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The Significance Of Peacock In Ancient Culture And Art

The Significance Of Peacock In Ancient Culture And Art 86

Due to their beautiful-looking feathers and habits, peacocks are associated with different symbolic meanings. They are seen as a powerful and mystical symbol and are considered sacred in many cultural and religious groups across the world.

The peacock is native to India and further east, but the bird has a long history in the Middle East, perhaps originally brought by early Indian traders to ancient Babylon. The male peacock’s plumage of shimmering blues and greens fascinate even as its raucous cries seem so at variance with such beauty.

The Significance Of Peacock In Ancient Culture And Art

Peacock and Peacock Butterfly, painting by Archibald Thorburn (Image Source)

Peacock in ancient cultures

The Greeks learned of the peacock only after Alexander the Great’s conquest – Aristotle called it a Persian bird. They quickly added the bird to their pantheon of deities. For example, in the Hellenistic period, peacocks pulled the chariot of the Greek goddess Hera. Since Hera was considered the goddess of the sky and stars, the gold circles and blue background fit naturally. According to one myth, Zeus became interested in a woman named Io and Hera had her hundred-eyed servant, Argus, guard Io. Zeus had Argus killed in order to free Io. According to the Roman author Ovid, Hera rewarded her watchman Argus by turning his hundred eyes into the eye-like images on the tail of the peacock. In fact, these eyes were at times rather like the so-called evil eye in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology that could see everything.

The Romans seem to have particularly liked the peacock, but not just because of the male bird’s splendid tail. Both the meat and the tongue were a favourite delicacy on the tables of the wealthy. This gastronomical interest seems to have lasted into the Middle Ages in Europe with the bird skinned and roasted before the skin with feathers still intact would be reattached and served in all its glory. The Romans also used the peacock as decoration in their mosaics and frescos.

Symbolism of peacock

The peacock was a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacock, perhaps reflecting on the importance of the centuries-old popularity of the Greek poet. While continuing to keep its association with wealth, the bird, which replaces its feathers every year, also became a symbol of renewal and resurrection in early Christian and Byzantine culture.

Peacock Throne

In the original home of the peacock, India, peacocks symbolized royalty and power. One of the most important symbols of this was the so-called Peacock Throne, which was built the early 17th century for Şah Jahan. The name was taken from two peacocks covered in gold and jewels that were part of the throne. Unfortunately, the original was captured and taken to Persia by Nadır Şah in 1739 and was never seen again, although future thrones were generally known by the same name in Persia. A far inferior gold and bejeweled throne that was presented to an Ottoman sultan by a Persian ruler is sometimes erroneously referred to in the same way.

Peacock Feathers

Some cultures believe that keeping peacock feathers indoors is bad luck; for instance, the daughters of the house may never get married. But it’s okay to have them outside.

However in India the peacock is considered to be a bird of protection and safe guarding. As peacock is identified with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, Indian people keep peacock feathers at home, believing that they will bring wealth and prosperity into the house. It is also believed that peacock feathers keep the house free from flies and other insects.

Cultural motif

Peacocks have been a favourite ornamental motif for millennia. Their images could be found in early Christian tomb art, and were a popular motif in ancient Rome and Byzantium. Apart from adorning the walls and floors of mosaics in churches, medieval Christian manuscripts were often decorated with beautiful illustration of varies birds including peacocks with meticulous detail.

The Significance Of Peacock In Ancient Culture And Art

A column capital of VII c. Christian church with Caucasian Albainan letters found during excavations in Mingechaur, Azerbaijan

Peacocks were also portrayed on decorative pieces such as pottery and ceramic plates. They are only a handful of examples of magnificent Ottoman dishes from Iznik that illustrate the handsome qualities of the peacock. These plates were produced in western Anatolia (in Iznik) between the 15th and 17th centuries.

The Significance Of Peacock In Ancient Culture And Art

Iznik, Ottoman dish with peacocks and flowers, c.1575

Peacocks and peacock imagery appeared in Western European design near the end of the 1800’s.

Peacock in Feng Shui

Peacock is considered as the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix bird, and its feather is often recommended in Feng Shui as a love cure.

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Spirituality

Why does Satan’s name mean “light-bearer”?

Why does Satan's name mean "light-bearer"? 87

In modern languages, Lucifer is one of the names of Satan. However, from Latin the word lucifer literally translates as “luminiferous” and comes from the words lux (“light”) and phero (“carry”). What kind of light is this that the infernal ruler carries?

Franz von Stuck.  Lucifer
Franz von Stuck. Lucifer

The ancient Romans called the planet Venus by the word Lucifer, that is, the “morning star”, which is better than all other celestial bodies visible in the morning (as well as evening) firmament. By the way, this name is “tracing paper” from ancient Greek: the ancient Greeks called this celestial entity Phosphorus (from Φωσφόρος – “carrying light”).

Lucifer means ‘that which brings light’. From φῶς (phôs, “light”) +‎ -φόρος (-phóros, “bearing”), from φέρω (phérō, “I carry”).

Venus in the morning sky in January
Venus in the morning sky in January

Why did the name of the star become the name of Satan? This happened as a result of “translation difficulties”. The Bible, in the Book of Isaiah, contains a prophecy about the death of the Babylonian king – a terrible enemy of the ancient Jews. It looks like this:

“… You fell from the sky, morning star, son of the dawn! He crashed to the ground, trampling on the peoples. “

“Morning star” and “son of the dawn” here are nothing more than magnificent oriental titles of the ruler. When Jerome of Stridonsky, the first translator of the Bible into Latin, translated this passage, he translated the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (“heylel”, “morning star”) as lucifer, because that is how the morning star was called in Latin.

Caravaggio.  Saint Jerome
Caravaggio. Saint Jerome

However, Christians, contemporaries of Jerome, associated this passage not with the king of Babylon – the embodiment of evil for the ancient Israelites, but with their enemy – Satan. And the word “lucifer”, which was just the title of the Babylonian king, began to write with a capital letter. So the innocuous name of the star became a terrible hellish name.

Jerome’s other translation error led to an amusing misunderstanding. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, European artists and sculptors depicted Moses – the main biblical prophet … with horns on his head! Why?

Why does Satan's name mean "light-bearer"? 88
Why does Satan's name mean "light-bearer"? 89
Why does Satan's name mean "light-bearer"? 90

The Bible says that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was radiant. In Hebrew, the words “ray” and “horn” are similar. So Jerome got it: “His face became horny because God spoke to him.”

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Spirituality

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 91

Everyone has their own hobbies. Some are passionate about collecting, others are gardening, and still others are passionate about sports. But the hero of this article has a special passion. Ra Paulette is an American sculptor from New Mexico who burrows into hillsides and caves to create intricate artistic spaces within mountains. Maybe he is now the only one in the world.

You might think that he is a professional architect or sculptor, but no, it’s just that this person has a hobby. Although talent is undoubtedly present, he creates real works of art, sculpts caves like shrines, like sacred places.

He describes his places of work as “a sanctuary for prayer and meditation,” while others describe his caves as works of art. The caves are decorated with “scallops, patterns, smooth curved lines, smooth cornices, crisp ledges and inlaid with stones”. Its caves attract tourists from all over the world.

He has been hiding in a cave in New Mexico, USA for 25 years and has now decided to showcase the interior of his home.

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 92

What he did to the inside of the cave is almost impossible to describe in words, as if we are entering the world of fairy tales.

In ancient times, people made dwellings in caves or dug new rooms in the sandstone, but only for the purpose of living. The works of this artist are more for soul resting.

All this beauty is made in white sandstone cliffs just an hour from Santa Fe. Has anyone from you seen this beauty in real?

Tired of the whims of his bosses and customers, the artist, who was bored with art, began his personal and independent project.

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 93

The results of the project, as well as the process itself, are very impressive. Ra Paulette, who spent the last 25 years in the cave, completely alone, apart from his dog, away from society, spent time carving out walls.

He spent his time carving the sandstone cave he found, transforming it into a wonderful underground space full of light.

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 94

Paulette created different designs and styles for each cave, giving each one a distinct quality and texture.

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 95

The goal of this gigantic piece of art is to create an environment that inspires “spiritual renewal and personal well-being.” It will also serve as a venue for artistic events when its project is completed.
Ra Paulette works exclusively with hand tools, a pick and a shovel. First, he digs in various halls and vaults in any form, not forgetting about ventilation. The artist himself called his style – “dances of the digger” . When he likes what he gets, then he proceeds directly to creativity: decorates the halls and vaults with mysterious carvings and patterns.

In some places, his works look like real natural caves, and in other – like a completely civilized housing

Ra Paulette Cave
That is, you can wander and relax there.

There is a man on Earth who makes caves: you will be amazed when you see what has done alone after 25 years 96
When Ra Paulette made his first cave, it attracted connoisseurs of beauty and tourists. But it was made on state land and, in addition, he could not guarantee the safety of visitors. The cave had to be filled up.

Only later, when he began to make safe projects and all legal issues were met, it was possible to create endlessly. At the moment, 15 underground palaces exist for sure.

A documentary film “Cave digger” was even made about him and this man became even more famous.

In the video below, you can virtually take a trip through one of the caves decorated by the artist.


We can only be surprised by such people who just alone create beauty with which, we become kinder and better beings.

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Spirituality

Sacred Mount Meru: home of the gods and center of the universe

Sacred Mount Meru: home of the gods and center of the universe 97

According to Hindu records, Christians believe that the earth is the center of the universe. In contrast to this belief, the Hindus consider Mount Meru as the universal center and home of their gods.

In the eyes of the Hindus, Mount Meru is quite large, its height is about 84,000 yojanas (about 1,082,000 km). Since Hindu and other Eastern religions idolize Meru, it seems to them that the sun and all the planets of the solar system revolve around it.

According to Jain mythology, Meru is surrounded by two suns, two moons and two “sets” of stars. When some of them are in sight, others hide in the shadow of a mountain, which they believe is about 100,000 yojanas wide.

For the Hindus, Meru is the axis of the earth. Without it, the planet will not be able to rotate. In addition, they see the mountain as the home of the gods, with their kingdoms spread across all of its inconceivable height.

Followers of each of these important gods travel to these heavenly realms to rest and await their next reincarnation.

Sacred Mount Meru: home of the gods and center of the universe
A fresco depicting Mount Meru (left) and a painting (right) from Jain cosmology

For the Javanese, Mount Meru contributed to the origin of the island of Java. According to their legends, Batara’s guru ordered Brahma and Vishnu to fill the island with people. At that time the island of Java roamed and was not tied to any solid land. To stop the movement, the gods moved a part of the sacred mountain from India and attached it to Java. This new anchor was Mount Semeru, now the highest volcano in Java.

For Buddhists, the importance of Mount Meru also lies in their belief that it is the center of the universe. Unlike the Hindu version, Buddhists believe that the mountain was surrounded by a body of water and believe in 31 levels of life on Meru.

Since Mount Meru is the ecumenical center and sacred site, many mythological characteristics are attributed to it. First, it is so high that the mountain touches the sky, and the pole star shines directly above the mountain, giving it a sacred appearance. Secondly, it is said that the Ganges comes to the mountain as one river, and, having reached Meru, is divided into 4 separate rivers.

Third, there are 4 cities filled with residents, one on each side of the mountain. Ancient myths say that these inhabitants constantly see the sun at its zenith, and they always work. The sun rises and sets only for those who do not live on the mountain.

In addition, there is one lord of the heavens, God Indra, and he lives at the top. There are also four heavenly kings on Mount Meru, one on each side. The mountain extends to Jambudwip, which itself is divided into 4 continents. The southern continent is where Buddha was born and his teachings are followed here.

Many famous Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples were built as symbolic images of this mountain. The basis of the style is a characteristic feature of Chinese pagodas.

Although ancient Buddhists believed that the mountain was real, European visitors began to express other thoughts about the earth, which contradicted the Buddha’s teachings about Meru. Modern Buddhist scholars have decided that this is an allegorical story, and not a description of a real mountain.

However, many Buddhists still refuse to change their beliefs about the sacred mountain. For them, belief in the existence of Meru is the same as belief in Buddha.

Sacred Mount Meru: home of the gods and center of the universe

If you plunge into reality, Mount Meru is a volcano located 70 kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 4562.13 meters high.

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