Unicorns are the spirit world’s horse, untameable like the zebra, and admired by many. They are often portrayed as white which ties to their link of purity and virginal women. They are elusive and powerful, fierce and admired.
We see unicorns in a number of cultures, including mention of it in ancient myths from India and China. An ancient Greek writer tells of a creature with a white body, purple head, blue eyes and a long horn which was red at the tip, black in the middle and white at the bottom. Although it seems odd to us today, this is probably a reference to a rhinoceros.
The bible mentions a horned creature called the re’em which some translations refer to as a unicorn. There are a lot of articles online which discuss this and look at what the re’em really is but for our purpose, a look at the symbolism is perhaps more useful. The unicorn is considered to be a symbol for Christ, the child of the virgin Mary as well as a symbol of virginity itself. At the same time, the horn is considered to be a phallus but this makes more sense when we look at placement. Instead of a penis which would be used to procreate, the unicorn is seen to have a horn which instead is used to connect with spirit, a symbol of spiritual connectedness. The unicorn transcends sexuality and all the Christian connotations that come with it. This idea is also visible in the use of unicorn amulets as a symbol of fertility and sexuality and the idea that the wearer would increase their sex appeal; something which seems at odds with the unicorn as “personification” of virginity… This is a subject for another day but for a religion which likes to control sex, they do seem quite obsessed with it…
Unicorns have a spiral horn projecting from their forehead and this horn is said to have a number of magical properties including the ability to purify poison. Their horns were considered highly valuable and there was a profitable trade in them, although most were narwhal horns. The horn could also purify water and make it holy so that other animals could drink it. This was one of the reasons why there was a lot of prestige attached to hunting them although it was said that only a virgin could capture them.
The horn is obviously a key aspect of this creature and it has been said that all their mighty strength lies in it. We have touched on the horn as a link to the spirits and gods and this echoes the ideas we have seen with other horned animals. The spiralled aspect of the horn is important to some people. It is often depicted as two “threads” entwined around each other and in these images, one thread could represent the mundane and one the spiritual, one the inner self and one the outer consciousness, one earth and one heaven and so on. As such, the unicorn horn then represents the interactions between these two “worlds” and link the tangible world to the spiritual one. Thus the unicorn becomes a vehicle for us to reach the gods.