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The symbolism of peacock

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Jul. 29th, 2007 | 04:23 pm
posted by: desniza in medieval_art

Peacock (pavum, ταώς).
The symbolism of peacock
belongs to the antiquity, where it equally expressed immortality. Ancient established the symbolic value of this bird on the tradition about incorruptibility of its meat. That is why Pythagoras moves the soul of immortal writers, as, for instance, Homer, into the peacock. In this selection of bird for the migration of souls, some writers saw hint to the immortality of soul. Tertullian expressed it very clearly and definitely: «Platon’s students assert that the souls immediately enter into bodies, but not into the previous and frequently not into the human as Evforb, which is converted into Pythagoras, but into the bird, and Homer is converted into the peacock. Despite to this, they proclaim, that the soul accurately returns again to the earth for the residence in the flesh, preferring to better assume of the condition of immortality, than to completely deny its, and to knock the door of truth». - «Nimirum magna merces bonis in animalia quaecunque restitui. Pavum se meminit Homerus Ennio somniante... Damnatus est igitur Homerus in pavum, non honoratus» (Tertullianus. De resurrect. Carnis. Cap. I. - De anima. Cap. 33).
But some scientists do not recognize popular belief about incorruptibility of meat for the sole, and they assume that the circle, formed by peacock’s tail, had to this influence because and circle, and the snake, circularly located, indicated immortality. Even form of tail is assigned the very origin of the Greek name ταώς (peacock). Ancient Greeks likened the figure of peacock’s tail to stars or to eyes; its golden circles on blue background of remaining feathers easily could direct to such comparison, which brought Greeks to the dedication of this bird to Juno, the goddes of sky and the goddes of stars, why Ovidius is called the peacock: «Junonis volucrum quae cauda sidera portat» (Metamorph. XV, 385).
As a result of the same understanding, with deification (consecratio) of Roman empresses allowed peacockes to raise their souls to the bosom of Juno as the goddes of stars. That is why on the medals in the honor of these rites empress is depicted as that sitting on the peacock, that raises her to sky. The inscription – «sideribus recepta» - completely corresponding to this value. With deification of emperors the eagle, dedicated to Jupiter, substituted peacock. Emperor Adrian place gold peacock with precious stone in temple Juno (Pausanias 1. II. Cap. 17).
All researchers of the Christian antiquities consider peacock in the Christian symbolism for the symbol of the resurrection: «Sunt qui (pavonem) resurrectionis symbolum esse arbitrentur. Quorum sane etsi veteruin patrum auctoritate non constet, tamen nulla satis gravi ratione reprobari potest, sententia» (Origenis III. Р. 98). Furthermore, Christians focused special attention on legend about incorruptibility of peacock’s meat. To this perhaps were directed their words of Apostle Paul (1 Kor.15, 53). This legend was so positively accepted that St. Augustin said: «Deus creator omnium dedit carni pavonis mortui ne putresceret» (De civit. Dei. Lib. XXI).
We already above noted how the circular shape of peacock’s tail gave to this bird the value of immortality and eternity. The same can be noted, also, on the Christian monuments. Meanwhile the peacock is placed also in the relationship with four times of the year, whose symbolic value is known. As the symbol of resurrection peacock was depicted with those symbols, which related to the paradise in its different symbolic nuances. We see that constantly the symbols indicate the relationship of the sacrament of communion to the resurrection and to the paradise. In the identical value and the peacocks, as the symbols of resurrection, are depicted on the mural paintings and on the inscriptions with the symbols of this sacrament.
This formula «in pace», as we frequently saw, embraces all values, which are contained in the images, which seemingly they supplement by its words – «in pace fidei resurrecturm». Peacock on the branch make the same sense – «in pace fidei resurrecturm» as one can see in the votive crown of Emperor Leo VI (886-912). 

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