Monday, February 27, 2006

From the Ashes

This Week's Trivia: The Phoenix

I spent five hours yesterday with my web designer, Jax Crane, working on my website. She's fabulous and you can check out her work by clicking on the link in the sidebar of my blog. I can't wait for the unveiling, which Jax assures me will be in the next week or so.

Anyway, because my Chinese name, given to me by my late Great-Uncle Jim, is Gum Foong (Golden Phoenix) I chose to incorporate that motif in my website. So, in honor of that, today I offer some trivia about the phoenix.

Said to live for 500, 1461 or for 12594 years (depending on the source), the phoenix is a male bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in Heliopolis ("the city of the sun" in Greek), located in Egypt. The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — a symbol of fire and divinity.

One inspiration that has been suggested for the Egyptian phoenix is a specific bird species of East Africa. This bird nests on salt flats that are too hot for its eggs or chicks to survive; it builds a mound several inches tall and large enough to support its egg, which it lays in that marginally cooler location. The hot air rising around these mounds resembles the turbulence of a flame.

I had no idea that the phoenix of myth had a designated life span, or that they had a nesting ground to return to, like salmon. You learn something new everyday!

Queen's logo has a picture of a Phoenix on the top part. The logo was designed by their singer, Freddie Mercury.

I found a picture of the logo (above left.) The lions look a little anorexic, if you ask me.

The fenghuang (Chinese Phoenix) is said to be made up of the beak of a cock, the face of a swallow, the forehead of a fowl, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, the hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish. Its body symbolizes the six celestial bodies. The head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail is the planets. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow.

This is quite an amalagamation of parts, sort of like the Chinese version of Frankenstein's monster. I think I prefer to think of it as a bird since I'm not crazy about having a fish tail or buck butt.



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