2011 was a year I was glad to see the back of. It would have to be one of the most challenging and trying years I’ve experienced. To commemorate what 2011 was, I recently decided to get a new tattoo. This was going to be a big deal for me. I wanted something to represent the trials I had been going through in the last year.
That year dissolved my being in so many ways. Not only because of my health deteriorating towards the end of the year, but also because my mother was hospitalised for several weeks due to major surgery at a time she was suffering severe mental depression, my beloved dog who is now 17 human years old almost died from internal bleeding which was caused by a horrible infection in her womb and I was being moved around at work and was stressed with life in general. On the outside I had to be strong, even though I also was going through some nasty depression.
Talking with a very close friend of mine, he asked me what it was I wanted to represent in this tattoo. I told him I wanted something big, red and with flames. But I didn’t want the symbolic AIDS ribbon, or anything that obvious. I wanted something different. I wanted something to represent hope, rebirth and renewal. After more discussion he said to me, how about a Phoenix. That was it! It was exactly what I was looking for.
And so began the process of design, and defining what the phoenix meant to me. There are many definitions of the Phoenix.
Here is a mix of what it means to me;
The Phoenix symbolises rebirth, especially of the sun. It has long been presented as a symbol of immortality and renewal. A bird of fire, a mythical creature It has variants in European, Central American, Egyptian and Asian cultures. In the Asia region, it’s thought of as a bird of grace and virtue. In Chinese mythology it is the second most important thing in the culture; the first being the dragon.
The Greek meaning behind the word phoenix means red, which represents fire. The Jews see it has being the one creature that has refrained from consuming the forbidden fruit by setting itself ablaze. Since the bird would prefer death over sin, it was allowed to rise after three days from the ashes. This signalled a triumphant win over temptation, starting over from sacrifice.
It is described as a bird with a colourful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (or purple, blue, and green according to some legends). It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. This is where the phrase, “Phoenix from the ashes” comes from.
The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self. In some stories, the new phoenix embalm the ashes of its old self in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (literally “sun-city” in Greek).
It is said that the bird’s cry is that of a beautiful song. It’s important to understand that it doesn’t just represent one thing. In fact, many people today feel that every part of the bird represents something entirely different.
The wings usually mean prosperity. The body means kindness. The head means reliability.
The Phoenix’s ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal, though in some stories the new Phoenix is merely the offspring of the older one. In very few stories they are able to change into people.
I wanted art that depicted the Phoenix coming out of the fire. This was to represent the turbulence of 2011. The rising Phoenix was to be victorious over what was in the last year and the start of a new beginning for me in 2012. I went to a good friend of mine who is an amazing tattoo artist.
I gave him all the ideas and designs and he knew exactly what to do.
“Regardless of how hard the past is for you, the situations you have endured or no matter the amount of time someone or something has tried to bring you down, you still come out the winner, overcoming life’s challenges…big or small!
The phoenix means 3 life lessons to me:
Renewal – This is necessary for me to live a happy life.
Triumphant – This motivates me to never lose hope.
Immortality – This means that no matter what is thrown at me in life, I will RISE above.”
2012 has so far been a year of challenges. A year of renewal. A year of discoveries. I am still a long way off from being okay, but I am sure closer than I was in 2011.
Here is my new ink. ENJOY.