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The Phoenix Myth

The phoenix is a long lived bird, which dies by self-immolation with a new phoenix arising from the ashes after three days. It has been described as either eaglelike or heronlike with gold and red feathers and is considered sacred. The phoenix is a gentle creature, killing nothing, it lives on dew and despite its great size, crushes nothing it touches. It usually lives for 500 years, though some have documented it as living for either 540, 1,000, 1,461 or even 12,994 years.

Herodotus documented that the phoenix came to Egypt from Arabia with the body of the parent bird plastered over in a ball of myrrh. The phoenix buried the ball at the temple of the sun at Heliopolis. The Hellenistic Jew, Ezekiel the Dramatist, in the second century BC, documented that the phoenix has a beautiful song and is the king of the birds. It is generally considered to be a symbol of the sun, as well as for life after death. The phoenix has been alternatively been called the bird of the sun, of second birth, of Assyria, of Arabia, of the Ganges, the long-lived bird and the Egyptian bird. The earliest reference to the phoenix is by Hesiod in the 8th century BC.

There are several varying accounts of the means of its death. One is that it immolates itself on an altar fire at Heliopolis. Another is that it builds a nest of spices which is ignited by the sun's rays. The Talmud records that after 1000 years, the phoenix shrivels to the size of an egg and then reemerges.

The Russian fire-bird has been known to speak as well as sing. The Chinese phoenix, the fêng-huang, originated in the sun and is a mysterious and beautiful bird. The Japanese phoenix, the Ho-Oo, came to the earth to do good deeds for people. The Ho is the male phoenix, the Oo, the female.

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