Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers...
...Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed. - Phoenix in chapter 25 of the First Epistle of Clement
This is by far the most significant meaning of the phoenix tattoo design, 'The Resurrection'! From the above extract taken from the first epistle of clement, it is clearly stated that the phoenix bird is the only creature that takes birth from its own ashes. Keeping this in mind, the phoenix signifies rebirth or a new beginning which is derived from the ashes of the past.
As a matter of fact, the Egyptians believed that the Phoenix bird was a symbol of the Sun God Ra. It was known to live for 500 years and then build a nest of its own and set itself into fire. It was said that after 3 days it would rise again from its own ashes, and would carry the ashes of its previous life to the Sun city known as Heliopolis, and submit the ashes to the Sun. The dying and rising after 3 days is also very similar to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, due to which this tattoo design is also associated with Christianity.
Meaning of a Rising Phoenix Tattoo
A very popular tattoo design of the phoenix bird is its rising from fire, famously represented in the tribal phoenix tattoo design. The fire represents death and turbulence, and the rising phoenix bird symbolizes victory over death or the troubles of life!
The rising phoenix tattoo design also represents rebirth/resurrection/new beginning. Which means no matter how difficult the past might have been for you, no matter how many difficult situations you would have gone through, no matter how many people or situations have tried to break you down, you still emerge as a winner defeating all the challenges of life! Because of this, many believers in Christ's resurrection also go for a rising phoenix bird tattoo design reminding themselves of the Christ's 'winning over death' and living a 'new life after death'!
Meaning of a Chinese Phoenix Tattoo
The phoenix bird also holds a great significance in the Chinese mythology and culture. Did you know that in ancient China, the Empress was the only person worthy of wearing the symbol of the phoenix? As a matter of fact, the phoenix symbol comes only second to the symbol of the 'Dragon' in Chinese culture. The Chinese believed the phoenix bird to be a symbol of virtue and grace associated with the feminine side.
The Chinese phoenix bird was known to have feathers colored black, white, green, red and yellow; which are considered to be the primary colors which hold a significant importance till date. Also the phoenix is considered to be the greatest bird in China representing the feminine attributes. On the other hand, the 'Dragon' is considered to be the symbol of the imperial male attributes. The combination of both these signs represent the yin and yang.
Other Meaning of Phoenix Tattoo
In Greek language the meaning of the term phoenix is translated to 'red', which represents fire, and after the aforementioned discussion, we all are aware as to why fire is associated with the bird's existence! The Jews believe that the phoenix was the only creature who refrained itself from eating the forbidden fruit and it did so by setting itself on fire. Because it preferred to die than to sin, it was risen from its ashes after 3 days, signifying winning over temptation and renewing itself from sacrifice. The Japanese refer to the phoenix bird as the 'hō-ō ' which means the 'Immortal Bird' signifying immortality. Even the Romans put the phoenix symbol on their coins signifying an 'Undying Empire'.
The phoenix bird fascinated me when I was watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets wherein this magical bird raised from its own ashes and healed wounds from its tears. As I grew older, this bird kept on fascinating me all the more. Therefore, when I did some significant research on this bird, I was convinced that I wanted the phoenix bird tattoo for sure.
I mean if someone comes up to me and asks me what does a phoenix tattoo mean to me, I would be happy to tell people about its significance in my life. It means renewal, which is important for one to live a happy life; it means winning over difficulties, which motivates one to never lose hope; it means immortality, which means that no matter what life gives you, you will always emerge as a winner. So, if all these qualities or meanings relate to you deeply in your life, then don't wait, a phoenix tattoo is waiting to imprint on your body forever.