CURRENT TOTEMS ARTICLE
Totems: Peacock, Part 2 of 2
by Cie Simurro- Thunderbird Starwoman
Those spectacular markings on the feathers of the male peacock make it look like he has multiple eyes. It has been suggested that, in addition to those eyespots impressing possible mates – as with other species, like some butterflies, they serve as a display to intimidate potential predators and rivals. When he’s not strutting to impress the females, or fanning his feathers for those eyes on the tail feathers to scare away predators like big cats or snakes, the tail trails behind his back.
As totems, peacocks prompt us to ask some questions: What are we willing to see? Are we connected to our inner vision, our Higher Self, our I Am presence? And can we possibly make wise decisions on a newly emerging earth without true inner sight? Since we are living in such ever-changing times, would it not behoove us to more deeply cultivate the power of observation, not to say, watchfulness? Can we make the leap to greater vision? What will it take to initiate our spiritual awakening?
Females possess short tails with dull brownish-grey feathers, which they display when either fighting with rival females over a potential mate, or as a signal of danger to her chicks. All species of peafowl are believed to be polygamous, so if this is your totem, at some point, you’ll have to decide whether you want to cultivate a deep, enduring relationship with one person that you can build on, or whether you’ll choose multiple or sequential partners.
Back to the beauty part: Those shimmering colors in a peacock’s tail are caused by refraction and reflection of light from layers of horn that keep the peacock’s true color, brown, from showing through. Who knew? Peacocks use their elaborate plumage to attract prospective partners for the courtship ritual. Since the male plays almost no part in family life aside from his magnificent physical appearance that he uses to attract her, the peahen is widely thought to choose her mate from his looks. After all, that train can be arched into a dazzling fan, reaching across the bird’s back and touching the ground on either side. Scientists have long thought that the peahen chooses the male by the number of his eyespots, the iridescence of the feathers, and even the way in which the male displays his feathers, because these indicate a strong immune system. However, you may be surprised to learn that a recent study shows that during actual courtship, the hen focuses more on the male’s legs and lower feathers than the more spectacular plumage for which he is known. Perhaps it is the feather display that attracts her in the first place, but after her initial interest, she looks for the strength in his legs and the ability to defend his territory. Makes sense, right? Also, male peacocks lose their trains in January anyway, after the breeding season, until the next breeding season approaches. If this totem is in your life now, perhaps you are choosing between a fleeting fascination with another, or building a relationship with someone that can last a lifetime.
The polarity to peacock’s beautiful feathers is its not-so-beautiful feet. Their feet and legs are strong, but certainly not splendid like the feathers. If this is your totem, or if peacock is prominent in your life now, enjoy and appreciate how you look, but do not let vanity rule your life. True beauty, inside and out, does not depend on looks. Looks will only get one so far in this life. The expression, “proud as a peacock” refers to a person who shows off their looks, or some accomplishment. Wouldn’t you rather be seen and admired for who you really are, and what you have contributed to others? Giving and receiving real praise, compassion, and love is a much more dependable aspect of life.
This Medicine also makes us look at our foundation energy. Not only our own, but the energy on which our country and the world runs. When peacock’s display can’t scare away its predators, it uses its kicking thorns, which are powerful, sharp metatarsal bone spurs to defend itself against predators. Unfortunately, it’s humans who have done the most damage to populations of peacocks through loss of habitat, sport hunting, and hunting them for food. Putting profit over people and nature has to turn around if we’re ever going to fulfill our destiny on the planet. Let us ask ourselves how we can change toward nature, and what will ground us in the times ahead. We may also ask what is going to enable us to move forward. What are we putting into the soil and water of the planet? What will sustain us if we keep dumping into them?
Peacocks have piercing calls that they use as mating calls, or to sound the alarm if a predator is about. They actually have eleven distinct calls. Regarding mating, peacock “songs” occur just before, just after, or sometimes during, copulation. Most often, it sounds like a screeching laugh. This year, all of life as people knew it, came to a screeching halt as the whole world quarantined and practiced social distancing at home. Peacock’s hideous, shrieking call reminds us that however restrictive and upsetting our external circumstances, we must find something to appreciate and laugh about, maintaining our faith that we can create a brighter future in our own lives, and in the world’s, if we just get the message of the lesson we’re now experiencing, and we’re willing to change. Peacock can help us navigate the changes, if we remember to find the beauty within that we were created with, and to love ourselves through any challenge.
Peacocks have been prevalent throughout history in the mythologies of many cultures, the Bible, and even in our modern society. NBC uses the peacock as the emblem of its television channel. It’s currently significant that peacocks were believed to deliberately consume poisonous substances in order to develop immunity. Perhaps someday soon, people will be able to have or inherit immunity without getting sick. The eye spots in peacock’s tail feathers are often universally interpreted as “all-seeing” eyes. In Hindu mythology, the eyes on the tail feathers represent the stars in the heavens. Peacock feathers also adorn the crest of the Lord Krishna. Peacocks support the throne of Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. In 1963, the peacock became the national bird of India, and remains one of its symbols.
Chinese art often shows peacock as one of a quaternary, each one representing one of the four elements. Persian and Islamic art also depict two peacocks, one on either side of the Cosmic Tree a.k.a. the Tree of Life. From there, the symbol travelled to Spain and the West, and became associated with the Gemini twins. Peacocks were sacred to the Goddess Hera in ancient Greece. As the queen of all the gods, she was the patron of women, family, and childbirth. As Zeus’s wife, she was often jealous and vengeful. There’s that quarrelsome quality of peacock to watch again. (Part 1). Peacock stood for the apotheosis (the pinnacle of transformation) of the Roman goddess Juno after death. The tradition of releasing a peacock from the fires of the empress’s pyre in which her body was burning, was to symbolize her transformation into a goddess. In Roman funeral art, the dead rising again to eternal life was portrayed by peacocks in their paintings. The bird was also frequently used in Byzantine church art.
Traders brought peacocks to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea during ancient times. Believing that their bodies did not decay after death, the Romans adopted it as a symbol of Immortality. Early Christians also saw the peacock as a symbol of immortality, and the incorruptible soul, represented by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As such, early Christians depicted the peacock in the catacombs, which were underground vaults where they buried their dead. In the Middle Ages, squires and knights took their oaths of allegiance on the king’s peacock. An expression developed from that practice called, “By the peacock!” which was a common exclamation in those days. And to this day, when the Pope rides in his chair in the Easter Sunday procession, two attendants flank him on either side holding great fans of peacock feathers.
Peacock and the Phoenix often symbolize the same thing: catastrophic difficulties resulting in the death of the lower self, with subsequent resurrection; the metamorphosis of our humanness leading to the realization of the Higher Self. One of my favorite mythological figures is the Phoenix because it always rises again. We need that hope and possibility now. Peacock is all about birth, leading to death and rejuvenation, bringing that phoenix-like energy to the world again. All those people who have died from the coronavirus (over 660,000 souls at the time of this writing) are an incomprehensible number to be mourned; their families and the world will never experience their contributions, or talents – all those people gone – removed from our lives – but like the phoenix who rose from the flames of its own ashes, they are immortal and eternal. May their sacrifice be taken to heart by those who remain, so that human society may be rejuvenated, and a renaissance of enhanced culture and enlightened civilization may occur.
Cie Simurro- Thunderbird Starwoman has been a Healer, Writer, Minister, Advocate and Steward for the natural world for over 45 years; author of this column for 20 years.
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