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Phoenix Tattoos - The mythological bird of fire is familiar to most of us, but perhaps not so well-known is in it's original meaning -- 'phoenix' in Greek means 'palm tree'.

The phoenix is said to live for 500 years. When it grows tired, it builds a nest of aromatic twigs, and then sets fire to itself to be consumed in the funeral pyre of its own making. After three days, the phoenix would arise from the ashes, reborn. According to Egyptian legend, it carries the embalmed ashes of its previous incarnation to Heliopolis, the city of the sun. The Egyptian phoenix was said to sing sweetly, and to dazzle with its plumage of gold and scarlet and purple.

Tales of the phoenix appear in ancient Arabian, Greek, Roman, and Far Eastern mythology. In both Greek and Egyptian tales, the phoenix represented the sun, dying in flames at the end of the day and rising each morning. Early Christians came to view the flight of the phoenix as a symbol of rebirth and the resurrection, leaving the old world for the new world of the spirit, dying and rising again, reborn. It symbolized the victory of life over death, immortality, and Christ's resurrection. Jewish legend describes the phoenix as the one creature that did not leave paradise with Adam, and that its legendary longevity is due to abstaining from the forbidden fruit that tempted the 'first man'. On Roman coins, the phoenix represented an undying empire.

Phoenix tattoo meaningsAccording to Chinese mythology, the phoenix is the symbol of grace and virtue and is second only in importance to the Dragon. It represents the union of yin and yang, and was a gentle creature associated with the Empress, who alone could wear its symbol. The feathers of the Chinese phoenix were black, white, red, green and yellow - the five primary colours. In Japan, the phoenix is found carved into sword hilts, and the image of the bird seen as embroidery on kimonos. Along with the sun, the phoenix is one of the emblems of the Japanese Empire. In Japanese tattooing the phoenix is often twinned with the the dragon, symbolizing yin and yang, the harmonious combining of the best of the feminine and masculine virtues.

North American Thunderbird designYou'd think that Phoenix, Arizona, must have risen from the ashes of some former town -- and it's true -- from the remains of Hohokam settlements. But North American Indians have their own fiery version of the phoenix - the thunderbird -- from whose beak lightning is said to flash.

Phoenix Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!The phoenix as a tattoo symbol is often associated with feminine qualities, each part of its body representing a specific virtue. Duty, goodness, kindness and reliability are some of the lesser known aspects of the phoenix. The flame images represent purification and transformation through fire and adversity.

Get inspired by some really amazing images and photos in our Phoenix Inspiration Gallery

See also: Bird Tattoo Index

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Tattoo designs - P >> Phoenix

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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