The peacock is the male of the blue or Indian peafowl and like many species, it is he who has the bright colours and eyecatching appearance. He has beautiful, iridescent blue and green plumage and the iconic tail feathers are marked with eye spots. These are displayed in what is thought to be an alluring display to the peahens. A lot of birds have better colour vision than we do so it’s possible that the peahen sees the tail feathers differently and more vibrantly. A lot is unknown about the peacocks tail but it’s been suggested that the more eye spots, the better his chances are at getting lucky!
Charles Darwin apparently said that the “sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!” because he couldn’t see an adaptive advantage for this extravagance. Especially as when it is not fanned, it trails behind the bird and possibly hinders flight. I think William Morris would probably have felt very differently…
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.”
– William Morris
Beauty and usefulness need not compete. Think of a time you’ve picked up a knife, functionally for eating, but felt the perfectly weighted item and admired the workmanship that went into it. Or an old wooden spoon, passed down from relatives. Very practical but can you deny that there is something beautiful about such an thing?
It seems a strange message to come from the peacock, but perhaps there is a message here about seeing wonder in day to day mundanity?
And whilst the peacock himself is ornately ordained, he lusts after the peahen who has none of the flamboyance of the male. He is attracted to her by something deeper than her looks.
The watchful eyes suggest vision and apparently the number of eyes increases as the peacock gets older, almost as if it was gaining eyes as it gained wisdom. Or as it gains wisdom, it gains more eyes and thus the ability to see the world more clearly?
The eyes are also symbolic of the evil eye and can be associated with bad luck, especially for the peacock!
It is easy to assume that the peacock’s message is about vanity, shallowness and parading yourself around. And this may be the case. But we live in a society which is very against pride. Pride is sinful according to the bible and this has been woven into the fabric of our culture. Pride does not have to be bad. I think it’s amazing to feel proud of something we have achieved and it’s a huge deal to be confident enough to share that joy. Pride can be embodied in such a way that it’s about gratitude and vulnerability rather than judgement and superiority.
As a quick example of what I mean, I drew a puffin this week (he’s not quite finished yet) and I am very proud of myself. I think he looks good and I wanted to share my satisfaction with my friends. For most of my life, I wouldn’t have dared to do this for fear of getting mocked or rejected. But I did share the picture and I have been able to experience other people getting joy from the puffin as well and I’ve been able to hear praise for it. And I’ve been through this sharing and joyful process of pride with things that so many other people wouldn’t think were a big deal but were huge to me and the sharing strengthened relationships.
I think the peacock is also suggesting we show our true colours, our authentic selves and to check we are being true to ourselves. This confident displaying is a sign of, and a building block for, good self esteem. Let’s celebrate that!
And the peacock, like all of us, isn’t perfect. He’s a strong runner but not such a good flyer. And whilst his feathers are divine beauty, his feet have been considered ugly. Indeed one story explains that the peacocks calls are so noisy is because they have just seen their own feet and are exclaiming in horror at their appearance…
Their call is also supposed to predict or induce rainfall:
“when the peacock loudly calls
then look out for rain and squalls”
Of Gods and Kings
The peacock was considered a royal bird in medieval England – oaths were sworn on their back and they were served at important feasts. In Babylonia and Persia the peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty, and is often seen in engravings upon the thrones of royalty.
The peacock is the national bird of India and is revered throughout Asia featuring in both the Thai and Sinhalese zodiac.
As well as being regal, they are also godly and were considered to be a symbol of the splendours of heaven. In Hinduism, the peacock is the mount of the Lord Kartikeya, the god of war and their feathers feature in depictions of many other gods.
Greek goddess Hera had a chariot pulled by peacocks and ancient Greeks believed that the flesh of peafowl did not decay after death, so it became a symbol of immortality. and thus, once again, Christians took the peacock on as yet another sign of the resurrection… They also claimed that the eyes represent the all seeing eye of God.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
This is taken straight from wikipedia so take it with a pinch of salt:
The Yazidis believe in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. Melek Taus is considered to be an emanation of God and a benevolent angel who has redeemed himself from his fall and who created the cosmos from the cosmic egg.
I have included it despite not reading much about it because in the spirit suit we have the cosmic egg card. I know nothing about that card yet but it will be interesting to see how the peacock relates to it when we get there!
The peacock is considered to be an earthly representation of the phoenix which we will also discuss in the spirit suit.
There are so many links to gods and goddesses that there can be no doubt that this is a spiritually important bird.