Revisiting Anqa: A (Beautiful) Guide for Protection

Revisiting Anqa: A (Beautiful) Guide for Protection November 19, 2022

I did this before, and I do it again. Arabian mythology is so full of surprises I’m trying to read more about it when I have the time. There was one creature that I forgot for a while, but re-reading about it made me remember how important is to have her meaning present nowadays. I shared some information about it on Instagram, but let me do it here in case you haven’t read about the Anqa:

Anqa (Arabic: عَنْقَاء‎, romanized: ʿanqāʾ), also spelled ‘Anqa’ , Angha. Anka, Anqa Mughrib or Anqa al-Mughrib (Arabic: العَنْقَاء المُغْرِب‎) is a large mysterious female bird in Arabian mythology. She is said to fly far away and only appear once in ages. However, it is also said that she can be found at the place of the setting of the sun.

Anonymous artist, 17th cent. or 18th cent. Mughal India., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The word ʿanqāʾ is the feminine form of ʾaʿnaq, which describes a long and thick neck, but is also related to ʿanāq, misfortune, hard affair, and was, along with ʿanqāʾ muḡrib used to mean a calamity. This connection is explained saying that the bird was created by God with all perfections but became a plague or scourge and was killed. On the other hand, muḡrib can mean strange, foreign, distant, west, unknown, sunset, dawn, desolated, white, and so on, giving an ambiguous meaning to the bird.

The Anqa has been described as a very beautiful and colorful bird, with a long neck, a human face, four pairs of wings, whiteness in the neck, and some resemblance with every living being. She has also been said to be a wise bird with experience gained throughout many ages and gives admonitions and moral advice; she has also been compared to the Phoenix and there’s a possibility of it being a very rare bird.

For me, Anqa is a symbol of beauty and wonder, of mystery and the unknown, the marvels yet to come, but also of prudence, precaution and care. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it could be used as a disguise for hideous things as well. Anqa represents the ambiguity of beauty, how it can awe and hurt, being a call for cautious adventure.

In short, this is a bird that could come in a time of need to prevent you about bad news, so you can prepare accordingly, but I also see it as a reminder of being critical and mindful about beauty. Not all beauty is real, not all beauty is easy to see. The Anqa could be a reminder of that with ease. As a side note, it also reminds me of the nazar, don’t you agree?

Meditating with it, I thought about three words: Vision, Freedom, Happiness. Beauty can be perceived by any of our senses, but most of the time we use our eyes, or later, after a time, we “see” things for what they actually are. Also, being wise gives you a better perspective about everything, and I doubt anyone would like to try their luck in domesticating this creature. You are free from prejudice, fear, there’s hardly anything that can hold you back when you have experience. Finally, appreciating the beauty around and inside you, allowing yourself to be free, roaming the skies as you please, can only lead to happiness.

Every rose has a thorn, however. All of this, working with these parts of ourselves, can easily make us think that we’re perfect, that we mastered life already. Also, not everything is as beautiful as it seems at first, not when we look closer. Beauty can fool, beauty can be treacherous, and it’s one’s job to be careful about it. This bird serve as a reminder of it.

As an exercise, I can think about several times when I was fooled because of beauty. There was one of my partners who played with me, another one who I couldn’t appreciate due to my inexperience, when someone didn’t appreciate me for who I am, my own reflection which I couldn’t look at for a time because it disgusted me. However, going through all of those experience has given me a better understanding of beauty, turned me into someone who wouldn’t be fooled, let someone else clip my wings and mine my happiness, because I fail to see with clarity.

It’s easy to say “I will be like Anqa from now on,” but that takes work. However, there’s something that I can say and anyone else can as well: “I’m becoming an Anqa.”

About Bader Saab
I’m an Arabic witch and journalist, also with a master’s degree in digital research. I have worked as a book reviewer and written about pre-Islamic folklore. You can connect with me by Private Message on Instagram: @saab.bader. You can read more about the author here.

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