The peacock is a mightily impressive bird, both admired and feared throughout the world. Not only does it have the most breathtakingly beautiful tail, or ‘train’ as it is called, enormous, dramatic and covered in iridescent ‘eyes’, it also emits the most terrifying scream said to be loud enough to wake the dead! I am always somewhat disappointed when I hear their call as such a beautiful bird should make a much more pleasant sound, but I digress…
I bought a rather lovely storage box online recently with a beautiful peacock design on it and, while searching for it, the number of peacock designs I came across, used on all sorts of products, was quite astonishing!
The blue peacock, or peafowl, that we see most often in this country, originates from India and Sri Lanka and is related, unsurprisingly, to the pheasant. While it would be natural to think their stunning train feathers contain vivid pigments – they don’t. It’s much more complex than that and involves ‘barbules’ – fibre-like components. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in the different colours.
Peafowl – oh let’s just call it a peacock and have done with it – are forest birds that nest on the ground, but roost in trees. They have an interesting diet and are omnivorous and eat mostly plant parts, flower petals, seed heads, insects, reptiles and even amphibians. Wild peacocks are not picky and will eat almost anything they can fit in their beaks and swallow! Domesticated peacocks have a slightly different and a more varied diet than their wild cousins. Sometimes they eat grass, different kinds of seed, flower petals, insects and whatever their owners feed them. This is usually similar to the food given to chickens, such as corn and oats and even cheese and rice.
The peacock appears as an important symbol in many cultures and religions. In Christianity, the peacock symbolism represents the ‘all-seeing’ church, along with the holiness and sanctity associated with it. The peacock also represents resurrection, renewal and immortality within the spiritual teachings of Christianity.
Hindu mythology says the peacock is a magical sacred bird that’s often associated with the god of thunder, Indra. The story says that the peacock will dance when rain comes.
Chinese mythology sees the peacock rather differently to Hindus. They see it as a symbol of dignity and beauty and it is often associated with the resurrection of Christ according to Christian art. This is because the peacock will moult its tail feathers only for them to re-grow again later.
To many Europeans, the peacock is an evil bird, the ‘eyes’ in the tail feathers are related to the ‘evil eye’ and it’s a sign of impending doom to look upon them!
As a crafter, I find their colours entrancing and their shape and intricate feather design inspiring and versatile, while peacock blue is a definite favourite colour of mine. I just typed ‘peacock’ into our craft shop and found we have no less than 12 items listed… OK, so one of them is a peacock butterfly, but still…