The peacock

Symbolise passion & inner fire (opposite of fear)

The peacock, known for its vivid, iridescent plumage and striking tail display, carries rich symbolic meanings across cultures and historical contexts.

The fall of man

The story told by the Mussulmans is as follows:

Adam and Eve lived for five hundred years in Paradise before they ate of the tree and fell; for Eblis was outside, and could not enter the gates to deceive them.

For five hundred years Eblis sought admission, but the angel Ridhwan warned him off with his flaming sword.

One day the peacock came through the gates of Paradise. This bird with the feathers of emeralds and pearls was not only the most beautiful creature God had made, but it had also been endowed with a sweet and clear voice, wherewith it daily sang the praises of God in the highways of Eden.

This beautiful bird, thought Eblis, when he saw it, is surely vain, and will listen to the voice of flattery.

Thereupon he addressed it as a stranger, beyond the hearing of Ridhwan. “Most beautiful of all birds, do you belong to the denizens of Paradise?”

“Certainly,” answered the peacock. “And who are you who look from side to side in fear and trembling?”

“I belong to the Cherubim who praise God night and day, and I have slipped out of their ranks without being observed, that I might take a glimpse of the Paradise God has prepared for the saints. Will you hide me under your feathers, and show me the garden?”

“How shall I do that which may draw down on me God’s disfavour?” asked the peacock.

“Magnificent creature! take me with you. I will teach you three words which will save you from sickness, old age, and death.”

“Must then the dwellers in Paradise die?”

“All, without exception, who know not these three words.”

“Is this the truth?”

“By God the Almighty it is so.”

The peacock believed the oath, for it could not suppose that a creature would swear a false oath by its Creator. But, as it feared that Ridhwan would search it on its return through the gates, it hesitated to take Eblis with it, but promised to send the cunning serpent out, who would certainly devise a means of introducing Eblis into the garden.

The serpent was formerly queen of all creatures. She had a head like rubies, and eyes like emeralds. Her height was that of a camel, and the most beautiful colours adorned her skin, and her hair and face were those of a beautiful maiden. She was fragrant as musk and amber; her food was saffron; sweet hymns of praise were uttered by her melodious tongues; she slept by the waters of the heavenly river Kaulhar; she had been created a thousand years before man, and was Eve’s favourite companion.

This beautiful and wise creature, thought the peacock, will desire more even than myself to possess perpetual youth and health, and will gladly admit the cherub for the sake of hearing the three words. The bird was not mistaken; as soon as it had told the story, the serpent exclaimed: “What! shall I grow old and die? Shall my beautiful face become wrinkled, my eyes close, and my body dissolve into dust? Never! rather will I brave Ridhwan’s anger and introduce the cherub.”

The serpent accordingly glided out of the gates of Paradise, and bade Eblis tell her what he had told the peacock.

“How shall I bring you unobserved into Paradise?” asked the serpent.

“I will make myself so small that I can sit in the nick between your front teeth,” answered the fallen angel.

“But how then can I answer when Ridhwan addresses me?”

Fear not. I will whisper holy names, at which Ridhwan will keep silence.”

The serpent thereupon opened her mouth, Eblis flew in and seated himself between her teeth, and by so doing poisoned them for all eternity.

When she had passed Ridhwan in security, the serpent opened her mouth and asked Eblis to take her with him to the highest heaven, where she might behold the majesty of God.

Eblis answered that he was not ready to leave yet, but that he desired to speak to Adam out of her mouth, and to this she consented, fearing Ridhwan, and greatly desiring to hear and learn the three salutary words. Having reached Eve’s tent, Eblis uttered a deep sigh—it was the first that had been heard in Eden, and it was caused by envy.

“Why are you so disquieted, gentle serpent?” asked Eve.

“I am troubled for Adam’s future,” answered the evil spirit, affecting the voice of the serpent.

“What! have we not all that can be desired in this garden of God?”

“That is true; but the noblest fruit of the garden, the only one securing to you perfect happiness, is denied to your lips.”

“Have we not abundance of fruit of every colour and flavour—only one is forbidden?”

“And if you knew why that one is forbidden, you would find little pleasure in tasting the others.”

“Do you know?”

“I do, and for that reason am I so cast down. This fruit alone gives eternal youth and health, whereas all the others give weakness, disease, old age and death, which is the cessation of life with all its joys.”

“Why, dearest serpent, did you never tell me of this before? Whence know you these things?”

An angel told me this as I lay under the forbidden tree.

“I must also see him,” said Eve, leaving her tent and going towards the tree.

At this moment Eblis flew out of the serpent’s mouth, and stood in human form beneath the tree.

“Who art thou, wondrous being, the like of whom I have not seen before?” asked Eve.

“I am a man who have become an angel.”

“And how didst thou become an angel?”

“By eating of this fruit,” answered the tempter,—”this fruit which is denied us through the envy of God. I dared to break His command as I grew old and feeble, and my eyes waxed dim, my ears dull, and my teeth fell out, so that I could neither speak plainly nor enjoy my food; my hands shook, my feet tottered, my head was bent upon my breast, my back was bowed, and I became so hideous that all the beasts of the garden fled from me in fear. Then I sighed for death, and hoping to find it in the fruit of this tree, I ate, and lo! instantly I was young again; though a thousand years had elapsed since I was made, they had fled with all their traces, and I enjoy perpetual health and youth and beauty.”

“Do you speak the truth?” asked Eve.

“I swear by God who made me.”

Eve believed this oath, and broke a branch from the wheat-tree.

Before the Fall, wheat grew to a tree with leaves like emeralds

Before the Fall, wheat grew to a tree with leaves like emeralds. The ears were red as rubies and the grains white as snow, sweet as honey, and fragrant as musk. Eve ate one of the grains and found it more delicious than anything she had hitherto tasted, so she gave a second grain to Adam.

Adam resisted at first, according to some authorities for a whole hour, but an hour in Paradise was eighty years of our earthly reckoning. But when he saw that Eve remained well and cheerful, he yielded to her persuasions, and ate of the second grain which Eve had offered him daily, three times a day, during the hour of eighty years.

Thereupon all Adam’s heaven-given raiment fell from him, his crown slipped off his head, his rings dropped from his fingers, his silken garment glided like water from his shoulders, and he and Eve were naked and unadorned, and their fallen garments reproached them with the words, “Great is your misfortune; long will be your sorrows; we were created to adorn those who serve God; farewell till the resurrection!”

The throne recoiled from them and exclaimed, “Depart from me, ye disobedient ones!” The horse Meimun, which Adam sought to mount, plunged and refused to allow him to touch it, saying, “How hast thou kept God’s covenant?” All the inhabitants of Paradise turned their backs on the pair, and prayed God to remove the man and the woman from the midst of them.

God himself addressed Adam with a voice of thunder, saying, “Did not I forbid thee to touch of this fruit, and caution thee against the subtlety of thy foe, Eblis?” Adam and Eve tried to fly these reproaches, but the branches of the tree Talh caught Adam, and Eve entangled herself in her long hair.

“From the wrath of God there is no escape,” cried a voice from the tree Talh; “obey the commandment of God.”

“Depart from Paradise,” then spake God, “thou Adam, thy wife, and the animals which led you into sin. The earth shall be your abode; in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou find food; the produce of earth shall cause envy and contention; Eve (Hava) shall be afflicted with a variety of strange affections, and shall bring forth offspring in pain.

The peacock shall lose its melodious voice, and the serpent its feet; dark and noisome shall be the den in which the serpent shall dwell, dust shall be its meat, and its destruction shall be a meritorious work. Eblis shall be cast into the torments of hell.”

Our parents were then driven out of Paradise, and one leaf alone was given to each, wherewith to hide their nakedness. Adam was expelled through the gate of Repentance, that he might know that through it alone could Paradise be regained; Eve was banished through the gate of Grace; the peacock and the serpent through that of Wrath, and Eblis through the gate of Damnation.

Adam fell into the island Serendib (Ceylon), Eve at Jedda, the Serpent into the desert of Sahara, the Peacock into Persia, and Eblis into the river Eila.

Tabari says that when the forbidden wheat had entered the belly of Adam and Eve, all the skin came off, except from the ends of the fingers. Now this skin had been pink and horny, so that they had been invulnerable in Paradise, and they were left naked and with a tender skin which could easily be lacerated; but, as often as Adam and Eve looked on their fingernails, they remembered what skin they had worn in Eden.

Tabari also says that four trees pitying the shame of Adam and Eve, the Peacock, and the Serpent, in being driven naked out of Paradise, bowed their branches and gave each a leaf.

Certain Rabbis say that Adam ate only on compulsion, that he refused, but Eve “took of the tree,”—that is, broke a branch and “gave it him,” with the stick.

According to the Talmudic book, Emek Hammelech (f. 23, col. 3), Eve, on eating the fruit, felt in herself the poison of Jezer hara, or Original sin, and resolved that Adam should not be without it also; she made him eat and then forced the fruit on the animals, that they might all, without exception, fall under the same condemnation, and become subject to death. But the bird Chol—that is, the Phœnix—would not be deceived, but flew away and would not eat. And now the Phœnix, says the Rabbi Joden after the Rabbi Simeon, lives a thousand years, then shrivels up till it is the size of an egg, and then from himself he emerges young and beautiful again.

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