The Phoenix is the last of the three mythical animals that are commonly tattooed (the other one we have already covered being dragons and the kraken). The Phoenix is often tattooed in a Japanese style as part of sleeves or back pieces but can be done in a number of different styles.
To get to the root of where the myth of the phoenix started and where we get our modern imagery of the phoenix, we need to once again head back to the history books.
In Greek mythology the phoenix is a bird that is reborn every time it dies, rising fresh from its own ashes. The Greeks heavily linked the phoenix with the sun. Early Christians took on the symbol and probably came up with the story of the phoenix dying by fire although there are other versions where it just dies and decomposes before being reborn. Some stories said the phoenix lived for over 1400 years.
History also tells us that the phoenix “could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life”.
So who invented the phoenix? It’s thought that it was probably the Egyptians but there’s similarities between the Greek and the Egyptian phoenix so it could be a bit of a mix between them.
In medieval times the phoenix was painted and illustrated in literature. They often gave the phoenix a nimbus (halo like glow around the head) to represent the phoenix’s connection with the sun, sometimes with 7 rays, like Helios (the sun in Greek mythology).
Just a warning I’m going to say a whole lot of weird names here, just go with it. As for appearance Pliny said that they have a crest on top of their head while Ezekiel compared the phoenix to a rooster. Tacitus said that the colors of the phoenix made it stand out from any other bird although he didn’t say exactly what colors they were. Herodotus however, said the phoenix was red and yellow and Ezekiel kind of confirmed this when he said the phoenix has red legs and yellow eyes. It was all going well until Lactantius comes along and says they have sapphire blue eyes and yellow-gold scaled legs with rose-colored talons. Then R. Van den Broek, Herodotus, Pliny, Solinus, and Philostratus describe the phoenix as being pretty much the same size as an eagle. Then Lactantius and Ezekiel start saying that they’re bigger than ostriches. So I guess you’re going to have to make your own mind up on who you believe!
But yeah, in general, the main meaning for these mythical birds is obviously re-birth. This meaning is great for people who have reinvented themselves and started fresh.