Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #63: Magical (Peacock, Peafowl or Peahens)


Ann-Christine is hosting this week’s challenge in which she asks: “What is Magical yo you?”

Prominent in many cultures, the peacock has been used in numerous iconic representations, including being designated the national bird of India in 1963. The peacock, known as mayura in Sanskrit, has enjoyed a fabled place in India since and is frequently depicted in temple art, mythology, poetry, folk music and traditions. A Sanskrit derivation of mayura is from the root mi for kill and said to mean “killer of snakes”. Many Hindu deities are associated with the bird, Krishna is often depicted with a feather in his headband, while worshippers of Shiva associate the bird as the steed of the God of war, Kartikeya (also known as Skanda or Murugan). A story in the Uttara Ramayana describes the head of the Devas, Indra, who unable to defeat Ravana, sheltered under the wing of peacock and later blessed it with a “thousand eyes” and fearlessness from serpents. Another story has Indra who after being cursed with a thousand ulcers was transformed into a peacock with a thousand eyes.

In Buddhist philosophy, the peacock represents wisdom. Peacock feathers are used in many rituals and ornamentation. Peacock motifs are widespread in Indian temple architecture, old coinage, textiles and continue to be used in many modern items of art and utility. A folk belief found in many parts of India is that the peacock does not copulate with the peahen but that she is impregnated by other means. The stories vary and include the idea that the peacock looks at its ugly feet and cries whereupon the tears are fed on by the peahen causing it to be orally impregnated while other variants incorporate sperm transfer from beak to beak. Similar ideas have also been ascribed to Indian crow species. In Greek mythology the origin of the peacock’s plumage is explained in the tale of Hera and Argus. The main figure of the Yazidi religion Yezidism, Melek Taus, is most commonly depicted as a peacock. Peacock motifs are widely used even today such as in the logos of the US NBC and the PTV television networks and the Sri Lankan Airlines.

These birds were often kept in menageries and as ornaments in large gardens and estates. In medieval times, knights in Europe took a “Vow of the Peacock” and decorated their helmets with its plumes. In several Robin Hood stories, the titular archer uses arrows fletched with peacock feathers. Feathers were buried with Viking warriors and the flesh of the bird was said to cure snake venom and many other maladies. Numerous uses in Ayurveda have been documented. Peafowl were said to keep an area free of snakes.  In 1526, the legal issue as to whether peacocks were wild or domestic fowl was thought sufficiently important for Cardinal Wolsey to summon all the English judges to give their opinion, which was that they are domestic fowl.

In Anglo-Indian usage of the 1850s, to peacock meant making visits to ladies and gentlemen in the morning. In the 1890s, the term “peacocking” in Australia referred to the practice of buying up the best pieces of land (“picking the eyes”) so as to render the surrounding lands valueless. The English word “peacock” has come to be used to describe a man who is very proud or gives a lot of attention to his clothing.

A golden peacock (in Yiddish, Di Goldene Pave) is considered by some as a symbol of Ashkenazi Jewish culture, and is the subject of several folktales and songs in Yiddish. (Wikipedia)

Magical

34 responses to “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #63: Magical (Peacock, Peafowl or Peahens)

  1. Very interesting to learn these things about the mythology and history of the peacock. I had an Aunt in England who would not allow peacock feathers in her house. When I had been visiting another Aunt , who had peacocks at her home in the country, and I came back with peacock feathers in my hands the peacock averse Aunt looked shocked and would not let me in!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #63: Magical (Peacock, Peafowl or Peahens) – IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE·

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