h Phoenix Qi: How long does a Phoenix live?

Monday, March 19, 2007

How long does a Phoenix live?

There are various numbers tossed around as the lifetime of a phoenix: 300 years, 500 years, 1,000 years, 1461 years. The first three numbers sound poetically rounded; the number 1461 has the ring of truth. No one is going to make up a number like 1461. It's not a pretty number to say, it isn't easy to write, or to add or subtract with, so what gives?

Oftentimes, the number that looks like the odd-ball is the real deal, but the reasons for it have been forgotten. Not so with the phoenix's lifetime of 1461 years! The reason the phoenix is reborn every 1461 years has to do with astronomy, the cycle of a star and the sun, and the ancient Egyptian growing season.

A little knowledge of the Egyptian calendar is in order. The Egyptians had a calendar of 365 days; three seasons of 120 days each, and a 5-day period of feasting. The season that interests us is Akhet, the summer growing season. The first day of Akhet which, in 3000 BCE, was at the time of the Summer Solstice, heralded the yearly flooding of the Nile and meant the first day of the agricultural year, the growing season

There is another astronomical event which takes places at that time; the heliacal rising of Sirius, the star we call the Dog Star, one of the most important astronomical bodies to the ancient Egyptians. (A heliacal rising is the appearance of a star above the horizon just before the sun rises.)

While we, today, call Sirius the Dog star because it is the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major, the Ancient Egyptians called it Sothis or Sopdet/Sepdet. Sopdet, sometimes identified with Isis, was a fertility goddess associated with the star Sirius and the agricultural year. When Sirius/Sothis/Sopdet became visible in the morning sky just before the sunrise, the sighting was celebrated with a festival called "The Coming of Sopdet" because it was the time of year for the waters of the Nile to rise; she brought with her the waters that would bring fertility to the land.

At the same time, Sothis herself was returning to life, too, because she had been missing for 70 days. Sirius can be seen in the morning sky for all but 70 days of the year, and those 70 days that Sirius is invisible (or "dead") are the 70 days immediately preceding the first day of Akhet. Here is the parallel with the Phoenix being burned: Sirius/Sopdet is considered to be dead for those days because she was "burned" into invisibility by the sunrise.

Interestingly enough, an embalming took 70 days, after which the deceased began the journey to the Otherworld ruled by Osiris (husband of Isis), so 70 days became associated with reincarnation of another sort, re-vitalization of the spirit and the spirit's ability to travel.

The association of the bird-Phoenix comes with the Bennu Bird. Bennu is related to the words "to rise" and "to shine." The Bennu bird was further associated with the Ba, the roaming spirit often depicted as a human-headed bird, of Ra/Re the Egyptian Sun god. Therefore, the Bennu bird became the symbol of the solar spirit. After the 70 days of embalming, the star Sirius represented the "rise" and "shine" of the Bennu bird which also meant the re-vitalization of the spirit.

The Greeks called the star Sirius, "scorching" or "burning," and probably made that association due to the rising of the star with the sun at the time of the Summer Solstice, and the hottest season of the year.

Phoenix is from the Greek and Latin and means purple-red color (possibly the color of the sky just before sunrise), or a Phoenician, a member of a well-known sea-faring folk from Phoenicia, the ancient kingdom in the area of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. I believe the location of Phoenicia accounts for the idea that the Phoenix comes from the Arabian wilderness. Phoenicia as well as the heliacal rising of the Phoenix/Sirius/Sothis star with the Summer Solstice sun, is in the east for anyone living in Egypt, Greece or Rome.

The 1461 year lifetime of the Phoenix is due to the 365.25 day year and the lack of a Leap Year in the ancient Egyptian calendar.

As already stated, Sirius "died" for 70 days, consumed by the fire of the sun, and was "reborn" on the first day of the planting season known as Akhet, the day of the Summer Solstice, when the star was again visible on the eastern horizon just before sunrise.

So, for several generations of Egyptian astronomical observers, the floods were marked by the rise of Sirius, the rebirth of the Phoenix, in the pre-dawn morning on the first day of Akhet.

However, they accounted for only 365 days in each year, so that every four years, the day that Sirius was "reborn" came one day earlier! Instead of on the Summer Solstice, it would be one day earlier, and then four years later and another day earlier, and then another, and another. The rise of the fertility star and the day of the Summer Solstice became seriously out of alignment.

In order for the Phoenix/Bennu/Sirius star to be "reborn" on the first day of Akhet, 1,461 years would have to pass!

In fact, what did happen was that every 1460 years, the Ancient Egyptians would add an entire Leap Year of 365 days. .25 of a year X 1460 years = 365 days, or a full Leap Year. Add the Leap Year to the 1460 years equals the 1461 years known as a Sothic Cycle for the goddess Sothis and the star Sothis/ Serius/ Bennu/ Phoenix.

The Sothic Cycle of 1461 years is the lifetime of the Phoenix: the star Sirius again rises in conjunction with the Summer Solstice….after 70 days of death, the Phoenix Rises, reborn on the Summer Solstice.

1 comment:

ewh said...

Very interesting that there was the time and interest to calculate all these numbers with none of our current technology. I think there have always been persons interested in these numerical relationships. At times I long for a life that would allow the space for this contemplation. But given my priorities to continue to attempt to change the course of our human misadventures in the US, I don't think it will be this lifetime.