Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Joel. Joel Wonders, “Where did the story of the phoenix orignate from” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Joel!

If you could be any bird that's ever appeared in a book, which bird would you choose to be? Before you begin concentrating on real birds you're familiar with, remember that many birds that have appeared in books are simply myths.

Surely, you wouldn't choose to be a buzzard. But what about an eagle? Maybe a wise owl? A beautiful peacock? Of course, if you're a Harry Potter fan, then there's one bird that might rise above all the rest: the phoenix.

The phoenix is a mythological creature that has been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It was first described in writing by a Greek historian. The myth moved on to the Romans and, like the mythological bird itself, now appears to be immortal as the myth is passed along from one generation to the next.

Descriptions of the phoenix have varied over time. Many believe this unique bird resembles an eagle. However, others have compared it to the hawk, the heron, and even the ostrich.

Many descriptions paint a picture of a majestic bird with red and gold feathers. Others claim its feathers are coated in purple dye or bear all the colors of the peacock.

Despite these differences, nearly all descriptions agree on one thing: a golden halo. The phoenix reflects so much light that it seems to emit rays like the Sun.

That's only appropriate since the phoenix has always been associated with worship of the Sun. According to myth, only one phoenix exists at a time. It lives for approximately 500 years.

As it approaches the end of its life, it builds a nest, sets it on fire, and is consumed by the flames. Out of the ashes, a new phoenix miraculously springs to life. When it's strong enough, it flies its father's ashes to Heliopolis in Egypt, where it deposits them on the altar of the Egyptian Sun god.

In this way, the phoenix embodies the cycle of death, resurrection, and renewed life, thereby representing another important concept: immortality. It was this aspect of the phoenix that made it an attractive symbol of Rome, sometimes called the Eternal City.

Throughout history, birds similar to the phoenix can be found in the legends of the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, and Native Americans. Today, the phoenix is still used as a symbol of recovering from a setback by rising from the ashes.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day may have you saying a big, “Meow!”