some limitations may use to use of individual pictures which are individually licensed.