One of the most well known mythological creatures isn't a god. Or even a
character from a story like Odysseus or Achilles. It isn't even Medusa or the
Pegasus. It's the Phoenix. Everyone has heard of or seen a representation of
this mythical bird.
The phoenix has always been known as a creature of fire. Crimson coloured,
with wings of flame, the phoenix is a symbol of immortality. A phoenix lives a
set life span, several hundred years, and then dies in a burst of flames. It is
then reborn from the ashes as a baby and starts all over again.
Many myths surround the phoenix extending into modern day literature. One of
the most well known stories today with a phoenix are the Harry Potter books by
J.K. Rowling. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers stone, the
headmaster of Hogwarts has a phoenix pet. According to the books, the phoenix
has healing properties in its tears, can carry enormous loads, and has a magical
song. Harry's wand and that of his nemesis Voldemort each have a feather from
the tail of the very phoenix that the headmaster keeps as a pet.
Also playing on the myth of the phoenix and its immortality is the character
of Jean Grey in the Xmen comics. An alien entity possesses Jean, giving her
almost limitless power. Corrupted by the sensations of a living body, the entity
causes havoc and Jean sacrifices herself to save the world. She is resurrected
later in the comics furthering the connection with the myth of the Phoenix.
Later, the phoenix entity possessed Jean Grey's daughter, Rachael Summers (the
Summers clan is evil and must be destroyed, by the by) who also ends up
sacrificing herself to save humanity from the alien's powers and is later
resurrected as well.
In Neil Gaiman's book, The Firebird, a society discovers that one can ingest
the flesh of a phoenix. If they survive the experience, the years are literally
burnt off of them, granting them eternal youth.
In Greek myths, the phoenix lived by a well and would bathe there at dawn.
Apollo would stop his chariot on his trek across the skies to listen to the
magical song of the fiery bird.
The phoenix also makes appearances in other mythologies. In Persian mythology
the phoenix is a Roc or a Simurgh. A massive bird with huge wingspan. Possessed
of enormous strength. Famed fantasy author, Piers Anthony uses this incarnation
of the phoenix in his Xanth books. The Simurgh is the wisest bird and holds much
The phoenix is also used as a mascot for schools, in coats of medieval arms,
as representations in children's cartoons, and any number of other places. I'm
sure I recall seeing some sort of phoenix like bird in the Pokemon cartoons
while flipping channels one day.
One of my personal favourites, the phoenix is a well beloved and often seen
mythological figure. It's a beautiful creature with a long and well known
history. And while a flying horse is pretty cool, it can't compare to a pretty
immortal bird. And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go see a man
about a cool tattoo!