Monday, June 7, 2010

Creature Feature: Java Green Peafowl.

What would the month June be without at least one peacock in honor of its namesake goddess, the Roman Juno? No, this is not the Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus); the green peafowl, Pavo muticus, fits the goddess better in a number of ways.

There are a number of checks against that association, starting with the peacock not being Hera's original bird. The Greeks did not even have a word for peacock, instead calling it the "Persian bird." Prior to the peacock, Hera had the cow and the cuckoo (a brood parasite...interesting choice) as her animals. Damn if the peacock did not prove the most popular out of those.

The association of a peafowl with marriage and childbirth is not limited to Greece and Rome. Starting with the words 'Persian bird,' an immediate similarity surfaced between Hera's peacock and the simurgh, a phoenix-like bird that appears in the Persian Shahname. Along with raising the albino (here I go again with that) Persian Prince Zal, she (ALWAYS 'she') invented the C-section. The simurgh is present throughout a great deal of Persian history, inherently benign, and frequently depicted with a peacock's tail (...despite being female).

China has a similar creature in the fenghuang, which is linked to marital harmony and the empress. Originally, 'feng' used to be used to indicate a male phoenix, and 'huang' a female; now they are both symbolic of feminine (yin) power. The sexes can still be identified by the amount of tailfeathers; a male has an odd number of plumes, the female an even (usually two). Parallel to how the Chinese emperor is identified with the dragon, the empress is linked to the fenghuang.

I wish I could have found a purse or something...I may end up photographing one of my own fenghuang necklaces/clothing pieces later, but for now, have a truly Japanified fenghuang/houou. Ho-oh actually follows the even-feather rule, too!

Yup. Back to Indo-China. Again. You KNEW I could not stay away from that area for long.

There are quite a few differences between the Java green and India blue peafowl...besides the obvious change in color. The Java green has a different crest, stronger wings capable of sustained flapping flight, and is overall leaner and taller than the blue peafowl. They can be more aggressive than blue peafowl, and are more susceptible to cold, which makes them harder to keep as well.

Unusually for galliformes, the male and female do not look very different from each other. Just about the only time one can tell them apart is when the male has his train. Also unlike the India blue, Java greens have been proven monogamous in captivity and spend time raising their offspring (like a few other oddball predatory birds). This lack of difference between the sexes makes the feminization of the whole genus Pavo a bit more logical; if the tail is only present during mating season, and they themselves live in happy relationships, why not link them with matrimony as well?

A male and female...I think. It's hard to find side-by-side pictures, but the female is slightly darker.

Indian peacocks, on the other hand, tend to have wholly different habits and deities associated with them. They are not as clearly predatory as their Javan counterparts, and have, like chickens, very clear distinctions between hens and cocks year round. Unlike the feminized Eastern phoenix, many entities associated with the peacock are male. That includes the bizarre-as-hell demon Adramelech and a peacock angel (that was, of course, labeled as 'Satan' by nearly all monotheistic religions).

Just for comparison's sake.

The only logical explanation for the switch between birds is that ancient people really did not care what sort of peafowl they linked the Queen of the Gods to. Either that, or Hera is secretly a dyke.

There. I said it.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... you made me look up Adramelech, which is a demon I'm sure I've seen but forgot about. And rather a ridiculous one. Might he be the origin of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's "Donkey-headed Adversary of Humanity"??

    If you have any tolerance for art-noise with a hardmetal slant and creative instrumentation (Including nyckelharpa, xylophone, recorder, etc) you might do well to look into their philosophical slant... which is decidedly anti-technology, embracing of nature's entropy and destuctive power as well as misanthropic :P

    LOVE THEM SO MUCH this song is a marvel to see live, the whole audience is in unity spurring it on to greater awesomeness XD *headbangs furiously*

    Yep they converted me to this sort of thing and I was skeptical initially.

    //ANyway, I love peacocks. I'll take a picture of the giant peacock tapestry I was given as a small child and finally got in my hands again. Awaiting to be hung in all its glory.