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Basic Information

The peafowl is a species of bird that exhibits dramatic sexual dimorphism at least in its feathers. The male (aka peacock) is brightly colored (iridescent blue, or green and gold, depending on species) and has a large tail that it can fan out to display large eye-like coloration patterns. The female (aka peahen) is generally less colorful, being brown or grey in some species.

Nobility in the middle ages wanting to show off for dinner guests would sometimes serve roast peacock with the tail feathers preserved (or more likely removed and then replaced after cooking, I imagine, but I'm no expert1), although by all accounts the resulting meal would have looked better than it tasted2.

The tail display of the peacock has also been used (historically at least) as part of ceremonial costume - often as a head-dress for those of extremely high status - or at the very least as inspiration for costume (carnival style costumes often show the inspiration fairly directly). The peacock was also a popular theme - and source material - for Burmese war banners.

Mythologically, the peacock (known as Mayura in Sanskrit) is highly significant in Hindu theology and to the Greeks was said to be born from the remains of the thousand eyed giant Argus. The many-eyed motif is generally thought to symbolise endless vigilance and unerring sight - and possibly to connect to the many eyed cherubim … and indeed the angel Azrael in Judeo-Christian tradition. The multiple eyes in the tail may also ward against the evil eye. The peacock can also, however, be associated with the sin of pride, so context is important. In alchemy, the peacock represents change and renewal - although not to the same extent as the phoenix3. Babylon and Persia assigned the peacock as a guardian of royalty.

To the Yazidi, the "Peacock Angel" - Tawsi Melek - is the primary agent within creation for the Supreme God.



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