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The Legend of the Peacock
There was no peacock story...
...or at least not one that was wedding-appropriate.
We had decided on a peacock theme for the ceremony, and I wanted to explain some of the attributes of the bird and why so many religions revered the peacock. I was surprised to discover that there was no organized tale about the peacock's tail, so I set about weaving some of the legends into one story, and it was placed inside the programs.
Feel free to use and distribute the link as you like!
How the peacock got his feathers
Before the world grew cynical and forgot the tales that tell the truth, three young sisters walked the wood.
They soon came upon a large drab bird painfully gasping his last breaths, his long neck stretched over another bird and her smashed nest. The eldest called out to the sky: “Father, what has happened to Your child Malek Taus?”
In their hearts they heard his response: “It’s a sad tale, my children. The emerald serpent King Apep charmed his mate to slay her and devour their eggs. Malek returned from gathering food to find Apep’s poison had already done its work and his unborn children mere lumps in the snake’s belly. In his fury he chased Apep, viciously attacking him even though Malek knew he could not possibly win. “
The youngest girl held the dying bird, stroking his brown feathers, crying, “Father, he should be rewarded, for his heart was brave and true! Could you not grant him immunity from the poison and set him to protect your garden?”
The middle child said, “His beauty should match his fierce bravery. His feathers should hold all the glory of the heavens, his tail be as wide as the serpent was long.”
“And you?” the Father asked his eldest. “How would you help this creature?”
The girl considered all she had heard before answering, “My sisters’ wishes are kind and good, but without wisdom, beauty and strength easily become vanity and tyranny. Because You watch over your children always, into his feathers I would set a hundred shimmering eyes to remind everyone that under Your gaze we should all strive to be as noble as this bird, ready to sacrifice everything for those we love.”
Pleased, the Father said to Malek Taus, “Rise, and accept the blessings my daughters have bestowed upon you. Go forth as my beacon, to remind people that they are stronger and braver than they know, more beautiful than they realize, and are ever protected under My watch.”
And so the peacock and his mate awoke, no longer a drab brown, but bluer than the bluest sky and brighter than the most brilliant rainbow.
Although the world moved on and forgot the story, the girls’ gifts endure. Peacocks are still brave and loyal, used throughout the world as guardians, somehow thriving on a diet of poisonous snakes. They have been considered sacred messengers of the Divine by every major religion in the last 3,000 years.
To this day, the gift of a peacock feather offers peace, love, and joy; we couldn’t be happier that you are sharing these blessings with us today.
Where did the elements used in the story come from?
There are many stories about the peacock's tail feathers and their resemblance to eyes:
- In mythology, Greek goddess Hera knew her husband Zeus was a bit of a cad, she sent her hundred eyed giant Argus to ensure Zeus couldn't meet with his lover. Zeus lulled Argus to sleep and cut off his head. Hera took his eyes and placed them into the peacock's tail.
- Early Christianity believed the "eyes" were a reminder that God watches over us. They were considered so sacred that only priests and holy men were allowed to touch the birds.
- In Hinduism, Lord Krishna wears the feathers in his hair as a present of wisdom given to him by the peacocks themselves
- Depending on the cultural viewpoints, it's been considered either very good luck or very bad luck (the "evil eye") to keep peacock feathers in your home.
- Gods in every major religion have had associations with the birds, so I felt comfortable with a nameless God pulling the strings
- Malek Taus is a powerful central figure in the religion of Yazidi. He was an archangel who fell from grace but redeemed himself.
- Ancient Egyptians believed Apep was an evil snake god who battled the sun god Ra by hypnotizing him
- The three sisters are childhood versions of the Fates, also known as the Moirai. Generally depicted as ancient crones, I liked the idea of them being young in an Eden-like garden.
Some Peacock Facts
- Technically the bird is called "peafowl," the female is the "peahen," the male the "peacock." Only the male has the impressive tail, for courting purposes
- Don't feel bad when you see a peacock feather for sale- the birds shed their feathers every year and there's no need to harm the animals.
- The regrowth of the feathers was seen as a divine sign of renewal and rebirth- they are believed to be the origin of phoenix legend- the ultimate rebirth story!
- They are the official bird of India
- Peafowl were given as gifts by royalty and spread worldwide.
- They are very territorial and are still used as guardians in some farms and estates
- They really do eat snakes with no ill effects!
There is another peacock story, but like Hera's legend, it wasn't really appropriate for the wedding:
THE PEACOCK made complaint to Juno that, while the nightingale pleased every ear with his song, he himself no sooner opened his mouth than he became a laughingstock to all who heard him.
The Goddess, to console him, said, "But you far excel in beauty and in size. The splendor of the emerald shines in your neck and you unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage."
"But for what purpose have I," said the bird, "this dumb beauty so long as I am surpassed in song?'
"The lot of each," replied Juno, "has been assigned by the will of the Fates--to thee, beauty; to the eagle, strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favorable, and to the crow, unfavorable auguries. These are all contented with the endowments allotted to them."
In other words, you can't have it all, so be content!