Thursday Myths & Legends 101: The Phoenix

In mythology, the phoenix is largely known as the fire bird, decorated in colorful plummage, capable of rising from its own ashes reborn. It is commonly associated with immortality as the phoenix’s lifespan ranged from 500-1,000 years, only to be reborn and live another full lifespan.

In many cultures, the phoenix is associated with the sun. For instance, Egyptian mythology had a phoenix like bird they called Bennu, which literally translates to “rise” or “shine”. Mentioned in the Book of the Dead and other sacred writings, it is usually mentioned in relation to their sun-god Ra. The Greeks also believed that when their sun-god Helios heard the phoenix sing, he would stop his chariot in the sky and listen, mesmerized.

Other legends regarding the bird exist in Russian folklore, Chinese and Japanese myths, and Native American legend.

The main consensus is this: after its long lifespan the phoenix builds a nest of myrrh twigs and both the bird and the nest go up in flames. From its ashes a new, younger phoenix is born.

The most popular and perhaps well known use of the bird and its meaning is X-men’s transformed Jean Grey.

What I love most about the myth is its symbollic potential. In fact, I have an entire character who is in essence a phoenix and who controls fire. His journey is that of destruction and rebirth. But I feel in this age of paranormal and fantasy, this myth offers limitless potential.

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About Isabelle

Isabelle is a multi-published author who dabbles in 1950s romance, speculative science fiction, and more recently fantasy and YA. A twenty something dreamer who loves chocolate, romance novels, and heart wrenching movies, Isabelle is most comfortable on stage behind a microphone belting out her favorite karaoke tunes, or curled up in bed with a book and a cup of cocoa on a rainy night. View all posts by Isabelle

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