Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then be a unicorn.
Among some of the most intriguing and fascinating mythological creatures that appear
in literature, the legendary unicorn - a horse with a single horn - may be the most
mysterious in terms of its origin. While nearly every other mythical creature in the history
of time has been referenced in Greek, Scottish, and Celtic mythology, from the Loch
Ness Monster to Sirens and Dragons, unicorns do not appear in any of it. However,
these animals are not to be confused with creatures like Pegasus, who do play a role in
mythical legends and are similar to unicorns, though they are adorned with wings.
In the Middle Ages, kings who feared that they might be poisoned by their enemies
would drink from vessels made from what they believed were unicorn horns. It was also
common to make boots and belts from “unicorn” hide as it was thought to prevent the
most deadly of enemies of the time: the plague.
Throughout this time, Europeans were sure that unicorns existed due to their horns
being treasured items among royalty. For example, Queen Elizabeth I had a scepter
made from a horn still fully intact. It is estimated that it valued around the same cost as
a castle in her day.
Also, Ctesias, the Greek historian and physician who first wrote of unicorns in the 5th
century BC, mentions that the magical horns were used by Indian princes. This later
influenced tales from Aristotle, Claudius Aelianus and Pliny the Elder – all of whom
wrote inspired stories of the curing medicinal effects of drinking from the horn. Later,
writings in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, even in the modern day, have
mentioned this mythological wonder.
Many ancient scholars shared the belief that unicorns did, at least once upon a time,
truly exist. However, we know now that they do not walk this earth, yet we marvel at the
mere thought of it. The earliest mention of unicorns in Greek literature describes a
mystical image of a horse-like creature with one long, twisted horn on the center of its
head that was believed to aid in the protection against epilepsy, stomach illness, or
poison of those who drank from it. This idea stemmed from tales of Greek travelers who
told tales of visiting far-off lands that inhabited unicorns.
In the 12th century, there was a German nun by the name of Hidegard of Bingen who
was a writer, a philosopher, and a visionary. She would recommend a paste made up of
egg yolk and powdered unicorn liver as a leprosy cure, though she also made mention
that the cure wouldn’t work if the “leper in question happens to be one whom death is
determined to have or else one whom God does not wish to be cured.” While intact
horns would be modelled by the rich due to their astonishing cost, powdered horns were
much more affordable for the average citizen. The use of substitutions such as horse
hooves or other kinds of horns led to the omnipresent issue of fraud. A common test
that was done to see if the horn was genuine was to place it near scorpions or spiders.
If they avoided it or died soon after, it would prove the horn was real.
According to an old tradition, one could capture a unicorn by sending a young girl into
the forest. The unicorn would be drawn to her and, after nuzzling its head in her lap and
drifting to sleep, the hunter could catch the creature. However, to kill a unicorn is
thought to burden the hunter with an immense Karmic debt. Unicorns are known for
their swiftness and reluctance to be captured. Of course, no hunters were ever actually
In the Royal Coat of Arms, the heraldic unicorn, representing Scotland, is shown on the
left, or the “deviant,” side of the image and is tightly tangled by a gold chain due to the
ancient legends of the strength and danger of a free unicorn. As the national animal of
Scotland, unicorns shared in the great pride and stubbornness of the Scottish soldiers
who fought hard in order to remain unconquered. However, it is possible that the
entrapment of the unicorn on the Coat of Arms symbolizes the power that the Scottish
Kings hoped to display – meaning that they were even strong enough to tame a unicorn.
Though unicorns were originally described as solitary beasts that could fiercely fight
elephants and lions, they are also considered a symbol of purity, enchantment, magic,
and innocence as a whole. In its parts, a unicorn has three symbols. One for its horn,
one for the horse, and one of its white color. The lone, spiraled horn symbolizes the
continuous, endless Cycles of Time. Similar to a sword, the horn signifies reasoning
purity and Unity of Thought. The spiritual horse segment of the unicorn is the symbol of
movement or travel. The ability to present itself whenever or wherever it pleases is the
best representation of this symbol. Lastly, its color. As pure as can be, the color white is
the truest symbol of innocence and perfection. It is believed that only those with the
purest of hearts and the most virtuous doer of deeds would deserve the sight of a
unicorn before them.