We co-founders Esseld
have been talking about using my obsession with unicorn lore to bring the members of Unicorn-Club
some unicorn-themed journals. Here's the introduction! I hope you like it and please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Note: I haven't included references because I actually didn't use any
I can create a list of resources if anyone requires it, just ask
So... What are Unicorns?
Unicorn means “One Horned.” While most of us are familiar with the horse like (or equine) one-horned creature associated with magic and healing, nowadays all creatures with a single horn or horn-like protuberance on their head can be, and often are, referred to as unicorns. For example, the whale called a narwhal with its single spiralling tusk is called the “Arctic Unicorn,” while rare one-horned deer are referred to as “unicorn deer.”
Unicorns are found in mythology and history all over the world and their inclusion in human culture may predate written language. There are as many different kind of unicorns as there are major cultural groups, for example the part-dragon, part deer Chi-Lin of the East is often called the Chinese Unicorn; while the white-horse-style unicorn we are most familiar with today has its origins in European Heraldry. There were one-horned bulls in ancient Mesopotamia, where agriculture arose; there’s a story with Buddhist roots about a Rishyashringa the unicorn boy; you can find the Unicorn cave in Germany; and the greatest hoax ever pulled off by the Vikings could be the Unicorn Hoax… selling narwhal tusks as unicorn horn made them a lot of money! Unicorns are everywhere, and we love them because they are an ancient and integral part of our global culture and our collective consciousness. Something that has been held in awe and wonder for so long gathers a lot of archetypal power. Thus it is with unicorns.
The early Greek naturalists thought of unicorns as real animals, as against mythological ones, and recorded them among the lions and the bears in their natural history books. While it is now doubted that Pliny and other authors of his time saw unicorns with their own eyes, there is mounting evidence that legends of unicorns have their basis in a variety of real animals. The most often sited example is that of the Elasmotherium, which may, for a short time, have shared habitat with early humans, possibly just long enough to be recorded in cave art. The Elasmotherium were huge, horse-like rhinoceros with a single horn in the middle of their foreheads. They were grazers and gallopers who also seemed to enjoy swamp areas. And before you scoff and ask just how horse-like could a rhino of all things be, consider that Rhinos, Horses and Tapirs all share a common ancestor, something anyone with a good eye for horses will point out as obvious!
Part of the appeal of unicorns is the mystery. We just can’t be sure if there are unicorns out there in the unexplored regions or not. We don’t know if we will find fossils, discover plasma-based life forms, or get unicorn visitors from outer space! Science may laugh at those who claim magic or technology could keep unicorns hidden from human beings, but the truth is there’s a lot of things that science has laughed at that later turned out to be true: giant squids and platypus among them. Because unicorns are kind of foggy around the edges (as people who have seen them can attest) there’s no hard evidence for them, nor is there any hard evidence against them. Trying to track down pieces of the unicorn puzzle in history, culture, legend, nature and geology has kept many a would-be zoologist (or cryptologist!) plenty busy. All that we can say for sure on this search is that humans everywhere have been enamoured with these wonderful creatures for a very long time.
Unicorn people will also attest to the power of the unicorn symbol and of the spiritual presence of unicorns in our lives. In many ways like the Angels of Christian tradition, or the Gods and Goddesses of Earth religions, unicorns seem to bring blessings and magic wherever they, or their image, turn up. It would not be unreasonable to conclude that where there are unicorns, there will be magic; and whether we ever find an animal fitting our description is irrelevant. They’re real enough to us.