mythology

Mythological Creature: Phoenix

Mythological Creature: Phoenix
Mythological Creature: Phoenix

For the third series of mythological creatures, we’ll be tackling on phoenix. Phoenix is being referred to as a mythical bird from Greek and Roman legends, tales and stories. In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird cyclically regenerated or reborn.

Phoenix is a mythical creature that is associated with the Sun as it obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. According to some of its sources, this mythical bird dies in a show of flames and combustion, although there are also sources claiming that this legendary bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

There are some texts which states that the phoenix could live over 1,400 years before its rebirth.

Phoenix symbolizes a renewal in general , as well as the sun, time , the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration and resurrection. In Biblical context, phoenix symbolizes life in heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man and certain aspects of Christian life.

Source: Phoenix (mythology) ; Retrieved September 6, 2017; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(mythology)

According to Feng Shui Master Lam Kam Chuen, a phoenix is a mythical bird that never dies and flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. This mythical bird represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. This phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration.

There are different types of Phoenix: the Ancient Phoenix of Egypt (Benu, Bennu), Classical Arabian Phoenix, Chinese Phoenix (Feng Huang) and Japanese Phoenix (Hou-Ou/Ho-Oo).

Ancient Phoenix of Egypt (Benu, Bennu)

Bennu (Ancient phoenix of Egypt)
Bennu (Ancient phoenix of Egypt)

These mythical creatures were linked by the ancient Egyptians with the longings for immortality and these are so strong in their civilization and from there, its symbolism spread around the Mediterranean world of late antiquity.

The Bennu bird (ancient phoenix of Egypt) was usually depicted as a heron. Their remains were founded in the Persian Gulf area 5,000 years ago by archaeologists. The Bennu bird has two long feathers on the crest of its head and was often crowned with the Atef crown of Osiris or with the disk of the sun.

This Bennu is the sacred bird of the Heliopolis. This bird probably derives from the word “weben” , meaning “rise” or “shine”. This bird was associated with the sun and represented the ba or soul of the sun god, Re. In the Late Period, the hieroglyph of this bird was used to represent the diety directly. The Bennu bird symbolizes the rising and setting sun and is also the lord of the royal jubilee.

Classical Arabian Phoenix           

Classical Arabian Phoenix
Classical Arabian Phoenix

   This is perhaps the most well known and fabulous mythical bird. The Arabian Phoenix was said to be as large as the eagle, with its brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. The Arabian Phoenix would appear at dawn every morning to sing a song while making its home near a cool well. Its song is so enchanting that even the great sun god Apollo would stop to listen.

As the end of its life approaches, the phoenix would build a pyre nest of aromatic branches and spices such as myrrh, sets it on fire and is consumed in flames. After three days the birth—or as some would say, the rebirth – this mythical bird arises from the ashes. According to some sources, the phoenix was said to arise from the midst of the flames.

Chinese Phoenix (Feng Huang)

Chinese Phoenix
Chinese Phoenix

In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is said to be a symbol of high virtue and grace and of power and prosperity. It also represents the union of yin and yang. The Chinese phoenix was thought of as a gentle creature as it alights so gently that it crushes nothing and eats only dewdrops.

This Chinese Phoenix also represents the Empress usually in a pairing with the Dragon (representing the Emperor) and only the Empress could wear the phoenix symbol as it represents the power sent from the heavens to the Empress.

When a phoenix is used to decorate a house, it is said to symbolize the loyalty and honesty present in the people residing there. Jewelry with the phoenix design depicts a person of high moral values and so it could only be worn by people of great importance.

Japanese Phoenix (Hou-Ou/Ho-Oo)

Japanese Phoenix
Japanese Phoenix

In Japanese culture or myth, the Ho represents the male phoenix whereas the Oo represents the female phoenix. It is introduced to Japan in the Asuka period (mid 6th to mid 7th century AD). The Hou-Ou is said to greatly resemble the Chinese Phoenix or Feng Huang in looks.

This Ho-Oo is often depicted as nesting in a paulownia tree and thought to only appear at the birth of a virtuous ruler and to mark a new era by descending from the heavens to do good deeds for people only to return to its celestial abode to await a new era. In other traditions, this phoenix appears only in peaceful and prosperous trees times , which are rare.

This also has been adopted as a symbol of the royal family, particularly the empress and it represents the sun , justice, fidelity and obedience.

Source: “Phoenix Rising: Mythical Creature, Phoenix Bird Mythology, Myth Beast” ; Retrieved September 6, 2017; https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-chinese-phoenix-illustration-traditional-vector-illustration-letters-image77835684

 

Advertisements
mythology

Mythological Creatures: Unicorns

Unicorn
Unicorn

Previously discussed in the mythical creatures series was about dragons and why they are considered as good/bad omens. Now, we’ll go to the next series which will be about unicorns. When we heard the word unicorn, the thing that immediately pops out in our head is Pegasus.

Pegasus is actually a winged divine stallion and stallions are different from unicorns.

Unicorns

Unicorns are known as mythological creatures resembling a horse or a kid with a single horn on its forehead.

This mythical creature originally appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks and was also referred to in ancient myths of India and China. The earliest description of a single-horned animal (Greek – monokeros; Latin – unicornis) was given by the historian Ctesias (c. 400 BCE) as he related that the Indian wild ass was the size of a horse with a white body, purple head and blue eyes and a cubit-long horn on its forehead (red- pointed tip; black – middle and white – base).

It was said that those who drank from the horn of a unicorn will be protected from stomach trouble, epilepsy and poison.

In the Biblical context, unicorns were referred to a strong and splendid horned animal called re’em (translated as ‘unicorns’ or ‘rhinoceros’ in many versions of Bible.) As a Biblical animal, unicorns are interpreted allegorically in the early Christian church wherein one of the earliest interpretations appears in the ancient Greek bestiary (Physiologus) stating that the unicorn is a strong , fierce animal that can only be caught if a virgin maiden is thrown before it.  This unicorn leaps into the virgin’s lap then she suckles this creature and leads it to the king’s palace.

Unicorns were likened by medieval writers to that of Christ, who raises up a horn of salvation for mankind and dwells in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Source/Citation:
* “Unicorn – Mythological Creature” ; Encyclopedia Britannica ; retrieved August 31, 2017; https://www.britannica.com/topic/unicorn

Unicorns & Pegasus (Difference)

What’s different from unicorns and Pegasus is that unicorns were once considered as real creatures. They were said to have their own versions from different cultures – Greek (the Greek unicorn) , the Chinese unicorn (Ch’i lin), the Japanese unicorn (Kirin or Sin-you) and Vietnamese unicorn lore.

Many times we see a white stallion with a horn in a movie like Pegasus in a movie or book which is the original depiction of the unicorn (Greek Mythology) as a white, red and black horse with a goat beard and a boar’s tail. Sometimes, it’s also said to have a head of a stag.

Folklores in China and Japan bring even more versatile descriptions to this mythical creature – body of an antelope or having a lion’s mane. But one thing that remains or is consistent is that unicorns were known for their great display of color.

Unicorns symbolize interesting characteristics:
* They can only be captured by maidens
* They walk softly, with their hooves making no noise (Chinese unicorn lore)
* Their horns possess magical healing qualities
* The Sin-you unicorn has the ability to distinguish right from wrong, helping in judging offenses (Japanese unicorn lore)
* They symbolize prosperity and peace

Some books have these mythical creatures:
* Of the Persecuted by Angie Brashear (Callie- war unicorn)
* Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Jewel – war unicorn; steed of King Peter)
* The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Just to let you know, however, Pegasus isn’t really a type of creature, but rather a name of a winged white stallion from Greek mythology. Pegasus born from Poseidon (horse lord) and Medusa. The name Pegasus is often being used as a defining term for winged horses in general.

Pegasus has these defining characteristics:
* a horse which has the ability to fly (possesses massive wings)
* pure white
* symbolizes wisdom and fame
* carries the role of bringing thunderbolts to Zeus (in Greek mythology)

One book has Pegasus in it:
* Percy Jackson series by Rick Jordan

Source/Citation:
* “Mythological Creatures: Unicorn & Pegasus” by Nadine Brandes; Retrieved August 31, 2017; https://www.enclavepublishing.com/mythological-creatures-unicorn-pegasus/

Image Source:
https://www.pinterest.com/explore/unicorns/

 

 

mythology

Mythical Creatures: Dragon (Good Omens or Bad Omens?)

Fire breathing dragons

Some of us may be familiar with dragons as mythical creatures. We have seen them in fairy tales or some Chinese movies. Two questions stick or are being asked with regards to these mythical creatures: Are they considered good omens or bad omens? And why?

According to one research article entitled “Why are dragons considered a good omen in the East and a bad omen in the West?” , dragons are said to be a person’s collective imagination’s concept of the most powerful creature from three regions we don’t occupy which are the water, the sky and the chthonic earth.

Western Dragons (Bad Omens)
Western Dragons (Bad Omens)

Western Dragons (Bad Omens)

In the Western side, dragons are said to represent terrifying dangers of the unknown  and of challenges we face in the future. They also express our intense or irrational dislike towards a person from other countries. Hence, in English language, we insult a person when we call him or her a reptile, pertaining to them as “cold-blooded” killers. Traditionally, the main function of Western dragons is to bring terror or malice towards human beings wherein we have this typical image of a dragon in a cave guarding a pile of gold and a beautiful maiden. In Biblical context, the serpent in the Garden of Eden initiates the fall of grace from God, thus becoming a symbol of nature’s evil or Emodiment of the Devil.

Eastern Dragons (Good Omens)
Eastern Dragons (Good Omens)

Eastern Dragons (Good Omens)

Contrary to the bad lucky brought about by Western dragons , Eastern dragons are believed to be much different wherein the mythical emperor of China was part dragon. According to Wiki, “Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly their control over water, rainfall, hurricane and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength and good luck for people who are worthy of it. With this, the Emperor of China usually used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength.”

Another article, entitled “Dragons: Good and Bad’  states that dragons were said to have been portrayed both as benevolent and terrifying mythical creatures. In Europe, legends of dragons portray that these creatures are evil where they bring terror to the countryside, ask for sacrifices and wreak havoc on the world, requiring a courageous and selfless hero to kill the beast and save people from danger.

Asia, on the other hand, sees these mythical creatures as positive forces and use them as a symbol of imperial power, most especially emperors. However, dragons were still considered to be mighty and should not be crossed, as they could cause catastrophes when they are vexed, but they are generally portrayed by Asian countries as good and helpful. In Chinese tradition, dragons represent celebration of Chinese New Year or on dragon kites where both are being associated on good times. Chinese people do celebrate the year of the dragon every 12 years, as our culture does.

Sources/Citations

Fire breathing dragons (image)
http://warhammerfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Dragon

Good Omens Or Bad Omens?
https://www.quora.com/Why-are-dragons-considered-a-good-omen-in-the-East-and-a-bad-omen-in-the-West

Western dragon (image)
http://dragonimages.net/article/649-eastern-and-western-dragons/

Eastern dragon (image)

Dragons (Good and Bad)
http://dragonsthefilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/reputation.pdf