The phoenix is a mythical fire bird that has its roots in the myths and legends of the Middle East, Mediterranean and Asia. The phoenix was an important part of many ancient cultures as it was a symbol of fire, change and new beginnings.
Fire Birds and Phoenix Tattoos
The form of the phoenix changes from one culture to the next. In ancient Egypt, the phoenix was described as having red and gold feathers on a body and head that were similar in appearance to an eagle. These red and gold colors look fantastic in phoenix tattoos, especially when displayed on a background of blue, green or grey.
The ancient Greeks believed that the phoenix was similar in structure to peacocks and birds of paradise, with colorful plumage in crimson, gold, red and purple. The phoenix was a symbol of the sun, which the Greeks believed died each evening and was reborn again in the morning. According to the Greeks, the phoenix had a life cycle of 500 or 1000 years. At the end of this cycle, the phoenix would make itself a nest of spice (cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh) and then both the bird and nest would burn fiercely. From the ashes of this fire a new bird would rise, or an egg would emerge.
In most phoenix myths and legends, the phoenix undergoes a process of change and rebirth, cleansing itself of its old life by burning itself in fire. There are many cities around the world that were destroyed by fire and then rebuilt and now either include “phoenix” in their name or use the phoenix as their symbol. An excellent example of this is Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. In 1888, Atlanta adopted the phoenix as its symbol to honor the town’s destruction and consequent rebuilding during the American Civil War. Tattoos of a phoenix can be chosen to honor a city or country that has been destroyed and rebuilt.
In many countries, the word for “phoenix” is similar to the word for “date palm”. This has forever connected the fire bird to the date palm. Both the palm tree and the phoenix are symbols of the sun and in Egypt they are used as symbols for the sun god, Ra. The phoenix and the palm tree are also believed to be feminine in nature and are used in art to balance the masculine nature of other symbols.
The Meaning of Phoenix Tattoos
Phoenix tattoos are a symbol of change and rebirth. The process of burning and being reborn is a symbol of undergoing great strife and pain in order to make a large change in life. Because of this link to new beginnings, phoenix tattoos can symbolize difficult life changes such as recovering from grief or addiction or surviving a disaster.
The colors used in phoenix tattoos vary according to the wishes of the tattoo owner, though purple, red, orange and yellow predominate the color schemes of phoenix tattoos. These warm colors are associated with vitality, fire and the sun, giving phoenix tattoos a link to the most essential building blocks of life; warmth.
The phoenix is thought to be a symbol of powerful femininity and is often depicted in Chinese art as the feminine companion of the male dragon. In tattoo designs, a green or blue dragon and a yellow or red dragon are a symbol of balance between the genders, a complicated form of a yin yang tattoo.
Tattoo designs of a phoenix bird often show the bird with long, flowing tail feathers, similar to those of peacocks and birds of paradise, which means that phoenix tattoos can be both beautifully decorative and deeply meaningful. Phoenix tattoos are powerful symbols of life, change and personal power. A tattoo of a phoenix is a perfect choice for anyone who has overcome great difficulties in life.