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.......Curiosity Corner .......

THE PHOENIX

Scholars hold several different views about the Phoenix. Some aver that it is a North African bird that lives for five centuries, or thereabout, and then flies to Egypt where it builds a mound of incense sticks, cinnamon and spices, agitates its wings to fan all this into flame, and then immolates itself. When the fire dies out, it is claimed, a small grub emerges from the ashes and this transforms itself into a newly rejuvenated phoenix. All agree that there is and only ever was one of these fabulous birds.

That there have been no recent reports of the Phoenix being sighted may possibly be owed to an unnamed Roman emperor who, it is said, having made a meal of every known living creature, pined for the Phoenix and eventually ate it with a salad. We attach little credence to this tale (although related to us by an eminent heraldic scholar, Julian Franklyn), for if it were true then surely the emperor’s name would be known.
It is generally accepted by those who have seen the Phoenix that it is a white bird of the eagle family and that is how it appears wherever it is featured in heraldry (rare on shields, but not uncommon as a crest).

However, the learned Peter Spurrier, erstwhile York Herald at the College of Arms, believes it to be a member of the Oriental pheasant family, which means that it might look like this (see left) ~ or not, as the case may be. Oriental pheasants are indeed very colourful, but they do not fly well, and are not especially renowned for longevity, so flights to Egypt (or, as in an alternative account, from Egypt to Arabia) and a lifespan of 500 years seem implausible.

Students of symbolism believe the Phoenix to be linked to sun- and fire-worshipping cults, and that originally the resurrection of the Phoenix alluded to the dawn of the day, but in more modern times the Phoenix has become the emblem of hope and of everlasting life. It has also been used as a symbol for alchemy, and used to appear over pharmacists’ shops.

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The Martlet featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 1
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The Gryphon (or Griffin) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 2
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The Cockatrice (and Basilisk) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 3
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The Dragon featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 4
The Raven featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 5
The Chimera featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 6
The Pegasus featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 7
The Harpy featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 8
The Kelpie featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 9
The Wyvern featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 10
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