The phoenix is a legendary mythological bird of fire, which is very popular as a rebirth and resurrection symbol. The original meaning of phoenix in Greek is 'palm tree'. There are many stories attached to this bird in Greek and Roman empires, ancient Middle East, India, and China. It is said to be an extraordinary long-living bird, which is also known for its beauty and luxuriant plumage. The bird is said to live for more than 500 years. A Jewish legend has it that, the bird has a long life as it refused to eat the forbidden fruit of paradise.
Did You Know?In the US, the phoenix bird is notably seen on the flag of the County and City of San Francisco, and the seal of the City of Atlanta.
Towards the end of its life, the phoenix builds a nest with aromatic twigs and sets fire to itself, to be consumed in the funeral pyre of its own making. After three days, the bird arises out from its own ashes, reborn. Hence, for a number of people, a phoenix tattoo symbolizes not only an undying soul, resurrection, and immortal life, but also of triumph and rebirth.
In both, Egyptian and Greek mythology, the phoenix is said to represent the sun, dying in flames at the end of the day, and rising each morning. For the Chinese, it is a symbol of grace and virtue, and is second in importance after the dragon. It symbolizes the union of yin and yang, and is believed to be a gentle creature associated with the Empress.
Phoenix tattoos are very common with women, as this bird is said to have feminine qualities, such as duty, goodness, kindness, and reliability. The flame associated with the phoenix represents purification and transformation through fire and adversity.
For men, these tattoos have become popular, as the early designs of a phoenix had the body of a man and the expansive wings of the phoenix. The image has however, changed over time, but the art remains as it is. There are some tattoo designs which have the phoenix surrounded by fire. You can also use fire to partially obscure it, and show it rising from its ashes, or also bursting through the sun.
A tribal tattoo design gives room for self-expression and allows the artist to abstractly interpret the image of a phoenix. These tattoos are often done in black ink. They normally lack a background, and have an intricate series of lines and shapes, or simple stamp-like images. A tribal design usually has the basic shape of the bird with some semi-realistic patterns bordering the tattoo. They are often large in shape, hence, are mostly made on the back.
There is an Egyptian legend attached to this bird as well. According to this legend, the phoenix carries the embalmed ashes of its previous birth to Heliopolis, the city of the sun. An Egyptian phoenix is said to sing sweetly, and it dazzles in the plumage of gold, scarlet, and purple. Some of the Egyptian tattoo designs also depict the phoenix with the body of a man or a woman.
Chinese and Japanese Designs
The feathers of the Chinese phoenix are usually inked in a multitude of colors, including blue, white, red, green, and yellow. In Japan, there is a tradition where the phoenix is carved into the sword hilts, and the image of the bird is embroidered on kimonos. Like in China, in Japan as well, these tattoos have a great significance, second only to dragon tattoos. Often, dragon and phoenix tattoos are inked together, which is seen as a harmonious combination of the best of feminine (phoenix) and masculine (dragon) virtues. As such, you can go ahead and combine the phoenix bird with a dragon to create a unique hybrid tattoo design.
Phoenix tattoo designs are generally sketched to encompass large sections of the body, such as the back, chest, or wrapped around the thighs or the upper arm. This allows for a more detailed design to be created, where every piece of the tattoo is clear, and can include small, yet significant elements that combine to make a powerful statement. The modern forms of these tattoos are usually colorful, and often contain red, yellow, and orange, as the bird is closely associated with fire and the sun. You can also make use of blue, purple, green, copper, as well as gold in your tattoo design, to make it appear more spectacular.