Peacocks to you and me.
They're everywhere - on advertising hoardings,
made into lamp bases, stencilled onto hessian bags.
Some young mum's even have their feather tattooed about
their persons as a symbol of protective motherhood.
Seems a bit extreme to me, but what do I know.
In my day if anyone posed a threat to my children
the look on my face would have been enough to deter
all but the most determined n'ere do well.
But how many of us, I wonder, even give a moment's thought
to the age old symbolism behind these beautiful birds
which have been used as sampler motifs over the centuries.
For instance, why do they so often appear in pairs?
Because it was believed that a pair of them guarded the
Gates of Paradise, that's why. So now you know.
This morning I've been zooming round the lock-up with my
not-so-trusty Pentax in search of cross stitch examples
large and small to create a Long Dog "pride of peacocks".
Isidore of Seville's seventh century bestiary describes our feathered
friends as "a bird with a terrible voice and flesh too hard to cook"
which in a round about way echoes the belief that their flesh did not
decay after death, that it was incorruptible, and thus they
The ancient Greeks thought of the peacock tail as the vault
of heaven and the "eyes" as the stars.
Resurrection and renewal are associated with pavo cristatus
because the birds shed their tail feathers annually and the ancient
Christians used them as church decorations on Easter Sunday.
Buddhists = wisdom
Native Americans = wholeness and dignity
Hindus = patience, good luck
Japanese = an emblem of love
India = their national bird
So bear these things in mind next time you stitch your way
across a peacock's tail or add those last little touches
to its beautiful head. And say the word
"resurrection" to yourself as you unpick a feather that's
somehow ended up two holes down from all the rest.
This one can have the last word - it's a British Museum
reproduction kit which I stitched way back in the last century.
Perhaps "longevity and endurance" should also be added to
the peacock's list of attributes.