The Phoenix is not just a wonderful design for a tattoo, but it also has a much deeper meaning to it. This is one of the reasons why it is highly popular for those looking for a symbolic tattoo. Beyond just being a figure of countless legends, it is a sign of rebirth, life, growth, longevity, among other attributes.
The Phoenix is not an ordinary bird, it is a mythological one capable of recycling its own life. This means, when it is close to death, it will ignite itself in a magnificent fire. Eventually, it will reemerge from its ashes, renewed, reborn, alive.
This mythical bird has been featured in various ancient mythologies and though they might look different in various cultures, the meaning and symbolism are quite similar.
Phoenix In Various Cultures
In Greek mythology, the historian Herodotus wrote about a mythical bird from Ethiopia, the Phoenix. It is a huge bird that is also beautiful and with an awe-inspiring plumage. He also wrote that the phoenix lives in a nest made of cypress branches. This nest, however, is not prepared for laying their eggs, but for its death. While sitting on this nest, the bird will start to generate a lot of heat and set itself on fire using its body heat and the cypress as its kindling. Three days later, the Phoenix will emerge from the ashes, reborn and immortal.
Herodotus might have gotten these ideas and symbolism of the Phoenix from another Greek poet named Hesiod. He, on the other hand, has called the Phoenix a brilliant bird that is capable of outliving 9 generations of ravens. This equates to about 90,000 years.
In Rome, the Phoenix is an important figure as well. It is a symbol of the Roman Empire’s immortality or its perpetual continuation. In fact, it could be found on Roman coins as a sign of its strength. While the Empire did not last forever, the reputation of the Phoenix still endures.
In Egypt, the phoenix’s meaning is related to the Nile and the sun, the most important life-giving elements for the Egyptians. Their version of the Phoenix was part heron and part falcon, or the Bennu. They believed that the Bennu controlled the sun’s cycle every day. It would fly the sun using its beak, plucking it during dawn where it is sleeping and bringing it to rest at sunset.
Thus, the Bennu is their symbol for the daily “birth“ and “dying“ of the sun. Thus, its symbol reaches far and wide, as it affects directly the life and death of the locals. Without the sun, there is no harvest and no food. Beyond just being responsible for the sun’s rising and setting, it also plays a huge role in the Nile.
The Egyptians believe that the Bennu is the one responsible for the Nile’s annual flooding, upon which the region is highly reliant on to sustain agriculture. Thus, the Phoenix or the Bennu plays a huge role in life and death in Egyptian mythology.
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In China, the Phoenix is always shown in pairs, a male and a female, though it goes beyond just identifying the gender. The 2 phoenixes represent yin and yang, which means duality, polarity, and balance. The female meaning corresponds to yin energy and is passive and intuitive, representing the moon and winter. On the other hand, the yang (or male) Phoenix is the symbol of action and assertion, representing the summer and the sun.
There are also other meanings of yin-yang but with the 2 phoenixes put together, it is a symbol of divine and immortal partnership. This is why wedding gifts with an illustration of two phoenixes are common in China to ensure the couple has a happy-ever-after marriage.
Jewish legend talks about the Phoenix as the only creature that was not banished out of paradise with Adam. This is because it had abstained from eating the forbidden fruit that tempted the first man and woman. Thus, it has been granted a long life.
The early Christians also used the flying phoenix as a symbol representing rebirth and resurrection. Specifically, it is about leaving the old physical world and moving on to the new world of the spirit and in this sense, those who die will rise again. It is closely related to Christ’s resurrection as well and his victory over death.
Similar to Chinese culture, the Phoenix, with the dragon as opposed to another phoenix, stands for yin and yang. Together, they show the harmonious combining of masculine and feminine virtues. The Phoenix has been extensively used in Japan, either embroidered on kimonos or carved unto sword hilts. In fact, it is one of the emblems of the Japanese Empire, along with the sun.
Symbolic Meanings of the Phoenix
Most people who choose a phoenix tattoo do not just choose it for its majestic appearance and colorful plumage. It is hugely popular because of its symbolic meanings.
Rebirth, Renewal Or Resurrection
Because it is able to resurrect, it symbolizes overcoming dark times and being able to rise to challenges to succeed and become powerful. People who have gone through life issues like illness, death in the family or addiction and have emerged from these difficult times might find the Phoenix a great reminder and symbol of what they have overcome.
The Phoenix is a sign of power, especially because it can defeat death and come back to life. No other creature can do this, thus, the Phoenix has power, unlike any other animal. Moreover, according to its role in Egyptian culture, the Phoenix has the power to give life and to take it away.
The Phoenix may represent purification or cleansing as well. Difficult times can be viewed as a time to rethink one’s life and make necessary changes to emerge from these problems. Once one reemerges from the ashes of these tough times, they have been cleansed and transformed into a new and better person.
Fire, Sun, Energy Or Passion
Lots of Phoenix tattoos are featured emerging from fire or ashes and this can be viewed as representing energy or passion. In fact, the various colors make it a popular design for men who choose it for the power of the sun and fire it represents.
Immortality Or Long Life
Having a phoenix tattoo can symbolize long-life or immortality, not necessarily for a person but maybe even for a relationship or marriage. The long life of the Phoenix is highly desired by those who aim for their love or life to be immortalized. Others people who have experienced and overcome illness will also find this design representative of the longer life they have been gifted.
Grace And Kindness
In some cultures like that of the Chinese, the Phoenix is associated with good feminine values like grace and kindness. They also believe that the parts of the Phoenix represents various traits. The body stands for kindness, the wings represent prosperity, and the head symbolizes reliability.
Why Choose A Phoenix Tattoo?
Not all tattoo designs are suitable and popular with both men and women, and the Phoenix is one on this list. Another reason why phoenix tattoos are the best choice is that they can be done in any part of the body and it will look exquisite. They are suitable whether someone wants to conceal or reveal their tattoo. Lastly, it is a design that is not just eye-catching, but it has a deeper meaning as well.
Where Will Your Phoenix Tattoo Look Best?
You can have this design at any part of your body. One of the great things is that the areas where they are mostly located (forearm, back, or shoulder) are not as affected by skin aging or exposure to the sun, so it can be durable and long-lasting. Maintenance is also not a big issue, nor the designs eventually distorting.
Here are the common areas for a phoenix tattoo:
This area of the body is the best for your phoenix tattoo. This is, of course, the fact that you have a lot of even space in the back. Most phoenix tattoos are big and require space, which means the back is the best location for it.
This is another top location for a phoenix tattoo, especially for male customers. It also provides the right amount of space and it will look great when you have it done on this part of the body.
The Rib Cage
Women might not be able to have the same option to have their phoenix tattoo on their chest and thus, the rib cage is their alternative. It also has enough space for a larger design and it is not too challenging for the tattoo artist to work on.
The Forearms Or Shoulders
While these parts of the body may not be as easy as the back or chest, it is still possible to do a smaller phoenix design on the arms. They can also be easily revealed or concealed if required.
For those who find the arms too restrictive in terms of space, they might find the legs a better alternative as it has much more space for a larger design. The disadvantage is that these areas are mostly concealed by clothing.
Phoenix tattoos are not confined to these parts of the body but it might be trickier to have it done where there is not enough space. These designs are elaborate and large, specifically if you want a colorful plumage. Moreover, the tattoo artist can have a hard time doing it in smaller and less flat parts of the body, so the areas above are the most recommended for a phoenix tattoo.
Popular Phoenix Tattoo Designs
Phoenix tattoos can vary in terms of design, with women preferring more delicate-looking styles while men want powerful-looking and aggressive designs that represent masculinity. Your tattoo artist can also help create a design based on your preferences, your personality, and the symbolism you want to achieve. Here are also some ideas of popular phoenix tattoo designs to consider.
Phoenix And Egg Tattoo Design
This design is not only elegant and beautiful, but it also represents rebirth. It is popular with people who are very optimistic and believe that even when one thing ends, another beginning awaits. It is a symbol of hope and trust that good things will come even after difficult times.
Chinese Dragon And Phoenix Design
This is a complicated design for a tattoo artist, simply because there are 2 subjects to create, the dragon and the Phoenix. It will also take up much more space, which means it cannot be done on every part of the body. However, this design will mesmerize anyone who sees it so it can be a main tattoo design for your back or chest. Together, these 2 represent yin and yang in Japanese culture, so they symbolize equality and the harmony between feminine and masculine.
Lone Phoenix Design
Most phoenix tattoos feature something else, but even just the lone bird can become a gorgeous design. In fact, it is preferable for smaller or narrower parts of the body where a more complex design cannot be done. Lastly, a lone phoenix design is recommended for men because it looks very masculine.
Phoenix On Fire Design
This is by far the most popular phoenix tattoo design, especially since it is also the most symbolic. The Phoenix on fire shows exactly the process of rebirth, with the bird rising from the ashes of the past. This is the perfect design for those who are looking for something to represent a new beginning or overcoming a huge struggle. However, this design requires bigger space on your body, which is why the location will dictate whether it is possible or not.
Greek Phoenix Design
This design is different because the phoenix bird is drawn in smaller pieces. This is ideal for women because it looks very elegant. This design also uses the color and gold and feature peacock-like feathers.
Phoenix tattoos can be done with plain black ink but of course, it is more visually appealing when it has other colors. The shades you also choose will have their meaning as well.
A red phoenix (with similar shades of orange or yellow) shows energy and passion and this is shown to be most popular with men as these qualities are very masculine. Shades of blue are the opposite, representing peace and tranquility. In certain cultures, the Phoenix is featured in specific color shades like the gold motif associated with Egyptian mythology. On the other hand, in the Chinese culture, the Phoenix is in the 5 primary shades (black, white, red, yellow, and green).
The color choice will not just, in the end, affect the aesthetics and highlight perhaps a specific aspect of the design; it will also change the symbolism of your tattoo. This is why it is good to research and ponder on the color scheme of your phoenix tattoo.
Preparing For Your Phoenix Tattoo
It is always recommended to take the necessary preparations before having a tattoo done. In the case of getting a phoenix tattoo, you should take the time to get ready because these designs can be larger and more complex compared to others. This means it will take much more time to have it done especially when you want a vivid and colorful design.
Choose The Design And The Location Well
Some people get very simple tattoos like a name or some words and this kind of design can be done almost anywhere. Phoenix tattoos, on the other hand, are much more complex due to the size and the various colors. This is why you should set aside some time to research on the design you want and sit with the tattoo artist to plan accordingly.
First, it is important to determine whether it fits your back or chest, depending on where you want your tattoo. The artist will need to look at the specific details and decide whether it is feasible or not (an experienced tattoo artist will mostly be able to handle it). He or she will also have to plan the work and how long it takes.
Talk About The Cost
Again, the complexity of a phoenix tattoo will mean that it is costlier compared to other designs. Once the design has been decided, you will want to ask how much it will cost you. Because it will be permanent and will most likely not be affected by skin aging, you are sure that the investment is worthwhile and you will have a beautiful tattoo to be proud of for many years to come.
Get Your Body Ready For The Appointment
Once all the details have been set, you will receive an appointment. You will always need to get your skin and body ready for any tattoo but expect this time to be different. You will need to clean the part where your new phoenix tattoo will be, of course.
Do Not Drink The Night Before
Taking in alcohol before getting a tattoo will thin your blood and thus, make you bleed more on the day itself so it is best to simply go to bed early and save the drinks for another day.
Wear The Right Clothes
Make the work easy for your tattoo artist by wearing appropriate clothing that will not disrupt his work. You will also not be able to go home most likely without a shirt on (if you get a phoenix tattoo on your chest) so you might want to wear something loose. The area will be bandaged and covered afterward but a tight shirt might be difficult to put on.
Expect It To Be Painful
The day or night before your appointment, make sure that your body is well-rested and relaxed. The fact is, getting your phoenix tattoo will not be without pain and the complicated design will mean a bit more pain than others. You will have to be ready for this unless you want an incomplete phoenix tattoo on your body.
Always keep in mind that the pain will be worth it in the end once you see the masterpiece finished. The process itself is quite similar to the symbolism that phoenixes represent, so you will simply have to endure the pain in order to see the beauty afterward. It will always remind you of your strength through times of pain and adversity and inspire you whenever you encounter such moments again.
Eat And Drink Enough Beforehand
Your tattoo artist should inform you beforehand exactly how long the process will take and in the case of your phoenix tattoo, it might take a bit longer. This means you should make sure that your stomach is full and that you are hydrated enough to sit in the chair for a while. You might also want to go to the bathroom beforehand or at least schedule breaks in between for you (and the artist doing the hard work) to be able to rest a little bit.
Watch Out For Any Medications
If you have low pain tolerance, you might be tempted to just take something to relieve it. However, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist as these medications can have an effect on blood flow, for example. It is best to inform them that you plan to get a tattoo and get advice on what you can and cannot take during or after the appointment.
Despite the amount of time and pain it takes to finish your phoenix tattoo, you will surely forget it once you see the finished product. So if you want an impressive tattoo that has a much deeper meaning, then this is the design that you should definitely go for.