Sacred Geese

Meidum (Meidoum) geese in frieze inside the Tomb of Nefermaat and Itet, Museum of Cairo (Egypt). Geese are part of Anatidae family, a biological group of birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans

 
 

The Geese of the Capitol

 
 

One of the most popular legends of Rome refers to the sacred geese living on the Capitol Hill, in the temple dedicated to the mother of the gods.

The story goes that in 390 b. C., when Rome was fighting against the invasion of the Gauls, Roman citizens who were in town had to face hunger and isolation, and the soldiers who guarded The City had no other place to spend the night but the temple of Juno.

One night a former consul Marcus Manlius, who was sleeping together with the army, he heard the geese honking, immediately got up and ran to the walls of the fortress and found one of the Gauls who tried to climb the rock of the hill, confronted him and tore his fingers. Meanwhile, the geese who kept squawking, woke the whole army, which finally defeated the invaders.

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Eye-catching Symbology

“One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, ” Lily Briscoe reflected. “Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with”, she thought.

Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse (Page 303)

 
 

Alexander McQueen 2008-2009 Autumn/Winter collection

 
 

Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker photographed  at the Greek and Roman galleries at  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Anie Leibovitz. Vogue  USA, June 2008

 
 

A peacock displaying his plumage is seen by many as a symbol of vanity. Several legends have flourished around this animal, which from ancient times is associated with royalty and its attributes. For instance, in Babylonia and Persia the peacock is often seen in engravings upon the thrones of kings and queens.

 

The Indian Peacock or peafowl is best known for the male’s extravagant eye-spotted tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The “eyes” can be seen when the peacock fans its tail (also called “train”). Like a cupped hand behind the ear, the erect tail-fan of the male helps direct sound to the ears.

 

In the deepest jungle the male goes about to clean the ground with its legs, and in a limited space he awaits until the female appears. When she does appear, the peacock begins a wonderful dance that finishes with its tail displayed. The female falls, subjugated after the show of grace and beauty.

 
 

Hera

 
 

Juno und Argus, 1610,  Peter Paul Rubens

 
 

According to Greek mythology, Hera is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function is as the goddess of women and marriage. The name of Hera admits a variety of mutually exclusive etymologies; one possibility is to connect it with hōra(ὥρα), season, and to interpret it as ripe for marriage. Another possibility stems from “Hero. “Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and specially the peacock are sacred to her.

 

Hellenistic imagery depicted Hera’s chariot being pulled by peacocks, birds not known to Greeks before the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander’s tutor, Aristotle, refers to it as “the Persian bird.” The peacock motif was revived in the Renaissance iconography that unified Hera and Juno, and which European painters focused on.

 

Hera almost caught Zeus with a mistress named Io, a fate avoided by Zeus turning Io into a beautiful white heifer. However, Hera was not completely fooled and demanded that Zeus give her the heifer as a present.

 

Once Io was given to Hera, she placed her in the charge of Argus to keep her separated from Zeus. Zeus then commanded Hermes to kill Argus, which he did by lulling all one hundred eyes to sleep. In Ovid‘s interpolation, when Hera learned of Argus’ death, she took his eyes and placed them in the plumage of the peacock, accounting for the eye pattern in its tail.

 
 

Hindu deity Karktikeya or Murugan (god of war and victory) with his consorts on his Vahana peacock, by Raji Ravi Varma

 
 

Tawûsê Melek

 
 

Peacock angel

 
 

ملك طاووس‎, Tawûsê Melek, Melek Taus or the Peacock Angel, is the Yazidi (a Kurdish ethnoreligious group with Indo-Iranian roots) name for the central figure of their faith. The Yazidi consider it an emanation of God and a benevolent angel who has redeemed himself from his fall and has become a demiurge who created the cosmos from the Cosmic egg.

 

After he repented, he wept for 7,000 years, his tears filling seven jars, which then quenched the fires of hell. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Some Christians, Muslims and others identify Tawûsê Melek as Lucifer or Satan. According to the Yazidi Black Book, the Yazidi are forbidden to say the name “Shaitan” because their people would be religiously persecuted by other faiths.

 
 

Artist(s) unknown, possibly Master of the Madonna Grog or Aert van den Bossche, formerly Master of the Embroidered Foliage, c. 1492-1498

 
 

This bird was the original symbol of the Catholic Church (the peacock denoted the many-eyed church) and it was an early symbol of Jesus, denoting the Christ’s resurrection and immortality. Because of these associations to the Christ, peacocks were commonly portrayed in medieval paintings hovering around the baby Jesus’ crib. During the time Jesus walked the earth, and also afterwards, the peacock alternated with the phoenix as the symbol of immortality in both Egypt and the Middle East. It is for this reason that the peacock as associated with the Christian St. Barbara even though she was the patron saint of Heliopolis, the ancient home of the phoenix.