Saturday, April 22, 2006


In ancient Egyptian mythology and in myths derived from it, the phoenix is a mythical sacred firebird.

Said to live for 500, 1461 or for 12594 years (depending on the source), the phoenix is a male bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in Heliopolis ("the city of the sun" in Greek), located in Egypt. The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — a symbol of fire and divinity.

Although descriptions (and life-span) vary, the phoenix became popular in early Christian art and literature as a symbol of the resurrection, of immortality, and of life-after-death.

Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.



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