Simurgh

Mythical giant Bird of West Asia. A symbol of the Sufi endeavor for unity with the divine.

Etymology: Persian, a contraction of Saena meregh, from the Avestan saena ("eagle") + meregh ("bird").

Variant names: Farmanraw, Saena, Saena meregh, Samurv, Semuru, Sen-murv, Seno-muruv, Simargl, Simyr, Sinam.

Physical description: Body and claws of a lion. Head of a dog. Formidable beak. Sharp teeth. Huge wings.

Behavior: Said to be able to reason and speak but only sings when it sees another of its species. Does not lay eggs but suckles its young like a mammal. Its feathers have curative properties. Destroys snakes. Can lift a crocodile, a leopard, or an elephant in its talons. Said to live for 1,700 years or longer.

Distribution: Elburz Mountains, Iran; Caucasus Mountains, Russia.

Possible explanation: Has mythological connections with the Roc, Anka, and Garuda.

Sources: Firdawsi, The Epic of the Kings: Shah-nama, the National Epic of Persia, trans. Reuben Levy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 36-38, 206-209; Farid al-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds, trans. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis (New York: Penguin, 1984); V. F. B├╝chner, "Simurgh," in M. Th. Houtsma et al., eds., The Encyclopaedia oflslam (Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1934), vol. 4, pp. 426-428, and 1998 continuation, vol. 9, p. 615; Joe Nigg, A Guide to the Imaginary Birds of the World (Cambridge, Mass.: Apple-Wood, 1984), pp. 49-51.

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