Practicing Alchemy with Peacock

What do you want transformed in your life? Usually we want to see the bigger paycheck, better body, happier (or different) relationship. Or maybe your desires take more of an inward groove. Being more compassionate towards yourself and others, having a quieter mind, increasing confidence. Whatever drives you, bringing Peacock’s transforming energy into your life can help create that dreamed of shift.

Only with Peacock, the practice of alchemy begins with releasing in order to receive. Releasing old boundaries, habitual emotional reactions, stagnant self-esteem, toxic self-talk. It’s about catching negative tendencies and patterns as they arise. Breathing fresh energy into the musty, overstuffed corners, closets and cupboards of your mind.

Peacock’s medicine penetrates so deep into human consciousness that it could fill a multi-volume encylopedia. Googling “peacock symbolism” brought 1,740,000 results. (Nothing so stupendous for the female peahen, which showed a paltry 387,000 results, like why would we care. Except that minus peahens there would be no peacocks.)

The Eyes Have It

Over millennia, the peacock’s magnificent plumage has become associated not only with astonishing beauty but the spiritual mysticism of grace. The eye of the peacock feather “symbolizes the power of creation.”

Traditionally, Indian gurus and swamis hold a wand or large fan made of peacock feathers when they give darshan for their devotees. The Sanskrit root of darshan means “to see,” as seeing a holy person—or even the image of that person or a deity— is highly auspicious and bestows great merit upon the seeker (Wikipedia).

In India, where it’s the national bird and considered sacred, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi, goddess of good fortune and all forms of prosperity from material to spiritual. As devotees approach the master’s chair and bow, they are bopped lightly with the wand on their heads and/or shoulders. I have been bopped like that, on more than one occasion by my guru.

It’s an indescribable feeling not unlike a first kiss or a mind blowing orgasm. It’s being held in the still point where intimacy and infinity merge.

Understandably, the ancient Greeks considered the eyes of the peacock’s feathers to symbolize omniscience and celestial wisdom. As yogini and blogger Catherine Schweig has written, “the image of a peacock displaying its fan of feathers has been as cherished as a rising sun, a picture of the heavenly constellations in the sky, a hundred eyes and the wheel of immortality, just to name a few.”

Name Your Poison

Peacocks can even dine upon and digest the most venomous snakes with ease. That little feat of avian alchemy has still other meanings. As Schweig explains,

“In Tibetan Buddhism the peacock symbolizes one’s victory over poisonous tendencies, and the serpents it consumes represent one’s venomous obstacles and imperfections, or kleshas, which are equally capable of killing us. Successfully digested poison is then naturally transformed into beautiful splendor, as the peacock shows us in his lovely plumage.”

Peacock Pendant

Peacock Pendant

The five kleshas are greed, anger, hate, envy and desire. Klesha literally means poison in Sanskrit. Each one muddies the mind and acts like kryptonite on your spirit.  Here’s a mini-meditation you can practice for Peacock’s support in overcoming the kleshas. You can work with each klesha separately as a daily practice on weekdays and all five on weekends, depending upon your schedule. Or if a particular one stands out, spend a week or a month with it before going on to the others.

Begin by getting settled on the floor with legs comfortably crossed. Raise your seat with a folded blanket or a cushion to relax your hips and knees if needed. Or sit on a chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and take several letting-go breaths. Feel your body and mind settle.

Ignorance of your true nature, the divine spark within was said by Gautama Buddha to be the root cause of the kleshas and the suffering they bring. Ask, what gentle steps will lead me from ignorance to knowing who I truly am? Be patient!

Now bring an image of Peacock into your mind. See Peacock stand before you with his magnificent plumage fully expanded, a symbol of the expansion of your spirit into the dimension of change and clarity. Or sense that Peacock is behind you. He’s got your back so that you can step forward fearlessly  into freedom.



Sources: Wikipedia, Featured photo: Peacock pendant courtesy Beth Jagoda, photo 2015 by Uma Valerie Carruthers.












Dancing with Serpents

What’s your take on snakes? Do you find them attractive-repulsive? Maybe you’re the parent of a pet python or two? Love to look but never touch? Take ’em or leave ’em? Basically find them ewww? Whichever way you feel, your response is embedded in humanity’s collective consciousness.

That vibe explodes in your cells and snake-dances in your DNA, spiraling like the twin serpents of the cadeuceus. It slithers up and down your chakras as the Kundalini, the ancient serpent whose ascension eventually takes the spiritual seeker to the highest enlightment, the deepest understanding of the cosmic mysteries.  It shimmers in every secret desire you’ve yearned for and it lurks in all those nameless longings that you have ever stuffed down or choked back. Those desires and longings can ultimately drive you to discover who and what you truly are at your core.

Love, Fear or Both

Consider that the eternal animal truth of the serpent is to evoke both love and fear.  Because of all creatures, Snake has a truly epic back story.

Consider the words of yogini and fellow blogger Catherine Ghosh:

“Awed for its ease to shed the skin of its old life and slip into a new one, and for its ability to kill with a single bite, the snake swiftly came to symbolize death and rebirth: the cyclical nature of existence itself, as when we see the snake depicted at the hub of the wheel of samsara, or hear it taunting Eve in the Garden of Eden.”

Ananta Shesha holding the Cosmic Egg
Ananta Shesha holding the Cosmic Egg

Hindu mythology portrays the snake as the massive Ananta Shesha, the sovereign of all snakes, who breathes fire and spews venom, who holds the world on his head. And let’s face it, how many times have you felt that fire-breathing and world-holding (plus a little venom-spewing) were somewhere in your own job description? It’s Ananta Shesha (whose name means the Eternal or Infinte One) that finishes off the world at the end of each four-billion-year cycle—yet is never destroyed himself.

Consider that in your own life many cycles have begun and ended. Relationships. Parenthood. Jobs and careers. Moving away from home or back in. Lifestyles that morphed from one to another. Yet through all the storms of change something within you remained perpetually unchanged. Coming to recognize and befriend your personal Ananta Shesha is to be united with that inner eternal force.

Here’s Catherine Ghosh again:

“Snakes were thus imbued with potent transformative energy, mystical powers and the wisdom to unlock the secrets of immortality. They were both feared and adored, linked with both the energies of regeneration and extermination, and connected to dark underworlds as often as they were to divine light.”

The Underworld Outside My Door

One spring morning I stepped outside to find the newly shed skins of no fewer than five pygmy rattlers strewn beside my front door. Despite their littering, I had to thank them for leaving a message: Become attentive to when it’s time to peel away the crusty old layers of your being that no longer serve you. Habits, patterns, perceptions, projections, attachments.

In an earlier post, I looked at the extraordinary relationship of Shiva, the Hindu deity of destruction, and Nandi, the bull who is both Shiva’s companion and mode of transportation. Shiva is also called (among his 1,008 names) Pasupathinath, lord of the animals. In Hinduism, animals represent aspects of our most basic nature, the beasts within us, beautiful or not.

Every image of Shiva depicts him adorned with snakes. They’re encircling his neck and arms or nesting in his matted hair. “Since a snake is one of the most feared and dangerous animals in the world, the garland of snakes around the neck firmly establishes this fact even the snakes fear Him and remain under His control,” according to


Sometimes Shiva is shown surrounded by a cluster of cobras, their hoods forming a fierce halo around his head. Some murtis (deity statues) dispense with Shiva’s  image altogether portraying the cobras side by side atop a Shivalingam, so merged are the identities.

Now comes the eternal question: are Shiva’s serpents threatening or beckoning? Do they represent victory over our baser instincts or the highest potential of humanity? In a word, yes.

As the blogger at allsaivism comments, the snake necklace signals to devotees that Shiva, being unaffected by maya or illusion, has conquered desire.

To us mortals that is no easy task. You bop one desire, another rears up to take its place. So if we can breathe deep, laugh a little and take a moment to get centered, we can keep on dancing with the serpent. Anything is possible.

Sources: 1) Catherine Ghosh, “Summon the Snake in You Through Bhujangasana,”, January 30, 2012. For more by Catherine, visit her at  2)

Images: 1)Vintage circus image,, 2), 3)