How many cultures have unicorn myths

The unicorn: the origin and meaning of the mythical creature

Unicorns are not only fascinating in fantasy novels. The white horse with the twisted horn on its forehead enchants young and old with its magical abilities. There are numerous legends about the mythical creature. We take a closer look at the origin and symbolism of the unicorn.

 

The origin of the unicorn

In Europe, the unicorn became famous through the Old Testament in the Bible. A Hebrew text was translated into ancient Greek in the third century BC - but the 72 translators did not know what the mysterious animal "Re'em" was. In the end they gave it the name "Monokeros" - which means unicorn in German. However, this animal has nothing to do with the graceful creature that drives sales figures higher.

Today we know that there was talk of aurochs. But how did you get from an animal with two horns to a unicorn? Probably the fault was due to the Babylonian wall paintings, where the animal could be seen, but only in profile view. The translators recognized only one horn ... It was not until 1779 that Heinrich Sander recognized the translation error. Until then, people assumed that the mythical creature appeared in the Bible.

Depiction of the unicorn in ancient times

Around 500 BC, Ktesias of Knidos reported in "Indika" about unicorns in India. The horn of the wild, fast and strong animal has an antitoxic effect. That is why the court of the Achaemenids is said to have used this as a drinking vessel. On this basis, for example, Aristotle and Claudius Aelianus also spoke about the unicorn in antiquity.

The unicorn is not mentioned in Roman and Greek mythology, nor are there any images from this period. In the second century AD, however, an early Christian folk book appeared in Greek, the "Physiologus". It says that only virgins can catch unicorns. It was interpreted that the Virgin Mary and the unicorn is Jesus Christ. One horn stands for monotheism and the incarnation of God.

Unicorns in the Middle Ages and Modern Times

In the Middle Ages, unicorns were mentioned in pharmacopoeias by Hildegard von Bingen, for example. Various travelers also stated that they had sighted unicorns. This is how Marco Polo described how he saw a specimen in Sumatra. Presumably it is the Sumatran rhinoceros. The Jesuit Jerónimo Lobo, the adventurer Edward Webbe and the traveler John Bell also claim to have seen unicorns somewhere in the world. This was probably due to the widespread legends. So people also reported what they thought they must have seen. The Physiologus was very important for the Christian belief in unicorns until the early modern period.

Medieval alchemists began to see the unicorn like the lion as "Spiritus Mercurius". Accordingly, the being, which stood for the active purity and the penetrating power of the Mercurius spirit, appeased the lion.

The unicorn in this day and age

In the present, the unicorn is usually given a meaning as a creature in fantasy novels, as a toy or as a cuddly toy, but its importance also makes it - together with the rainbow - firmly anchored in the LGBT movement and in feminism.

The unicorn hype of recent years has ensured that, in addition to numerous unicorn gifts, there is probably a unicorn edition for every everyday product. The railway company Locomore says in its terms of carriage that taking a unicorn with a child under the age of 14 is free as long as the safety of fellow passengers is not endangered. In the meantime it has also arrived in the food industry: From unicorn beer to unicorn mulled wine to unicorn sausages, everything is possible!

 

The meaning of the unicorn

In Chinese, Indian and Christian mythology we find the magical animal. Usually it is a white horse with a twisted horn, but mythological unicorns can also have a lion's tail, split hooves or sometimes wings like the Pegasus.

The symbolism of the unicorn

Unicorns are fascinating because they are rare, precious and a spiritual animal. The being also has a healing effect and is a symbol of purity, innocence and freedom. It is considered a power animal. It stands for staying true to yourself and freeing yourself from constraints. You should develop yourself and swim against the current on your own path.

In addition, it fights against dangers, defies all diseases and brings the dead back to life. It is combative and powerful, which is why it is often found in the political background. It symbolizes freedom, peace, pluralism and diversity of opinion.

The unicorn can often be found in combination with a rainbow. The assumption that there is treasure at the end of the rainbow is well known. This stands for a social utopia, the search for a place where everything is more beautiful and fair. Rainbow flags also appeared for the first time in the fight for homosexual rights in the 1960s. Since then it has been a symbol of tolerance and colorfulness.

 


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