Phoenix Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Everybody is familiar with the idea of Phoenix symbolism – a bird that rises from the aftermath of fire from its ashes. It symbolizes rebirth and eternity and is also representative of hope. 

Whether you have been dreaming of the phoenix or wish to get a phoenix tattoo, this guide will help you understand different phoenix characteristics, so you will know exactly what does a Pheonix symbolize? 

Table of contents

Phoenix symbolism and meaning

What is a phoenix? The word phoenix comes from the ancient Greek word Φοίνιξ which represents a firebird having its origins in many mythologies. Egyptians believe that the Phoenix represents their sun God Ra and the city of Heliopolis.

In China, the phoenix is very similar to the bird that is known as the leader of the birds- the Feng-huan. In Hindu mythology, the phoenix is similar to Garuda – an immortal bird that is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. (1)

Thus, there is phoenix meaning symbolism in almost every culture around the world. The phoenix is truly a very unique bird. It is solitary and can self-regenerate. In that sense, it is very much like Virgin Mary and hence it has significance in Christianity as well.

What does a phoenix rising from the ashes mean? A new phoenix rises from the ashes of its dead predecessor. 

This is symbolic rebirth, hope, renewal, progress, end of oppression, and eternity. It is no wonder that the beautiful bird has inspired many tales, poems, and even legends. 

Through these legends and literary representations, the phoenix has become a symbol of the renewal of time. In fact, it has generally become the symbol of any kind of renewal that, with it, brings a period of happiness and good fortune. (2)

Phoenix Native American symbolism

Although most people believe that the origin of the phoenix is in Greece, it is actually a global symbol of rebirth. In fact, almost all legend of the Phoenix and stories tell the same tale of how the bird is unique and has no mates or young. 

Depending on where you read this legend, the phoenix is capable of living anywhere between 500 to 7000 years. In America, the phoenix symbol was depicted on the first Great Seal of the United States in 1782. It was only later replaced by the eagle.

Native Americans called the phoenix the thunderbird. Thunderbird was a powerful cross-cultural element of Native North American mythology. 

As in other cultural representations, the thunderbird of the Native Americans was also a large, red, and colorful bird. It had very strong wings and when the bird would flap and beat them, it was capable of making it rain and thunder. 

Thus, thunderbird played an important role in Native American rituals and traditions. Since it was associated with the weather, its feathers were used for healing, for magic, and to make it rain or grow crops as well. 

As the bird became symbolic of rain and the weather, the Native Americans also believed phoenix bird meaning meant growth, abundance, and power. (3)

Phoenix Christianity symbolism

According to ‘The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings’ by Brenda Rosen (4), the Phoenix is probably the best known creature of the air and has its origins in ancient Egypt. 

Its legend was developed further by the Greeks and Romans. Early Greek legend describes the story of the phoenix as that of a bird similar to an eagle but in red and gold. 

It comes to Heliopolis bringing with it its father’s ashes. The bird embalms these in an egg made of myrrh and deposits them in the Temple of the Sun. 

At the end of its life, the bird builds a nest of incense twigs and lays down in it and dies. From there emerges a small ‘worm’ that transforms due to the heat of the Sun into a new phoenix. 

Like the Egyptians and Greeks, the medieval Christian writers saw this myth as a symbol of resurrection and one of the symbols of renewal and hope. The worm that is brought forth from the dead phoenix is a human being. 

It is written of it in the Bible: ‘The just will sprout like the phoenix”. The phoenix first appears alive, then dies, then rises again. Thus the phoenix sign is the consummation of the age. These great signs appear in Egypt and nowhere else, signifying that it is the paradise of the Gods. 

Phoenix Celtic symbolism

According to The Celtic Unconscious: Joyce and Scottish Culture by Richard Barlow (6), the word ‘burns’ is fittingly used to represent both fire and water in Finnegans Wake, which is associated with the mythical Phoenix and natural cycles of the seasons respectively. 

Both burning and flowing are processes and ‘burns’ are linked to the continuously variable and shifting nature of art and human communities as well. 

Burn also means ‘to combust’ or ‘to incinerate’ and is also the Scots word for ‘stream.’ (For example, the Bannock Burn – the 14th Century battlefield near Falkirk).

The IRA self-consciously identified with the myth of Dublin Easter Commemoration and its Belfast Phoenix symbolism. It uses the idea of revolutionary recreation and claims that a renewal or rebirth has taken place. 

It also symbolizes that sins of the past have been shed and that the awfulness of the past can be forgotten. Today, the phoenix represents crisis, austerity, and democracy in Ireland. 

Post 2008 economic crisis, an economic revival was likened to Phoenix revival in the Irish Times (Irish Times, 15th April 2017), where Phoenix Revival meant a return to economic growth without borrowing. For some sections of the Irish Society, the Phoenix Revival meant a return to relative comfort, security, and prosperity. (7)

Phoenix in dreams

What does the phoenix symbolize in dreams? Dreams are a gateway to reality and dreams often give us a reason, a purpose to pursue, and even a goal. They can also give you the courage to face certain situations that you may be facing in your life. 

Dreaming of a phoenix significance, rebirth, transformation, eternity, immortality, and resurrection. It also may signify the fear of death because the phoenix has to die in order to be reborn. 

However, the phoenix dream is actually giving you hope; especially if you are in a situation that is causing anxiety, the phoenix is asking you to go ahead with courage. 

It is asking you to cast your fears aside and go through that fire in order to start anew with renewed vigor, beauty, and hope.

We often wonder why such a creature of gentle beauty is burdened by death, and especially such a harsh death. In reality, the meaning of phoenix here is that not all adversity is adversity. 

It tells us that struggle is part and parcel of life. Learning to accept this fact will make you stronger. What may seem to you like a ‘plight’ is not a plight but is a tool that will give you a new life and new meaning.

Phoenix encounters and omens

The Phoenix is a mythical bird. Legend of phoenix states that only one exists throughout the world and that each one lives for thousands of years. 

Only when it is tired, it dies and from its ashes, a new bird is born. So, you might only encounter a phoenix in art, in your dreams, or you might keep seeing the word ‘phoenix.’ 

It may be that you read about the bird in different places on the same day and might be wondering what the spiritual meaning of phoenix is and the magical powers of the phoenix are. Universally, the phoenix is a sign of resurrection. It is also one of the animals that symbolize death. 

The beautiful bird represents the cycle of birth and death. Maybe, you have recently lost a loved one and the phoenix omen and “encounters” might be reminding you of the fact that the soul is immortal and that our loved ones never really leave us.

Even the devout Christian believes that phoenix fans its own embers when it burns to its death in the knowledge that there is renewed life despite the seeming end.

In many cultures, including Chinese, the phoenix symbolizes yin, and the yang – the male and female. This is why; it does not need a mate to continue its species. Therefore, a phoenix encounter or symbolism may also mean: go forth and worry not that you are alone for all that you seek is within you.

Phoenix mythology and folklore

In phoenix Chinese mythology, it is called the Feng-Huang – a bird much like a  peacock but with a fiery red tail. Its head and body are like that of the pheasant. 

Feng Huang represents yin and yang – male and female – and that is why; Feng Huang decorations are seen at weddings. A Chinese legend goes that the Feng Huang was first seen around 2600 BCE to Emperor Huang Di. 

Its appearance led to prosperity in the kingdom and that is why Feng-Huang is symbolic of peace and prosperity in China. According to some other Chinese mythological facts; the red Phoenix is one of the celestial creatures that rule the four quadrants of Heaven.

In Egyptian mythology, the phoenix is called the Bennu and it wears the headdress of the God Osiris who dies and is reborn. 

Egyptians also believe that Bennu is the soul of the sun God Ra and is symbolically linked to the rising and setting sun. They also believe that the Bennu controls the floods on the Nile. 

Japanese phoenix meaning: In Japan, the Phoenix is called Ho-Oo, where Ho is the male and Oo is the female. The bird was introduced in Japan between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh century AD and its artistic representations are very similar to the Chinese Phoenix. (8)

Phoenix spirit animal

Phoenix spirit animal represents a magical and gentle soul. It brings good luck, harmony, peace, balance, and prosperity. This magical creature symbolizes fire and passion – the flames of true inspiration.

The phoenix is also the firebird symbol. It is also one of the symbols of rebirth. It represents the continuation of life in flames of change. When the bird grows old, it flies into the sun and dies. But it rises again from its embers by first developing into a worm.  

The worm then becomes the great sun eagle, thus signifying the power of transformation in response to hopelessness and devastation. Thus, the phoenix spirit animal has the ability to lift us from the ashes of destruction into the blue skies of optimism and renewal. 

In the worst of times, it teaches us how to be victorious. Out of suffering, we grow in spirit. In heartbreak and sadness, this beautiful and gentle creature sings an enchanting song that summons the forces of heaven.

You can meditate upon your Phoenix spirit animal. Simply light a red candle, since red represents the magnificent phoenix powers. Make sure you will be undisturbed for the duration of this meditation. 

Relax and calm your mind as you observe the red candle’s flame. See the flame alive within the core of your being. Focus on this inner flame’s optimism, renewal, rebirth, and hope. End your meditation by thanking the phoenix for its guidance. 

Phoenix totem animal

Phoenix totem animal is a fitting symbol of spiritual truth. This one of a kind bird lives for hundreds of years and when it dies, it regenerates itself first as a worm that grows into a magnificent bird with red and purple feathers. 

The phoenix is sacred to the sun. It is often used as a standard for the measurement of the motion of heavenly bodies. The diet of the bird is unknown, for it never eats in the presence of man.

When there is death or sadness, the phoenix sings a beautiful and soulful melody. That is why; the ancient mystics believe that the phoenix spirit represents the immortality of the human soul. 

‘For just as the phoenix is reborn of its dead self, so again the spiritual nature of man will rise triumphant from its dead physical body.’

That is also the reason why the phoenix is a symbol of alchemical transmutation equivalent to human regeneration. In fact, one of the secret alchemical formulae was named the Phoenix.

Call upon a Phoenix when you are distressed or feeling hopeless. This will help you understand the endless cycle of life followed by death, followed by life. The phoenix will give you courage, hope, and also instill in you a sense of rebirth and renewal.

Phoenix power animal

In classical, archaic shamanism, the guardian spirit normally appears in the course of initiation and may be a wild animal, a bird, or even a pet hamster. In a few cases, though, it may turn out to be a mythical being like the phoenix or dragon or even a unicorn. 

The phoenix and its nest burn furiously and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises.

If the phoenix is your power animal, then you are receiving a message from the other realm – a message of renewal, rebirth, immortality, and transformation.  You are always scanning the horizon, collecting information about your environment, and even about your death. 

You might, like the phoenix, build your home like it builds its nest with myrrh. You are a solo traveler and you have both yin and yang within you. 

You are independent and probably an introvert as well. You like singing soulful and haunting melodies and frankincense and myrrh make you feel calm and rejuvenated.

Meditate upon the Phoenix and find out what it is trying to tell you. You can light a red candle and observe its flame. Then try and seek your inner flame – the flame within- the flame of hope, renewal, and immortality. Do not be afraid of changes or death – for death is certainly not the end.

Phoenix tattoo meaning

Phoenix tattoo is ideal for those starting anew. Many people get the phoenix tattoo when they feel reborn after a traumatic event or a near-death experience. 

Some get it in the memory of a passed dear one. It is especially an ideal tattoo for those running away from their old life and leaving their past behind.

Phoenix tattoo meaning is resurrection, renewal, hope, courage, beauty, grace, and the human soul. It indicates rebirth and starting stronger than before. It is a symbol of bringing new joys and transformation in your life.

A phoenix and its nest burst into flames and from the ashes rises a new and renewed phoenix. Isn’t that a perfect way to symbolize a new you? You can get the phoenix tattoo on your arm, back, or hip or simply in a place where it is not visible to others. 

For this special tattoo only holds a special meaning to you and no one else. Go in for a phoenix tattoo with a wide wingspan of about 5 inches long and 5 inches wide. 

Ask your artist to give it beautiful red and purple feathers with a golden red tail. Make sure you discuss your vision with your tattoo artist so you can get the exact phoenix tattoo of your dreams.

Conclusion

We hope that phoenix symbolism and phoenix rising meaning are now clear to you. This mythical bird is a symbol of hope, renewal, rebirth, immortality, resurrection, solitude, and grace. 

Just like the phoenix emerges from its ashes, so can man after devastation and loss. The phoenix gives mankind hope and urges us to fight on. It asks us to keep up the human spirit. It states over and over that death isn’t the end and that the soul is always indestructible.

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