What Does the Peacock Represent in Different Religious Traditions?

The peacock is significant in several different religious traditions, including Christianity, where it is a symbol of eternal life. Ancient Greeks believed that the goddess Hera created the peacock from the hundred-eyed giant, Argus. Hindus believe the peacock is a symbol of the goddess Lakshmi, while Buddhists use the peacock as a reminder of Guan Yin, a goddess who embodies compassion.

Peacocks appear in Christian iconography dating to the medieval period, when Christians borrowed the ancient belief that peacocks' flesh does not decay. They linked the stories of the birds' everlasting flesh to their belief in Christ's resurrection from the dead. The eye-shaped spots on peacocks' tails remind Christians of God's ability to see all things. Another old Christian tradition compares bright, newly-grown peacock feathers to new life after resurrection.

In Hinduism, Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, is the goddess of prosperity, luck and beauty; she is symbolized by the peacock, which is also the national bird of India. Hindus keep peacock feathers in their homes as religious objects because they believe that the feathers bring good fortune and wealth. Many traditional Hindu stories reference peacocks, including a myth in which the god Indra gave the peacock its beautiful feathers out of gratitude for helping him in battle. Hindus also believe that the peacock's fan-shaped tail represents the circle of time.

Guan Yin, a Buddhist goddess, often appears with a peacock in paintings and other religious artwork. The birds' eye-shaped tail spots represent the goddess's thousand eyes. Guan Yin's many eyes enable her to see and respond to human pain, offering compassion and mercy. Artists often depict her thousand arms in a fan shape similar to a peacock's tail.