Phoenix tattoos are symbols of rebirth and resurrection. The phoenix is a mythological firebird originating in Phoenician, Egyptian and Greek mythology. Most people are aware that it is a mythological creature, the exact story is often quite fuzzy though.
In general, the story goes that the bird lives for 1000 years (or 500) at a time. Upon the conclusion of the 1000 years, it creates a nest made from myrrh twigs and burns the nest, as well as itself. Once the burning is completed, a new phoenix rises from the ashes after 3 days, to live for another 1000 years.
The story itself is often modified and altered depending on the area where it originates from, but the moral is always the same: the bird does rise again and again.
The History of Phoenix Art
The mythology of the phoenix probably originated in India, where the immortal bird is called Garuda. The Garuda has the body of a crowned man with wings and an eagle's beak.
The ancient Egyptians had another name for the phoenix: Bennu, aka "He who came into being by himself". The myth goes that the bird created itself from a burning holy tree. The Bennu is supposed to be the soul of the Egyptian Sun God called Ra. The Egyptian phoenix looked like a heron.
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It was the Greeks who called the Bennu bird phoenix. It is the Greek word for crimson, a red color with a little bit of purple. The Greek phoenix looked like an eagle and is a symbol for the sun, who dies in flames at the end of the day and rises again in the morning.
The phoenix was often used in Catholic art as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and life after death.
The Chinese & Japanese Phoenix
The Chinese phoenix is not quite the same as the Greek bird, but it is also a mythical creature that is designed to portray peace as well as harmony in the world. This mythological bird is called fenghuang and is the leader of all birds and the second most important creature (after the dragon) in Chinese mythology. It is considered to be an embodiment of yin and yang.
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In Japan, the phoenix is called Fushicho, literally "Not Dead Bird". In Japanese tattoos, the phoenix is often paired with the dragon, symbolizing Yin and Yang, female and male. Japan has even a Pokemon version of the phoenix, called Moltres.
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Phoenix Tattoo Designs
The Greek phoenix is typically gold and scarlet (a color somewhere between red and orange). Chinese phoenix tattoos have the 5 primary colors: black, white, red, green and yellow.
Additional elements can also be incorporated into the phoenix design such as dragons, the sun, flames, tribal tattoo patterns, Chinese symbols or Japanese kanji. There is absolutely no correct way to depict the phoenix, nor is there an incorrect way.
Tribal Phoenix Tattoos
Here are some examples of tribal phoenixes:
Phoenix Tattoos on Celebrities
- Melanie C (aka Sporty Spice): has a large phoenix on her upper back.
- Melanie Brown (Mel B, aka Scary Spice): has a phoenix tattoo on her right shoulder.
The koi fish is a symbol that shares a lot of similarities with the phoenix.
Check it out: Koi Tattoo Designs