- Multiple Cultures (culture)
- Sorcery and Medicinal (attribute)
- Friendly and Dangerous (behaviour)
- Unicorns (common type)
The Unicorn is perhaps one of the most popular and captivating mythical creatures of all time. Although it is often presented in a more feminine way, th belief of a one-horned horse that contains magical properties has been a widespread belief that dates back centuries. Typically the Unicorn has been described to have the head of a horse on the body of a stag with the tail of a lion. So rare were these creatures that it was said that only one Unicorn could exist at any given time. In some stories the Unicorn is as large as an elephant while in others it is as small as a gazelle or anything in between the two creatures. Its horn is known as the Alicorn and it was this that held potent medicinal and magical properties. The Unicorn of the West, the one we are most familiar with is usually white or silver and is thus linked to the moon. However there have been many Unicorns across many different cultures.
A French priest called Abbe Huc from the 19th century claimed that the Unicorns lived in Tibet and Mongolia where they went by the name Serou (Tibetan) or Kere (Mongolian). When Westerners went to Tibet in the early 20th century they failed to find any Unicorns and thus stopped believing in Abbe Huc’s myth. The oldest Unicorn reported in history is the Ki-Lin of China, of which stories date back 3,000 years. There are various species of Unicorns in China that are less like a horse and more like a deer, cheetah or other animal. There are also Unicorns reported to have lived in Ethiopia and the Middle East.
Some believe that the Unicorn originated from a mythical creature called the Re’em in Hebrew mythology. Re’em is an ancient Hebrew word that roughly translates as a large-horned beast. In around 300 – 100 B.C.. when the Bible was being translated from Hebrew into Greek, Scholars came across this word. The description of the beast explained that this animal was impossible to tame, highly noble and generally it had other characteristics to the Unicorn that the Scholars were familiar with. Thus the word Re’em was deciphered as Monokeros which directly translates into English as ‘one horn’. The Unicorn remained a part of the Bible for centuries.
The Unicorn has various appearances in the Bible. In one section the animal attempts to defeat the Devil. In another significant reference the magical beast appears in one description about a prophecy of a conqueror and his steed. Some historians believe that this conqueror was Alexander the Great and his horse was a Unicorn. In the Book of Genesis it tells us that the first animal that Adam named was the Unicorn. In the story of Noah’s Ark, the Unicorn would not board the ark. Instead it swam beside it for 40 days and 40 nights.
Another explanation of the animal’s comes from Assyrian art. The Assyrians had their own one-horned beast that they called the Rimu. It is depicted on relief of Assyrian art as oxen that had one horn. There are some historians like Carl Wieland who believe that this animal was sculpted in this way to show the perfect symmetry of the two horns. Carl also claims that the Rimu was possibly the prehistoric giant ox called auroch.
The Unicorn was popular during Medieval Europe. In Medieval art the Unicorn was often depicted with a virgin riding upon its back. It also appeared in coats of arms and other heraldry. It was sometimes drawn together with a lion to symbolize the solar and lunar energies such as on the image on the British passport. Today the Unicorn has become a very colourful creature of great beauty and innocent to appeal more to children.
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