There are few creatures more iconic – or symbolic – of the Harry Potter series than the phoenix. From the Order of the Phoenix to the twin cores of Harry and Voldemort’s wands, phoenix imagery is everywhere in Harry Potter. But what does it mean?
Like many of the fantastic creatures featured in Harry Potter, the phoenix has its origins in mythology. It tends to represent death and rebirth in a very literal way: when it reaches the end of its life, it dies in a blaze of fire and is reborn from the ashes. There’s an obvious connection to the Harry Potter series there. Through the first 3 books of the series, Voldemort appears to be dead, but he returns to power in Goblet of Fire, while Harry believes at the end of the series that he has to die, but he survives and goes on to defeat Voldemort. It’s not until both of them have “died”, returned, and lost possession of their phoenix feather wands that one of them can truly die.
Harry and Voldemort both survive things that would have killed anyone else. But the way they do so is significant. While Voldemort murders others to make himself immortal, Harry is saved by his mother’s sacrifice the first time and his own willingness to lay down his life the second time. According to Dumbledore, the secret to the Deathly Hallows is that they don’t make their owner immortal. In order to truly master them, one must master one’s fear of death. This is the difference between Harry and Voldemort, and what makes Harry a metaphorical phoenix: he willingly burns himself up to save others, without knowing he will rise from the ashes.
Harry has been associated with phoenix imagery from the beginning. In Sorcerer’s Stone, he risks his life by walking through fire to stop Voldemort from obtaining immortality; in Chamber of Secrets, he is saved by phoenix tears after stopping another of Voldemort’s attempts to return; and of course, in Goblet of Fire, Voldemort is unable to kill him when their phoenix feather wands connect.
On a larger scale, there’s the Order of the Phoenix. They are metaphorically reborn just after Voldemort’s return, and every one of their members risks their life in the fight against Voldemort. They refuse to be defeated. Even when Voldemort takes control of Britain, they continue fighting; even in the harsh alternate world created in Cursed Child, a remnant of the Order remains. The message seems to be that evil can never snuff out good entirely. As long as those remain who are willing to fight for what’s right, there is still hope. Many members of the Order die in the final Harry Potter book, but they’re victorious in the end, and the world they’ve been fighting for rises from the ashes of the war.