From the fearsome, fire-wielding pheasants of Japan to the cute Harry Potter phoenix, our depictions of this mythological bird seem to know no bounds as far as creativity is concerned. In cultures across the world, rejuvenation through fire remains a prominent theme in folktales and legends, and phoenix tattoos only grow in popularity as time goes on. What’s the deal with these feathery icons? How can so many people relate to them? Today, we’ll talk all about phoenix tattoos for guys and girls, discuss the meaning behind these symbols of rebirth, and show off the best phoenix tattoo designs in the world!
Phoenix Tattoo Meaning
So, what does a phoenix symbolize? It’s time for some phoenix bird facts! The phoenix meaning in English is very direct. When this fiery bird dies, it rises from its ashes as a chick. In this way, the phoenix is immortal, despite living many lives. The origin of the phoenix lies far away from England, though. The English learned about the phoenix from the Romans, and the Romans learned about it from the Greeks. When the Greeks first speak of the phoenix, they talk of an Egyptian bird, rather than a bird of their own mythology. Egypt described it as an Arabian bird, and who knows where it originated before that!
The oldest tales talk of a bird about the size of an eagle that lived to 500 years of age. Whenever it died, one of its chicks would cover it in a myrrh sphere and return it to a temple of the Sun, located in Egypt. From there, it would hatch anew. From this story, it’s easy to see a parallel between the phoenix and the sun. The sun is extinguished by the night, just as a phoenix is extinguished by death, but in the morning it rises again with the same life. A phoenix tattoo invokes this sense of a fresh renewal.
Japanese Phoenix Tattoo
As cool as the fiery version sounds, you might find yourself looking for a different style of phoenix tattoo. Japanese phoenixes look very different from the Western symbol, instead appearing as a beautiful pheasant with a long tail of multi-colored feathers. Its appearance marks good luck and the dawn of a good era, while its disappearance represents chaos. Unlike the western phoenix, this bird does not light itself on fire, but it is still very long-lived.
A phoenix tattoo combined with a dragon tattoo represents a balance of peace and chaos. They represent love, passion, and marriage. They make an ideal couple tattoo for newlyweds! When put together, the dragon is considered masculine and gives off ‘yang’ energy, while the phoenix represents ‘yin’ and femininity.
Phoenix Tattoo Sleeve
A tattoo of a phoenix rising from the ashes strikes awe into anyone who sees it. Consult with your artist to talk about just what you want your sleeve to look like. The body and feathers may not fit neatly together on your particular body build, so your artist must take extra care to make sure it looks good from every angle. Thankfully, there are many references out there to use. A phoenix is a traditional subject for sleeves and half sleeves thanks to its association with good luck.
I find that the best phoenix tattoo sleeves make good use of black and white outlines. While red and orange ink is a given for colored tattoos of a phoenix, the color isn’t actually what makes the bird recognizable! The intricate plumage, interesting anatomy, and the presence of fire all make phoenix tattoo outlines shine even before color gets added. Artists also use a wide variety of styles to draw birds and flames, so a tattoo that focuses on the outline will always be unique.
Phoenix Tattoo Watercolor
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid color! The phoenix actually received its name from a special kind of color dye. Known as Phoenician Purple, this dye was made from crushed clams and cost an incredible amount. As a bird of royalty that came from the Middle East, it was only fitting to name it after this royal color, and some old stories of the bird had it with luxurious purple feathers instead of the red and orange we know today! As with all watercolor tattoos, ensure you’re committed to the design. The colors will need touch ups every few years to stay vivid.
Simple Phoenix Tattoo
Of course, a rising phoenix tattoo doesn’t have to take up your entire arm or show off the latest advances in ink formula. Sometimes, a simple phoenix tattoo will do. Phoenix bird tattoos fit in small areas perfectly and make for great tribal designs. The tongues of flame translate well into the geometric patterns of Polynesian tattoos, and the silhouette of a phoenix is easily distinguished from a regular bird.
When just the image won’t do, try looking for some phoenix bird quotes. Quotes and legends of this firebird go back for millennia, and the bird even gets its own verse in the Old Testament—albeit a depressing one. Quotes dealing with rebirth, renewal, sunlight, fire, strength, love, and passion all match the beautiful image of the phoenix.
So, is a phoenix tattoo right for you? A rising phoenix tattoo doesn’t just represent a new personality or a new outlook on life. It represents survival. It shows everyone that when you went through life’s trials, you came out of the flames unscathed. You determine your own path in this world and the symbol of a phoenix shows that to everyone. Even if you’re not interested in getting a tattoo of this bird’s beautiful plumage, you have to admit it’s a symbol that commands respect!
If you liked this article, be sure to check out the rest of InkDoneRight! We have hundreds of tattoo images to browse through and glean inspiration from! Explore the inked world with us and learn more about the symbolism and history behind your favorite tattoos. You join our email list for monthly updates, or follow us on Twitter for updates as they happen. As always, thanks for reading!