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Phoenix and Salamander

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From Louis Ginzberg's "Legends of the Jews"

Among the birds the phoenix is the most wonderful. When Eve gave all the animals some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the phoenix was the only bird that refused to eat thereof, and he was rewarded with eternal life. When he has lived a thousand years, his body shrinks, and the feathers drop from it, until he is as small as an egg. This is the nucleus of the new bird.

The phoenix is also called "the guardian of the terrestrial sphere." He runs with the sun on his circuit, and he spreads out his wings and catches up the fiery rays of the sun. If he were not there to intercept them, neither man nor any other animate being would keep alive. On his right wing the following words are inscribed in huge letters, about four thousand stadia high: "Neither the earth produces me, nor the heavens, but only the wings of fire." His food consists of the manna of heaven and the dew of the earth. His excrement is a worm, whose excrement in turn is the cinnamon used by kings and princes. Enoch, who saw the phoenix birds when he was translated, describes them as flying creatures, wonderful and strange in appearance, with the feet and tails of lions, and the heads of crocodiles; their appearance is of a purple color like the rainbow; their size nine hundred measures. Their wings are like those of angels, each having twelve, and they attend the chariot of the sun and go with him, bringing heat and dew as they are ordered by God. In the morning when the sun starts on his daily course, the phoenixes and the chalkidri sing, and every bird flaps its wings, rejoicing the Giver of light, and they sing a song at the command of the Lord. Among reptiles the salamander and the shamir are the most marvellous. The salamander originates from a fire of myrtle wood which has been kept burning for seven years steadily by means of magic arts. Not bigger than a mouse, it yet is invested with peculiar properties. One who smears himself with its blood is invulnerable, and the web woven by it is a talisman against fire. The people who lived at the deluge boasted that, were a fire flood to come, they would protect themselves with the blood of the salamander.

King Hezekiah owes his life to the salamander. His wicked father, King Ahaz, had delivered him to the fires of Moloch, and he would have been burnt, had his mother not painted him with the blood of the salamander, so that the fire could do him no harm.

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  1. Kiorionis's Avatar
    Kiorionis -
    That’s some amazing imagery!
  2. Seraphim's Avatar
    Seraphim -
    That is very interesting about the Phoenix and Salamander thank you for sharing Greg. Found this about the Phoenix also.

    Sanhedrin 108b

    As for the phoenix, my father discovered it lying 'in the hold of the ark. "Dost thou require no food?" he asked it. "I saw that thou wast busy," it replied, "so I said to myself, I will give thee no trouble." "May it be (God's) will that thou shouldst not perish," he exclaimed; as it is written, Then I said, I shall die in the nest, but I shall multiply my days as the phoenix.'
    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.
    Updated 12-25-2019 at 10:53 PM by Seraphim
  3. vigilance's Avatar
    vigilance -
    Nice one. The Ginzberg quote had come up in relation to the Phoenix. The salamander bit was an extra bonus. The salamander imagery has kind of puzzled me. I've noticed it all over the place. The usual alchemical creatures are pretty normal/mainstream, but the salamander seems kind of out of place (other than the dragon). Maybe it was a more popular creature to know about in the past?

    That's quoting the Talmud, right?
  4. Seraphim's Avatar
    Seraphim -
    I enjoyed the quote, thanks for sharing. The Salamander is interesting imagery. It reminds me of both earth and water for some reason but I don't know the proper meaning.

    Yes sorry, it is from the Talmud.

    Here is another quote about the Salamander which references its blood.

    "In all fables we are told
    That the Salamander is born in the fire;
    In the fire it has that food and life
    Which Nature herself has assigned to it.
    It dwells in a great mountain
    Which is encompassed by many flames,
    And one of these is ever smaller than another -
    Herein the Salamander bathes.
    The third is greater, the fourth brighter than the rest -
    In all these the Salamander washes, and is purified.
    Then he hies him to his cave,
    But on the way is caught and pierced
    So that it dies, and yields up its life with its blood.
    But this, too, happens for its good:
    For from its blood it wins immortal life,
    And then death has no more power over it.
    Its blood is the most precious Medicine upon earth,
    The same has not its like in the world.
    For this blood drives away all disease
    In the bodies of metals,
    Of men, and of beasts.
    From it the Sages derive their science,
    And through it they attain the Heavenly Gift,
    Which is called the Philosopher's Stone,
    Possessing the power of the whole world.
    This gift the Sages impart to us with loving hearts,
    That we may remember them for ever."

    Zoroasters Cave
    "I tell thee that our Semen is the true Salamander, conceived by fire, nursed by fire, and
    perfected by fire. Idem."
  5. vigilance's Avatar
    vigilance -
    Well this is embarrassing. I have an english translation of Lambspring posted with really nice images, but I've never read it.

    Excellent quote.

  6. Seraphim's Avatar
    Seraphim -
    Those are really nice images, thanks for sharing. Will have to read Lambspring again, I didn't understand it.