Phoenix Symbolism & Meaning
Phoenix symbolism and meaning are recognized by anyone who has experienced a major initiation or transformation.
Are you facing some of the most challenging moments of your life? Are you grieving and wanting to heal old emotional wounds? Phoenix as a Spirit, Totem, and Power Animal can help! Phoenix teaches how to endure in trying times while giving yourself time for healing. Delve deeply in Phoenix symbolism and meaning to find out how this animal spirit guide can support, strengthen, and inspire you.
Phoenix Table of Contents
- Phoenix Symbolism & Meaning
- Spirit Animal
- Totem Animal
- Power Animal
- Native American Symbolism
- Celtic Phoenix Symbolism
- Christianity Phoenix Symbolism
- Phoenix Dreams
- Astrology & Zodiac
- Far Eastern Symbolism
- Phoenix Tattoo Symbolism
- Phoenix Spiritual Meaning
- Back to all Fantasy & Mythical Creatures
- Back to all Spirit Animal Meanings
Phoenix Symbolism & Meaning
The symbolism and meaning of the Phoenix as an Animal Spirit Guide ties tightly to the myths and legends surrounding this creature. Certainly, there are differences depending on culture and era, but some commonalities arise. Phoenix represents rebirth, magic, renewal, safety, transformation, permanence, inventiveness and the sacredness of life.
No matter the setting the story of the Phoenix has a distinctive them. It begins with lifting from darkness into light; this is a complete life cycle and also a symbol of our immortal soul.
The most commonly known writing about the Phoenix comes from the historian Herodotus in ancient Greece. He believed that the Phoenix originated in Ethiopia. It is described as a larger than life bird with spectacular feathers. The Phoenix beds itself in cypress branches where it waits for death. Sitting still, Phoenix creates fire and burns to ashes. Three days later, she emerges whole and immortal (well nearly so, lore says they live longer than nine generations of ravens).
Romans featured the Phoenix on their coins; this represented the impressive strength of Rom and the continuance of the empire. Unfortunately, Rome did not have the Phoenix’ ability to rise from the ashes.
Considering the story, it’s not surprising to find the Church using the Phoenix as a symbol of resurrection. As Christ spent three days in the cave, so did Phoenix remain as ashes. Finally, both return from the dead without so much as a blemish.
Moving to Egypt, Phoenix held a strong place among solar symbols. Legend tells us that the Bennu (a heron/falcon blend) is responsible for the annual Nile floods that create rich farmland. The Bennu carries the sun out of its slumber each day, then returns it by night. Without the Bennu’s efforts, there would be no crops and no life.
Egyptian alchemists used the Bennu for various rituals. They ascribed it to the cardinal direction of the south, which governs health and strength. Her element is fire, the ultimate symbol of transformation and creation. Bennu is ruled by the sun, offering the symbolic value of illumination, self-awareness, time and clarity. Bennu’s season is summer, a time of nature’s bountiful growth and its element is red Sulphur, representing the soul.
Phoenix Spirit Animal
When Phoenix comes to you as a Spirit Animal, it brings fire to your soul. It is time to literally put a fire under your hopes and aspirations and get moving. This fire also nourishes your spirit, which may feel very weary.
There is no question that Phoenix medicine is all about change. You may have to let something die symbolically to experience rebirth; this is not always an easy process, but Phoenix Spirit is an expert guide.
Phoenix Spirit Animal shines the light of day on any darkness in your life. There is no place for shadows to hide. As you purge negativity, you’ll find that life has more coherence and your creativity soars like your wise Teacher.
If you are about to embark on a new path (a new job, school, etc., Phoenix’s message to you is one of development. Phoenix works in tandem with your personal growth, so you can really spread your wings. Trust the growing vision Phoenix medicine gives you. For someone getting married the appearance of Phoenix is a very happy omen of a longing relationship.
Phoenix Totem Animal
If you were born with the Phoenix as your Totem Animal, you have a natural willingness to sacrifice yourself to a greater good. You radiate hopefulness to those around you and have little tolerance for proverbial grey clouds.
Because of the transformative nature of Phoenix energy, you will have many roles in life-changing jobs, partners, homes; this is always a positive change, however. You know how to pull up your bootstraps and keep moving. You often find that change a relief and blessing. There is really no stopping your sunny disposition.
Phoenix people are hardy and strong to their toes. They have a core that’s been forged by fire and keeps them centered. During trying times, Phoenix knows there’s something down the road. Use your spiritual awareness to guide your feet.
Because the Phoenix is born of fire, you may be a rather feisty soul. For all of your ability to shine in any situation, you also need the help of trusted people, so you don’t burn out.
Phoenix Power Animal
The Phoenix makes an excellent helpmate whenever you are facing difficult changes. When called upon, Phoenix, as your Power Animal, provides the insight necessary to navigate bumpy water.
If you are dealing with literal or figurative death, Phoenix energy can heal those wounds and help you come to acceptance. You will mourn for a season, but then be born anew and find your joy once more.
Phoenix medicine can give you new perspectives on things that otherwise seem elusive, including the solution to vexing problems. Be aware, however, that when you call for aid, you will experience the fires of cleansing and a challenge to be open to completely fresh outlooks that are healthier for you.
Speaking of fire, turn to the Phoenix spirit animal for guidance in working with the element of Fire. Shamans say this is the hardest to master. As a being born of flame, Phoenix offers protection and wisdom in using this type of magic.
Native American Phoenix Symbolic Meanings
Though it is not a mythical creature like Phoenix, the connection between Phoenix and Eagle is often made. Eagle is an important Animal in Native lore. It is believed that the Greeks built upon the lore of Phoenix, adapted from Egypt, and encompassed the imagery of Eagle in their development of the Phoenix legend.
Similarities can be found between the Greek legends of Phoenix and stories in Native lore regarding a giant bird who can’t lay eggs.
In Greek lore, the Phoenix comes to Heliopolis bringing an “egg” made of myrrh and the ashes of his father. The Bird sets these eggs in a nest of twigs in a Solar Temple and then lays down to die in the nest when it is time. Stories convey the Phoenix as either bursting into flames and then giving birth to itself again. The bird in this view is said to resemble an Eagle but with fiery colors of red and gold. This can create a connection between Phoenix energy and the symbolism of Eagle in Native traditions.
This leaves some to speculate that the Phoenix story is related to the Bird described in these Native legends.
Native American stories tell of a bird that never lays eggs, and therefore has no children. It has been with the world from the beginning of time. Standing beneath a glorious sun, the bird looked up. The solar disk smiled at the dazzling colors of the Phoenix tail and claimed the Phoenix for eternity.
Phoenix took this as a great honor but found that humans were forever trying to capture him. Looking for a safe haven, he flew to where the sun rose in the morning so he could sing to her.
There he remained for 500 years, keeping his promise to sing. But he was weary. Even his feathers lost their luster. Phoenix thought that this was the end, his death was near. He begged the Sun to make him strong and young again. Sun didn’t answer. He flew across mountains and deserts singing out for aid. Along the way, Phoenix gathered cinnamon twigs and carried them on his journey.
Phoenix finally grew weary and came to land and create a nest from the cinnamon, some fragrant leaves and a ball of myrrh to be the “egg” he would never have. He sang to the sun again, and she replied with glorious beams of warm light. The sunlight was so intense it caught the nest on fire.
When the flames died, there was no evidence of Phoenix other than a pile of ashes. That would not last for long, however. A small, but glorious Phoenix shook off the ash and spread his wings. Upon seeing he was whole, he promised the sun to sing her songs forever. He continues his song to this day, releasing himself to ashes every 500 years to be born anew.
Though the mythical being known as “Phoenix” did not originate in North America, a very similar story in Native lore tells of Thunderbird, a gigantic bird with teeth in its beak who could easily consume whales. Thunderbird is so large, it’s name derives from the sound of thunder that emanates when he flaps his wings.
In modern times, some have come to refer to Phoenix and Thunderbird interchangeably because of their similarities, when discussing the Phoenix archetype in terms of Native traditions.
The connection between Thunderbird and weather made this creature significant in rituals and ceremonies related to rain and weather. Thunderbird could create lightning from it’s beak and could make it rain or invoke storms.
In Native lore, Thunderbird is a Spirit in the form of a gigantic Bird but could also transform into the figure of a human when needed, thus there are other slight differences between the story of Phoenix and the story of Thunderbird.
If you are connecting with the energy of Thunderbird, you may be more sensitive to the shifting tides around you and magic related to the elements and weather may be something for you to learn more about.
Thunderbird may be an important symbol for you to consider if you need to draw on your power of transformation and protection as well. Thunderbird plays an instrumental role in maintaining balance in the natural world. You may be asked to be more mindful of how you are maintaining balance through your relationship with the world around you.
Thunderbird can also bring reminders to walk in your highest integrity and not to give in to your lesser desires. You may want to consider how you need to follow your morals and integrity as Thunderbird is considered an enforcer of righteousness.
Natives of the Puget Sound area told stories of a Firebird whose description resembles that of the Phoenix. This Bird was said to have given the gift of Fire to humans.
Do you need help finding your fire of inspiration or devotion now? Phoenix may help you find your motivation.
This mythical creature’s meaning and lore can carry archetypally across cultures and times.
Celtic Phoenix Symbolic Meanings
Phoenix meaning in Celtic lore is more obscure as well as this mythical being needs to be examined in the abstract. Though it may be influenced by more Christianized beliefs, Irish lore does include stories of Sacred fires which bring rebirth.
The Fiery deity Brigid or stories of Lugh and Balor, Gods of Light, can embody the significance of the Fire element and therefore connect to the symbolism and meaning of Phoenix, even if this specific creature is not depicted in their stories.
In fact, the major seasonal holidays of associated with Celtic culture are all Fire festivals in the past (and present in some cases) celebrated by lighting of bonfires (or Bone Fires). Beltaine and Samhain (May Day and Halloween as they are known in secular references) are examples of two of the eight holidays.
The power of Fire was celebrated as a source of light and a spark that could ignite passions and enliven the soul. So even if the Celtic people were not specifically paying homage to a mythical creature known as a “Phoenix” they were still celebrating the sacred association of purification, death, rebirth and initiation which Phoenix symbolizes.
Phoenix represents the same purification in sacred flame that Celtic people understood and honored. If you wanted to combine your connection to Phoenix archetypal energy and your reverence for Celtic culture, you may look to the fiery deities such as Brigid or you may even align your workings with Samhain.
While you can connect Phoenix to any of the fire festivals, Samhain stands out for a few reasons. It is the date in which the veil between spirit and matter is lifted and the connection with the spiritual realm is most easily felt. Thus, Samhain relates quite easily to the spiritual meaning of Phoenix.
This mythical creature’s meaning being synonymous with death and rebirth is perfectly aligned with the seasonal shift from late autumn to the dark half of the year, signaled by Samhain. In ancient times, this was also the date that marked the shift to the final harvest- that of the animals. Thus the connection between Samhain, death and darkness leading up to Yule which brings light and rebirth is right in line with Phoenix’s spiritual meaning.
In later lore and stories heavily influenced by the blend of Pagan and Christian lore in Ireland, we can see examples of Phoenix like behavior in the story of Finnegan’s Wake. The story is examined by Richard Barlow in The Celtic Unconscious: Joyce and the Scottish Culture. Barlow poses that “Burns” is used to indicate both the fire and water element.
Thus the story, about a man who dies and is brought back to life, conveys Phoenix like motifs that are also found in other cultures in which Phoenix not only represents death and rebirth but the combination of Water and Fire as regenerative elements.
The term “Burn” is also used to indicate combustion and a stream, again signaling the connection between these seemingly opposing elements in languages associated with Celtic culture.
Of course, we’ll never know for certain if James Joyce was deliberately channeling the power of Phoenix, but his work speaks to this mythical creature’s influence across culture and time.
When working with Phoenix, consider what your burning desire is. Are you cleansed by the forces of Fire and Water, keeping balance between nurturing and passionate energies within yourself?
The powerful imagery of the Phoenix was certainly not lost on more contemporary Irish people. The IRA’s symbol of the Phoenix was used as a symbol of revolution in the 1969 Easter Uprising. The timing coordinating with Easter further suggests the mythic power of death and rebirth.
Even more recently, the image of the Phoenix has been invoked to describe the rebounding of the Irish economy since the recession of 2008.
Christianity Phoenix Symbolic Meanings
Though Phoenix specifically does not make a prolific appearance in the Bible nor in Christian stories of antiquity, it’s clear to see the connection between Phoenix’s symbolic meaning and the various aspects of Christ’s death and rebirth.
The Phoenix is not only given the power to resurrect from flames, as Christ was able to resurrect after being crucified, but is also a symbol of self-sacrifice.
Phoenix teaches us to have hope, that even when it seems all is lost, a miracle can take place. This ability to transform during what seems to be the darkest hour is reminiscent of Christian mythology of rebirth and resurrection.
Modern Christians look to Phoenix as a symbol of hope, rebirth, transformation and self-sacrifice.
When you set aside what you want in order to set the foundation for those who will come after you, even those who are not born yet, you are following the message of Phoenix, who asks us to consider our losses as the potential gains of future generations.
A Phoenix appearing in your dreams is a positive omen of a new beginning. The Phoenix speaks strongly to our Higher Self and spiritual pursuits, so you are about to go through a burst of magical awareness and insight. Phoenix may bear the additional message of needing closure from part of your past that lingers and holds you back. If the Phoenix looks worn, it is a message to look after your health. Do not burn that candle on both ends.
Phoenix in Astrology & Zodiac Signs
Influenced by the Greeks, the Phoenix appears as an Egyptian Zodiac sign for those born between June 25 and July 24. People born under this sign know the value of using any opportunity that comes along. They are typically successful, upbeat and full of passion.
Far Eastern Phoenix Symbolic Meanings
The Phoenix appears in various Far East traditions. In China, art depicts the birds in pairs, representing the yin and yang of the Universe; this also symbolizes balance as the Yin is intuitive and lunar and Yang is the sun and logic. This imagery frequently appears at weddings as a gift that ensures an auspicious and happy marriage.
This is tied to the story that Phoenix appeared to the Emperor Huang Di in about 2600 BCE. Following the appearance of this important creature, his rule was prosperous and successful. Therefore, it is believed that Phoenix is an omen foretelling blessings and abundance.
The name for Phoenix in Chinese lore is Feng Huang. The Phoenix meaning in Chinese culture is not only passion and rebirth but also a good omen associated with harmony and good luck. Phoenix spiritual meaning can help us prepare for good fortune but also help us understand that there is always darkness before the dawn.
The Phoenix has been used to represent the imperial household. In this setting, the meaning of Phoenix includes respect, fidelity and an era of peace. The Phoenix appears only at very special times such as the birth of a great leader. At such moments Phoenix comes from the heavenly realms to bless humankind with gifts. When it’s time here is done, Phoenix returns to the Celestial realm.
Some philosophers connect the colors of the Phoenix’s tail to the five virtues of Confucianism: namely charity, honesty, loyalty, knowledge, and good manners. The “red bird” of Japan resides in the Western quarter of creation similar to the Native American story of greeting the rising sun. Painting the image of a Phoenix on a tomb keeps it free from evil spirits. Carrying an image of the Phoenix brings good luck.
The art of placement, Feng Shui, considers the Phoenix an auspicious creature. It’s a good symbol for attracting money and wish fulfillment. Hang the image of the Phoenix in the Southern part of your home, improving the chi for prosperity.
In Japan, Phoenix is called Ho-Oo. It’s name is a combination of the male energy Ho and the female energy Oo, and so Phoenix represents a similar blend of masculine and feminine (also Fire and Water) as found in other cultures. Ho-Oo first appears in Japanese art around the seventh century. Thus the ancient connection to this belief in the balance and regenerative alchemical energy blending masculine and feminine, Fire and Water, is well established.
When Phoenix appears to you, you may be guided to explore your own polarities in masculine and feminine energy. Your own projective and receptive nature and the fiery spark and nurturing waters within you.
Phoenix Tattoo Symbolic Meanings
When you see a Phoenix tattoo, you may consider whether the person bearing the image has been through a significant death-and-rebirth initiation. Perhaps they have survived Cancer or a Near Death Experience. Perhaps they have been initiated into a spiritual group to further understand the mysteries of death and rebirth.
Someone can have many reasons for choosing to adorn their bodies with the symbol of this beautiful bird. Phoenix meaning can be quite personal.
Yet a Phoenix tattoo often connotes “Survivor.” Whatever it is you’ve endured, your trials and tribulations have refined you. The fires that may have seemed to consume you have purified you and helped you become a more powerful version of yourself.
You’ve found hope in darkness or undergone a symbolic rebirth or transformation. Perhaps you would like to mark this transition with a Phoenix tattoo to further connect to the energy of this powerful creature and to signal to others who understand this symbolism, that you also have walked the path of the Phoenix.
People may look to Phoenix tattoos to signify transition, rites of passage and overcoming great obstacles.
Phoenix Spiritual Meaning
Spiritual meaning of Phoenix is all about transformation and rebirth. Yet it is also about the combination of opposites, much like the Yin Yang symbolism. Phoenix is often portrayed as representing a paradoxical nature.
Phoenix represents the masculine and feminine energy inside all of us, regardless of social conventions of gender.
Phoenix meaning on a spiritual level, relates to transition and initiation.
The Spiritual meaning of Phoenix reminds us that there is always hope of rebirth and new beginnings even if we have to first makes some kind of symbolic or literal sacrifice.
Phoenix Spiritual meaning is associated in many cultures with the power of Fire, that being the power of rebirth, passion, intensity, motivation and courage.
Like many mythical creatures, the meaning of Phoenix and their spiritual powers can be drawn to you through meditation, ritual and creativity. You can call on Phoenix through art, music or dance. Their appearance in your life may be in a dream or in some other form of conscious awareness. When Phoenix appears to you, it may be time to embark on a journey of transformation, letting go of who you think you are in order to embrace who you are becoming.
Phoenix Symbolic Meanings Key
- The Soul