Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.
The Greeks identified it with their own word phoenix φοίνιξ, meaning the color purple-red or crimson (cf. Phoenicia). They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to the Greeks the phoenix lived in Phoenicia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Helios stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song. Featured in the painting Heracles Strangles Snakes (House of the Vettii, Pompeii Italy) as Zeus, the king of the gods.
Stunning in its beauty, the Peacock is considered the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix on earth. Its mesmerizing colors and the “thousand eyes” look on its tail is considered to promote abundance and good luck in feng shui, as well as enhance one’s protection and awareness.
In alchemical writings we meet a seemingly bewildering multiplicity of animal symbols – red lions, white eagles, stags, unicorns, winged dragons and snakes. Although at first glance all this complex mass of symbolism seems tortured and confused there is an inner coherence to these symbols, which the ancient alchemists used in specific ways reflecting their esoteric content.
In this article I wish to consider a particularly tight knit group of these animal symbols, the birds of alchemy – the Black Crow, White Swan, Peacock, Pelican, and Phoenix – which are descriptive of certain stages of the alchemical process.
With the Peacock stage, the alchemist has entered into the inner experience of the astral world, which initially appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This experience is often symbolised in alchemy by the appropriate image of the peacock’s tail with its splendid iridescence of colour. In terms of this series of five stages, the turning point is reached with the Peacock. Up until this point the alchemist has experienced aspects of his being which he was formerly unconscious of – the etheric forces and the astral body. Essentially these experiences have happened to him, although he had to make himself open to the experiences through entering into the initial Black Crow state, however, in order to progress he must begin to work upon his inner being.
Birds in Alchemy
The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. As such, early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery, and peacock feathers can be used during the Easter season as church decorations. This symbol of immortality is also directly linked to Christ.
The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.
Early belief held that the Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks.
The peacock has the ability to eat poisonous snakes without harm.
Both Origen and Augustine refer to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.
Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacocka hyperbole to establish the respect and longevity of the Greek poet’s words.
“By the Peacock” was a sacred oath, because the peacock was thought to have the power of resurrection, like the Phoenix.
A necklace of Amethyst, peacock feathers, and swallow feathers were a talisman to protect its wearer from witches and sorcerers.
Christians thought, in early times, that the peacock’s blood could dispel evil spirits.
All the clips you missed (via Gawker)
After his monologue Letterman took a seat and eviscerated every part of Leno’s address to his audience last night, including his plea that we not blame O’Brien. “Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said emphatically. Letterman then said that what’s going on now is “vintage Jay,” the same man he’s known for 35 years. At the end of his statement, Letterman had this to say about Leno: “You get fired, you get another gig! Don’t hang around waiting for somebody to drop dead.” Game. Set. Match: Vintage Jay
“Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said.
The word “jay” has an archaic meaning in American slang meaning an impertinent person.
The term jaywalking was coined in 1915 to label persons crossing a busy street carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard. The term began to imply recklessness or impertinent behavior as the convention became established.
I’ll always be a word man, better than a birdman… – Jim Morrison
Bill Hicks on Jay Leno
Recorded in 1993, the track “Artistic Roll Call” from Bill Hicks’ Rant in E-Minor is as true today as it was back then:
Here’s the same bit via Howard Stern