According to legend, the unicorn did exist and may continue to populate the earth. Usually represented by a white horse with a single horn on the forehead, this mythological animal has a very special history. According to many cultures and various religions, it is attributed many meanings and several various myths have arisen. Among these, that of the origin of unicorn horns is one of the most popular.
Even today, we wonder why the unicorn has a horn on the forehead and not two? Or even, how did this horn appear and what is it for? Some fans of the unicorn in the Middle Ages even went further and gave testimonials about the properties of this horn.
For those who do not know, the horn on the forehead of the unicorn is very special and you will find out later. But before we get there, let’s take a step back and talk about its very origin. As a bonus, we invite you to discover some of the most popular testimonials around the unicorn animal.
The unicorn horn: origin and meaning
Mythical animals have given rise to much research around the world. When it comes to the unicorn, one of the most valuable research has been about the origin of its horn and the question of why only one.
To answer this question, it is important to know that the unicorn is morphologically similar to an ordinary horse. The only difference can be seen in its twisted horn! Although it can be added wings to make it a « unicorn pegasus », the primary characteristic of unicorns and their unique horn that it wears.
According to old works, the horn of the unicorn is unique simply because it does not serve as a tusk. Yes, unlike a goat or other animals with two horns on the head, the unicorn’s main role is not to protect the animal. But rather his entourage.
If we are to believe the European cultures of the 16th century, 13th century and 19th century, which have long touted this unicorn specificity for its protective and healing powers, the single horn would in fact be made up of a single substance called Alicorne.
As the Alicorn is unique, it can only be obtained from this horn. Therefore, there was a time when unicorn horns were sold to royal families and were worth much more than gold (their value is estimated to be 11 times more expensive than gold). Although it was later shown that these were false horns from the narwhal, they were still used for something.
What is or was the horn of the unicorn used for?
If the horn of the unicorn was so cherished and appreciated by ancient peoples, it is not primarily because it was unique to the unicorn. But well for its properties of purification and healing.
For those who don’t know, also note that this twisted horn is a symbol of purity in many beliefs that have existed. To believe the old stories, only the virgin girl could without approaching.
Although there are many virtues to this unique element of the white horse, only 03 have been able to bear the weight of criticism and have prevailed until today. Among them,
01 – Purification of contaminated water
The purifying power of the unicorn horn first appeared in the 14th century in the physiologus account. According to this work, there is a very large popular lake where animals used to come to get water. However, an evil snake was there and each time poured its poisoned venom in order to kill the animals that will try to drink the water.
They were therefore forced to accumulate around the lake and wait for a unicorn to arrive. On arrival, it was enough for the latter to dip his twisted horn in the lake so that the water turns blue and without poison.
Although this story is one of the best known, another belief of the unicorn existence of Father Johann Van Hesse supports it in 1389 when « the latter » states that he saw a unicorn come out of water that it had just purified.
That is why, whether in paintings, in cinematic representations or even in cartoons, the unicorn is usually depicted near the water and young princesses.
02 – Healing of illnesses and elimination of fate
Do you know bezoar stone? Otherwise, know that it is one of the most famous stones for their therapeutic property. Like the latter, the unicorn horn was introduced into medicine and was attributed many therapeutic properties.
Besides its purification of polluted water, it can also cure rubella, certain fevers, measles, various pains… In the Middle Ages and in certain regions of the current globe, the monks use it to eliminate spells and break curses.
In powder form, it is credited with the property of rapidly healing both physical and emotional wounds.
03 – Poison control for noble families
The unicorn horn is not only related to the virgin maiden, but its reputation extends to all royal families and nobles. Indeed, it is used in this context as poison control ! Thus, it was used to form cones in which it was served wine. In case of poisoning of the drink, the unicorn horn systematically destroyed the poison.
In the Middle Ages, it was the most valuable possession a ruler or king could own. Given its rarity, only the most powerful had it in their possession.
The unicorn horn as a decorative work
The latest popular feature of this long, twisted horn is its beauty which made it a decorative item. Indeed, many museums installed it and did not allow anyone to approach it except in exchange for a large sum of money.
This is for example the case of the Cluny museum, the Doge’s Palace or even the Saint-Denis cathedral. Note that these are only examples, it is possible to observe it in many museums around the world. Today, she is still present there and only goes out during major ceremonies.
According to ancient accounts, Pope Clement VII donated a unicorn horn on a gold reliquary to his friend King Francis 1is. This on the occasion of the marriage of the latter’s niece.
What does a unicorn horn look like and how do you recognize it?
Contrary to the image that the cinema wants to instill in us, the real unicorn horn is not like that of an ox, a goat or a rhino. Indeed, it is much longer and can exceed 3 meters in length.
Another major difference is that it is twisted (it pretends to curl up on itself, or it looks like two unicorn horns coiled to each other).
At the time, the meter did not exist, which mows down an exact estimate of the size of a unicorn horn. But to believe the results of investigations that have been launched on this subject, we note that a unicorn horn could reach several meters high.
A little story to finish: what to remember
Before starting our little story on the unicorn, know that this legendary animal comes from Greece. True, its origin is controversial, but many works mention the imagination of Ctesias (Greek writer) as the first to mention the existence of a animal with the appearance of a horse and having a horn on the forehead.
According to this writer, it is still possible to find such animals on earth. This is how this idea was taken up by many painters who materialized it in the form of a painting. Then, the cinema acted as a catalyst to spread the image of the unicorn throughout the world.
If we go back even further, the name “unicorn” itself is just a name that has undergone many changes. Originally, it all started with Unicorn, Alicorne, until his final transformation that we know today. Note also that these are phenomena that do not happen overnight.
Indeed, it took many civilizations to do so for such important transformations to take place.
In conclusion, the unicorn horn is not primarily useful to the animal, but rather to other animals around it and to humans. Today it is still possible to observe it in many museums. However, popular culture does not believe in the veracity of these horns! For the moment, there is nothing to verify that these are indeed unicorn horns, but why seek proof?
When you are a unicorn fan, you believe in your existing one and you are satisfied with its many accessories to stay close to them. Otherwise, no need to do more than that.