The European Unicorn
Unicorns were probarbly best known and were most regarded in the Middle Ages of Europe an archetype of the age of chivalry. The existance of mystical beasts was as true to the people then as the stories of the bible. In physical aspect The medieval Unicorn was most often shown as a beautiful pure white horse with one spiral shaped horn placed in the centre of his brow.
It was believed that the unicorns horn had magical purifying powers, capable of neutralizing any poisons in food or drink. This created a big business in unicorns horns, many fake ones being carved from ivory or narwhale horns.
The unicorn was considered a strong and fierce animal associated with chastity and virginity he could only be captured by a virgin. Identification of the pure, noble unicorn with Christ was very common in the Middle Ages, and perhaps that is why his popularity was great. This theme is taken up in the famous Unicorn Tapestries where the capture, death and restoration of the Unicorn is thought to represent the life and death of Jesus Christ.
There is a wide variation in the shape of the modern unicorn, most popularly he is seen as having the body of a horse, the beard of a goat, and the tail of a horse or a lion. He is most often white in colour, but may be black, gold, indigo, or of many colours. His horn, (or alicorn) which may be straight, or curved back, always takes a spiral shape.
Drawing by Indigo used with permission
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