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Rebirth and the Phoenix Tattoo

I love tattoos and have been writing about the topic for several years.

Find out the history and mythology of phoenixes in China, Japan, and other cultures.

Find out the history and mythology of phoenixes in China, Japan, and other cultures.

Fantastic Phoenix Tattoo

The tattoo of the phoenix is one of the most fantastic to work with. Whether you do it in dark ink, bright colors, or in some cases the combination of both, you've really got to have a poor tattoo artist to screw this one up, as the body and lines you can create with a phoenix tattoo are endless. They look good whether they're small, medium, or large in size.

Probably more than any other tattoo with the exception of the cross, the phoenix is pregnant with meaning. While most of us know the fiery bird is known to represent rebirth, it's largely unknown some of its other symbolics, which we'll get into a little later.

Where the fire comes in with the phoenix is in reference to ancient cultures thinking of the sun as flaming out at the end of the day and emerging or rising the next.

It is also alleged that some of the early Christians considered the phoenix as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and their own subsequent rebirth as a result; representing being born again and beginning a new way of life.

While that's possible, it's doubtful it was part of the larger Christian community, which pretty strictly adhered to Christ being the resurrection.

But that doesn't mean some didn't, as around the early part of the fourth century, all sorts of mixture with paganism was added to the church, and so it definitely could have been possible at that time.

Some Jewish myths have added the mystique of the phoenix, as they talk about the phoenix as the one living creature that never left the garden of Eden, and it never partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; thus its longevity.

Even some ancient empires would take the phoenix as a representation of the empire lasting for a long time.

Amazing Tattoo Phoenix Design Photo on Woman's Side

Amazing Tattoo Phoenix Design Photo on Woman's Side

Chinese Phoenix Tattoo Meaning

For the Chinese, the phoenix was very important, with only the dragon holding a more important place in their culture. Only the Chinese Empress was allowed to wear the phoenix as a symbol, which represented the union of yin and yang, symbolizing virtue and grace.

Japan Phoenix Tattoo Meaning

The phoenix is also significant to the Japanese, and is an important symbol of theirs, included with the sun.

The Japanese like to entwine the phoenix with the dragon, as you can see on many of their tattoos. This also symbolizes yin and yang for the Japanese, mixing the highest qualities of the masculine and feminine together.

Dark Inked Phoenix Tattoo Half Sleeve

Dark Inked Phoenix Tattoo Half Sleeve

Phoenix Meaning as a Tattoo: The Fire

I find it interesting that as a tattoo, the phoenix design has gravitated toward a more feminine association, although I find it a strong representation of both genders, as Asian cultures have adopted it in that sense.

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But you do seem to find far more women embracing the phoenix than men.

As with any fire, there's the sense of purification coming from heat of the fire, representing difficult times that try you and transform you into a new person if you can survive those purging moments. That's the flame and fire side of it.

Great Phoenix Tattoo on Woman's Back

Great Phoenix Tattoo on Woman's Back

The Meaning of the Phoenix Itself

For the phoenix itself, in the tattooing world, it represents a number of good qualities in a person, like kindness, duty, and being reliable, among others.

This seems to mean that those emerging from the fire and ashes end up with admirable qualities that represent being a new person.

Hey, I told you there was a lot of meaning attached to the phoenix tattoo. But let's face it, in the end, they just look good, and I would bet that's the reason, more than most others, people get them.

In Asian countries that would be different, but in the West, I believe that's the case.


Mr. Anonymous on November 11, 2017:

First, I would like to say very good article. Very informative and well done.

Second, I am in the process of getting an phoenix tattoo done. The symbology behind it has many meanings. But the short version is a new life. As I've gone through several life struggles. As well as to go along with my Japanese dragon.

Third, @master of sparks. If a woman having a tattoo of a phoenix is a warning sign for you. Then, I feel sorry for you. Because most of the "damaged goods" don't have warning signs. In fact you won't even realize that they are until after you've married them. (That goes for both men and women) That being said I would also like to point out. That I know you wrote that 7 yrs ago. And I hope with in that time you've grown-up some and opened your mind.

And last I would like to thank everybody that shared their reasons for getting a phoenix tattoo. It's good to know that we all go through life struggles. And that we as humans are like the phoenix and are able to overcome and rise from the ashes.

E on March 27, 2013:

Hey!!! That first image (the rib piece) is mine! The artist was Paul Booth & it hurt like hell. But I've almost died a couple of times (literal brushes with danger & once narrowly escaped bleeding to death after an accident) & I keep kickin'. Guess my time's not up yet. Thanks for featuring it!

Somebody on September 11, 2012:

Master of sparks. Its probably for the better you keep your closed minded self away frim people ready to express themselves.

I am getting a phoenix to represent the hell myself and my family have gone through. Im 27 and have two beautiful daughters. But this time last year inwas 37 weeks pregnant with our baby girl while our almost two year old was being injected with lethal chemicals (also known as chemo) to save her life. She also endured a months worth of radiations on her face leaving her burnt to a crisp, again, in efforts to save her life.

I cannot think of a better image to represet all the crap My daughter and my family has gone through.

MJ on August 31, 2012:

I will be getting my Phoenix tattoo soon. I had a kidney transplant back in 2010 and my husband was my donor. Then I come to find out that he cheated on me with a co worker after 17 years of marriage and 4 kids. It hurt so bad but I'm learning to adjust to life without him. This tat will symbolize my new life, not only the kidney but totally starting my life again. The only thing I can say is that I will always be grateful to him for saving my life and giving me his kidney. I too will rise from the ashes and be reborn just like the Phoenix.

Lisa on August 15, 2012:

Dose anyone know where that Asian chick got the Phoenix done?

Flower on March 17, 2012:

I am 65 yrs old and recently had a beautiful Phoenix tat placed on my back right leg. For me the meanings are endless, after a long, difficult 65 yrs, it represents my survival, and a new beginning. The Phoenix to represents many new beginnings, regardless of the pain we have in our life. I never thought that i would be in such enormous emotional pain after a 1 yr breakup with my companion. I have had many in my lifetime but this one has hurt emotionally the worst. When I located my Phoenix tat (I had been thinking for some time about a second tat) I realized it was there for a reason, to work through the pain and rise from the emotional turmoil, gaining strength, and continuing to live a meaningful life. I am a grand-mother, and believe to date this tat is the most important symbol I have ever had. I feel reborn.

Phil on March 08, 2012:

Sub-consciousely, I chose this tattoo because i liked it although. I must say though it had a meaning when i really looked at it and I feel I'am reborn as in changing my ways.

Blood_Merchant on March 02, 2012:

I don't half dislike people like Master Of Sparks, such a closed minded person. The Phoenix is one of the most meaningful designs i know and it can mean many things to many individuals. For that girl for instance: it could mean that she has had some struggles in her past but now she has overcome them, and so she has got the tattoo to symbolise this.

I love the Phoenix and i intend to get a tattoo of one. The tattoo of the phoenix will have so much meaning to me, including: making me feel strong, pretty and everytime i look at it in the mirror, i will see how strong i am, just like the phenix, i too will have risen from the ashes.

Master Of Sparks, i suggest you learn some people manners, grow up and understand that not everyone is as closed minded and as pathetic as you.

Much love to everyone else :)

brandnewday on February 07, 2012:

Just got a phoenix tattoo last week. It's probably the only tattoo I'll ever get. I love it. It's loaded with meaning and it makes me feel beautiful and strong. For those of us who have felt the flames and had to rise up, there is no shame. My phoenix had it's head up, wings out, ready to fly - just like me.

Jamie on January 26, 2012:

The phoenix is probably in my opinion the ultimate tattoo, the wings symbolizing the ability to spread your wings and fly. And we all know the saying, "I'm not gonna get into heaven without a pair of wings". The Fire representing an Eternal Flame. The Fact that its a bird symbolizes a free spirit, Because we all think of Birds as being free to go where they want. And if that wasn't good enough the fact that the phoenix itself is known as a symbol of rebirth, having realized that you made you a mistake or even just wanting to get away from the pain of your current life shows and takes courage. To admit you've made a mistake, learn from it and move on. Or to get away from things which bring you down. The courage to be yourself, And in the words of one truly inspirational man, Courage is a the virtue to which all others depend - Winston Churchill.

I'm going to get a Phoenix tattoo because they not only look amazing, but it has a lot of meaning behind it. I was gonna get some old words to encourage me to move forward, But words are words. they mean nothing unless you actually put them into effect, Because Actions Speak louder than words. And a picture is worth a thousand words, and i don't want to get a thousand words tattooed onto me.


Daily reminded on January 17, 2012:

Im a 21 year old male and my life has been hell. I've watched my mother be beat my father thrown in jail drugs and alcohol destroy lives around me and I've been through suicide attempts. Recently my ex and I separated after 5 long years and I've lost all hope in life.

Just the other day I was talking to my mom when I decided that my right arm will be dedicated to my family. I've already got 2 tattoos on my arm for myself but the first one for my family will be hers. I told her to pick anything and I'll get it for her. She said the pheonix is her spiritual name. I thought about it and the meaning and we both have been through a rough life.

For me it is about a new life. The falling in emotion and hope. Then the rise of dignity and pride that I have over come the pain and struggle through life.

3lovesofmylife on January 11, 2012:

After going through a nasty and expensive divorce (over $200 grand) I've decided to get a Phoenix meaning..I survived and there's a new me!!! I was a stay at home mom for 13 soon to be ex..divorce almost final..has put me through hell and back!! We've all been through things in life..not one person is excluded!! And materialistic things mean NOTHING..I've had them!! YOU are what matters!!

Dan on January 07, 2012:

Very inspiring stories all of you have. Sometime later this year when I go away for college, or some other time, I'm planning to get a phoenix tattoo. Just because of some of the things it means, I think it will be a very meaningful tattoo for me to get, unlike many others out there. The main reasons I'm deciding on this particular tattoo is that there have been some times in my life where I have had difficulties (ie, getting bullied by others, and sometimes having a hard time "coming out"), and just because they look awesome. I'm planning to get a tiny one on the upper part of my left arm because my parents aren't too fond of tattoos and don't want me to get all "inked", and this one will be able to be covered easily. Plus, if I tell them all of the symbolism that this tattoo contains, then maybe one day they will be ok with me having this. Here is a URL to an image of the particular design I'm thinking about getting:

Helga on January 07, 2012:

Im 22 year old girl and im planning to get a phoenix tattoo and writing "i chose to live". I battled an eating disorder and self harm since i was 10, i was told so many times that i was killing myself but i didn't care, but i finally chose to live and the phoenix wil represent a new life

Left Hook on January 04, 2012:

Finally decided that I am ready for a Phoenix tattoo. Been through a decade of lose (health, career, marriage, travel, going out to eat...) BUT I have reached a new level of enlightenment and know I can only be defeated if I let myself be defeated. I AM alive, I AM strong (mentally and spiritually) I AM a survivor, I AM reborn from the fires that have scorched all that was mine

invictus on December 28, 2011:

thank you all for sharing your stories, i found them very inspiring... I second the notion that the phoenix tattoo is about rebirth and rising from the ashes... to those of you with the firebird on your skin, don't listen to the rubbish that other people write... it is symbolic of who you are, not what others want you to be...

james on December 12, 2011:

I am starting my phoenix sleeve later this week. I have battled with addictions for a good portion of my life, and for me the phoneix represents overcoming my demons and having the strength and will power to start living a better, healthier life. I see some judgemental comments on this site. To those of you judging, you have that right. Just know that I am winning my personal battles every day, and I am a stronger, more well adjusted person because of it. Your words are empty.

Marie on December 05, 2011:

like everyone, we all have our own reasons to have a phoenix tattoo.

I haven't had mine done yet, but will be booking it shortly.

For me, like others it symbolises that no matter what crap you have to deal with in life, you rise up and move on. Down but not out regardless of what you have to endure.It is the right one for me, so when i have an issue to deal with i can look at the phoenix and remind myself to pick myself up and deal with it.

michael on November 26, 2011:

after surviving a very close suicide attempt, i got a phoenix tatoo, my rise from the ashes, so to speak.

Annonymous on October 20, 2011:

I had a Daughter that was literally taken away from me, and my ex (since Yesterday), with who I have a Son (a year and half old), she's thinking to take him back to US with her. Two kids overseas. I survived a lot of shit, from physical to emotional abuses. Phoenix definitely is a Tattoo I would love to have on my back. I already have two. One on my back with my daughter's chinese name and one single chinese character dragon as this is my sign.

Re-birth from the ashes and survived.

swwheart on October 13, 2011:

Everybody has demons, issues and nobody's closet is empty. As they say he without sin cast the first stone, not me. As one in the helping professional, I applaud people who have overcome obstacles, grief, pain and made changes in their life and that is what mine stands for.

zippedup on September 27, 2011:

At the beginning of last year I had major open heart surgery that left me with a permanent scar right down the front of my chest, and the knowledge that in 10-15 years i'll have to have the same surgery all over again. I want to get a phoenix tattoo because of this. I had this horrible scar put on me that wasn't my choice, I want something beautiful put on me that was my choice and I believe a phoenix, and all that it represents, rebirth and over coming a life changing experience to come out stronger, is the perfect choice for me. Also it will help me when I have to go through the surgery again knowing that no matter how hard or painful it is I won't let it impact my life or stop me living my life to the fullest! :-)

texassizeattitude on September 21, 2011:

I'm thinking about getting a phoenix tattoo I think it will be a good tattoo for me because a few years ago I had a surgery done and the surgeon messed it up and I ended up on life support and my heart had to be shocked back twice and I came out of it just fine No permanent damage or anything like that so I think the phoenix is a perfect tattoo for me but the only problem I have is it is my first tattoo and I'm not sure where to put it or how big to get it

nicoli moore on September 11, 2011:

im Getting a phoenix tattoo cause i have been shot blown up and still look back and could tell there was an angel looking out for me

ShannLee on August 20, 2011:

Im 19 and female. Getting a phoenix down my side/ribs. And 'Rise from the Ashes' on the inside of my upper arm. I love the phoenix. And I believe it can represent different things for different people. For me it's a reminder that even though I've made heaps of mistakes in the past and really screwed my life up a few times, Ive always managed to 'rise form the ashes' and start afresh. And I know I can always do this. I found out what a phoenix was after learning that its linked to my star sign.


Burn More Fire on May 15, 2011:

The bird originated in Ethiopia which our roots as humans also originate from. It's life span was said to be 100-500 years being the only one of it's kind through out it's excistance. Taking it's own life through the purification of fire. As it burnt Myrrh which one does for protection. Gives itself life again with out a mate but from pure consciousness, to endure an other 100-500 of witnessing all that goes on and all that has strayed from our original garden in which we where intended to.... This birds life weather it be 100 or 500 years, to me, can represent not only a stag one my go through but a single day. We all have our challenges, most often as daily, issues, hard stages. I think I can speak for most of man kind. No? People are fragile. We need guidance and protection and yes some of us in a life time make up a whole new self. And good for them it is they whose challenges are plenty, think of them as those who have been giving the opportunity to work out a chunk of karma. It was the phoenix who I thought beside me on the arm of my rocking chair while my daughter feel asleep at night,while calling out silently, " what ever i didn't get right this day, let it straight the next" For all of it virtues & symbols, antiquity,reliability,adversity,tolerance,endurance,awareness.... it should never be reduced to a warning sign to steer away from a female. Maybe the girl master of sparks was talking to was 1- Drama gal 2-Ding bat who knows. And I advise him to not reduce his own self to having the need to rely on ink to know what's what's. Having a burnt image of the phoenix in my head for years I think Its going to be my first tattoo after this. Gonna make it large.

norn iron nomad on February 20, 2011:

i would just like to say that i just got a phoenix sleeve inked today for the simple reason they look freekin awesome!! rock on!

Bec on February 10, 2011:

I am getting a pheonix tatoo because i have had to reinvent my self a few times. no matter who you are in life things change and you have to adapt.

to rise up from a shit situation is hard work but i "CAN" be done.

i think its an awesome idea... loads of meaning

jamielonewolf on December 25, 2010:

We all have issues. We all have a story. I am having a Pheonix tatt inked onto an arm to sybolize my struggles over the last few years. I have been through alot and am turning the corner on getting my life back on track. I blew a disc out of my back, had surgery that has not gone well in 07, I can no longer compete in any sport, constant excruciating pain, depression, father died, lost job, tried to commit suicide, spent a month in hospital, ended up loosing everything I owned, ended up homeless, lived in a tent in a horse barn for months, could'nt get any assistance from social services,b ut with the help of a few good friend I am getting back on track. I have an appartment, car, job and my life.

My life is forever changed and I see things much differently than before. Matterial things are not so important to me, the journey through life is important. I struggle every day but I choose not to give up today. That is what The Pheonix meens to me.

See, everyone has a story.

heynow on September 22, 2010:

I got a large Phoenix tatto done after my brotehr passed away in a bike accident and I went through a divroce. Getting the tatto was a really good way for me to work through the grieving process of losing my brother and my knowning that my life would be changed drastically from what I knew in the past. While I did find the comment on early warning signs quite funny.. I also wanted to point out that I'm proud of mine. In my case I feel shows that I overcame a hard time and not that I'm crazy! :)

Zero on September 12, 2010:

@ Mistress of Flames

He may be a bit narrow minded but it is true to some degree, and he did put a humour twist on it. Lighten up! If I were to judge you by your comment, I would assume that you were a grumpy eight year old judging by that grammar and punctuation.

Either way, an interesting article with some good facts =)

Nice one!

Mistress of Flames on August 31, 2010:

@Master of Sparks

wow. early warning system? damaged goods?

rude. closed-minded. various other, less polite descriptors.

screw you.

tattoodesigns69 from Illinois on August 31, 2010:

Amazing Hub on "tattoos"! I genuinely valued the advise. Continue to keep them coming!

Mrlynk on May 24, 2010:

After going through a divorce and passing through all the pain of lossing my kids wife and house..I decided to get a pheonix tattoo simbolizing me rising from the ashes and starting a new life.

gypsiegrl on February 27, 2010:

Good post Pieter as I would agree, Master of Sparks you have no idea what hurdles in life have been thrown at people bold enough to declare to the world that they have officially risen from the ashes! Yes, you are definitely inferior, bow low and stay there.

Pieter on February 04, 2010:

master of sparks,

You are a closed minded individual and men as well as women should stray as far away from you as possible. The phoenix symbolizes a rise from defeat. Maybe you should stay down and accept your inferiority. I wish you enlightenment.

Master Of Sparks on February 02, 2010:

I was talking to a girl in my Tai Chi class the other night and she mentioned that she has a tattoo of a phoenix. Having spoken to her before I know that she's got a lot of issues. Which prompted me to think that some, but not all, of the people who choose a phoenix tat do so because they like the symbology of the rebirth. Now who would be attracted to that? Somebody who's damaged goods. I think I'll be staying away from girls with phoenix tats. They're like an early warning system.

Mike Smith on August 29, 2009:

It is one of the most significant mythological birds and forms many people’s favorite design for a tattoo. Popularly known to rise from its ashes, the phoenix tattoo received its name from the Greek word Red symbolizing fire.

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