Mythology of The Unicorn

Don’t you just love Unicorns? I do. I was fascinated with these eloquent, strong, equine creatures of antiquity since early childhood.

Below Photo of Chinese Qilin Statue in Summer Palace, Public Domain

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They may have originated from the Asian Unicorns such as the Qilin from China and the Kirin from Japan. Narwhals may be the original inspiration for the Unicorn, the tusk of the Narwhal was sold as the Unicorn horn in the past. Many Ancient Greek scholars wrote on the illustrious Unicorn such as Pliny the Younger, Ctesias and Strabo to list a few.

Below Illustration: Historical depiction of a narwhal from ‘Brehms Tierleben‘ (1864–1869) Public Domain.

Narwhal

Even the Bible in the Old Testament mentions the Unicorn

“God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”—Numbers 23:22 (including several more passages.)

Unicorns may have also evolved from Elasmotherium that roamed Siberia 39,000 years ago.

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Above Illustration: First published restoration (1878) of E. sibiricum, by Rashevsky, under supervision of A.F. Brant

Unicorn lore is located around the world from Asia, Persia, Turkey, Siberia, including the United Kingdom. Unicorns were early environmentalists as their great horn purified the water wherever they went. The Unicorn symbol represented pure water of river, lakes and streams. According to Unicorn myth its horn could remove poisons once the tip of its horn touched liquids. Its unique power to cleanse water was noted in Physiologus 14th century exposition. A snake had poisoned the water at a massive lake that quenched the thirst of several animals. A lovely Unicorn approached the lake and with its great horn made the sign of the cross thus sanitizing the toxic water so the animals were able to safely drink from the lake.

During the medieval times Unicorn horns were also known as Alicorns used to heal all types of maladies. Royal Alchemists would use them in their super energized plant based antidotes. It was known to fight plagues and counteract snake and scorpion venom.

Below photo: Three Unicorn horns from the Mariakerk in Utrecht, now on display at the Rijksmuseum.

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The 12th century abbess Hidegard of Bingen kept her written medical journals, noting alicorns were used to treat Leprosy when mixed with eggs. Leather from the Unicorn was crafted into a belt to ward off plaque and fevers. Leather shoes from the Unicorn would heal Gout and other foot ailments.

Unicorns are found in several flags and coat of arms in Europe and United Kingdom.

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Above: Royal Coat of Arms, Elizabeth 2nd in Right of the United Kingdom. Public Domain.

The Unicorn with a Rainbow in today’s culture is a popular symbol of the LGBT. The Rainbow Unicorn symbol was created by by American artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. Unicorns have become important to the LGBT community as a gay pride symbol since the 1900’s. According to Alice Fisher of The Guardian, she mentions in her article that  the Unicorn with Rainbow image gained popularity during the gay rights protests of the 1970s and 1980.

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Above Photo of Unicorn with Rainbow on truck in Portland’s Gay Pride Parade 2017 Public Domain.

 

 

Sources & References:

  • Hildegarde, B. (1989). Le Livre des subtilités des créatures divines. II. Paris: Millon.
  • Odell Shepard, The Lore of the Unicorn at Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002FL4WSI/internetsacredte
  • Perry, J. (2016) ‘Real ‘Siberian unicorn’ remains found.’ http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/29/living/real-unicorn-remains/
  • Godfrey, L. S. (2009).  Mythical creatures . Chelsea House Publishers
  • Fisher, Alice (2017-10-15). “Why the unicorn has become the emblem for our times | Alice Fisher”. the Guardian.
  • Featured Art by Salvador Dali (1941-1989) “The Happy Unicorn.” 1976. Public Domain.

 

 

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Fortuna: Roman Goddess of Luck & Fate

Speaking of Lady Luck the Roman Goddess Fortuna or Fortūna in Latin certainly has earned her title. She may have been a former Latin or Etruscan goddess Servius Tullius. Fortuna represents the vital spark of luck, abundance, fate and chance that humans all hope and pray for at one time or another. Augustus Ceasar declared he was her favourite chosen son even if he was not it’s a great way to psyche out your enemies. Fortuna was popular, not as famous as Diana of Juno. Roman soldiers brought her adoration to England where she was revered there. Fortuna was known as a oracular goddess, many would have their fortunes told at her shrine.

April 1st just happens to be her hallowed day. It is a day for women  to ask her to invoke their mate’s virility and desire. She is often represented by the wheel of fortune, a cornucopia (abundance) or a ship’s rudder or a ball. Her father was allegedly Jupiter, Lord of Light and plenty. Her temple was dedicated to her on June 11th. The Festival of Fortuna was celebrated on or near the Summer Solstice.

 

Source & Reference:

  • Billington, S., Green, M. ‘The Concept of the Goddess’ (London, New York, 1996), 133-134.
  • Lesley Adkins, Roy A. Adkins (2001) Dictionary of Roman Religion
  • Featured Illustration of Lady Fortune in a Boccaccio manuscript Public Domain

 

 

 

Festival of Cybele

Cybele or Kybele, an ancient Greek goddess was known for her rejection of the Greek god Zeus who lusted after her.
According to Greek Mythology Even after Cybele’s refusal to procreate with Zeus the philanderer figured out a way of seducing her.
Cybele was impregnated by Zeus and birthed a hermaphrodite demon named Agdistis. She was a wild child, so feral that all the other gods feared her. They were so frightened of the child they conspired against Agdistis and pruned off her genitals.
Legend has it from Agdistis blood loss popped an Almond tree. Later the Romans adapted their own version of Cybele and Attis.
Cybele is noted as Gaia, Earth’s oldest goddess or forest witch. Cybele’s cult is one of the oldest religions. She may have her origins in Ancient Turkey and Middle East. The Romans named her Magna Mater meaning Great Mother. and the Antoloians called her Mountain Mother. Cybele has her own tale that she was raised by Leopards in the wild after her mother abandoned her in the wilderness. Over time Cybele practiced magic becoming a forest witch and then evolving into a much revered goddess.
Above: Phrygian statue of Agdistis from mid-6th century BCE at or near Hattusa.
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Source & Reference:
*Ancient History Encyclopedia online by Donald L. Wasson
*Walton, Francis Redding (1996). “Agdistis“. In Hornblower, Simon. Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* All Photos in Public Domain at Wikipedia

Tiger Nursery Rhyme From Asia

According to Indian folklore, the Hindu warrior goddess Durga rides a huge tiger and battles demons.

Durga has ten arms which makes her an excellent warrior and piggybacks her tigress appellate, Damon.

Durga is an honorable warrior goddess and is the central deity in Shaktism a tradition of Hinduism, here she balances Brahman, the concept of preeminent reality.

The picture below: Durga Mahishasura-Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon

Public Domain.

The White Tiger revered in Chinese as 白虎; pinyan: Bái Hǔ is the fourth symbol of the Chinese constellations knowns as the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎) depicting the autumn season and the West.

Photo below of White Tigers this recessive color variant is endowed in the Bengal and Siberian tigers, with common stripes and blue eyes. It is not albinism.

Public Domain.

The tiger’s tail is an old folktale told in countries such as China and Korea, it is generally inadvisable to grasp a tiger by the tail. The Children’s Counting Rhyme of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe mentions catching a tiger by the toe. It’s best if we leave the Tigers to live in peace without human involvement.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Catch a tiger by the toe.

If he hollers, let him go.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

                                       

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How The Tiger Got its Stripes; A Brazilian Folktale.

Once upon a time, ages and ages ago, so long ago that the tiger had no stripes upon his back and the rabbit still had his tail, there was a tiger who had a farm. The farm was very much overgrown with underbrush and the owner sought a workman to clear the ground for him to plant.

The tiger called all the beasts together and said to them when they had assembled, “I need a good workman at once to clear my farm of the underbrush. To one of you who will do this work I offer an ox in payment.”

The monkey was the first one to step forward and apply for the position. The tiger tried him for a little while but he was not a good workman at all. He did not work steadily enough to accomplish anything. The tiger discharged him very soon and he did not pay him.

Then the tiger hired the goat to do the work. The goat worked faithfully enough but he did not have the brains to do the work well. He would clear a little of the farm in one place and then he would go away and work on another part of it. He never finished anything neatly. The tiger discharged him very soon without paying him.

Next, the tiger tried the armadillo. The armadillo was very strong and he did the work well. The trouble with him was that he had such an appetite. There were a great many ants about the place and the armadillo could never pass by a sweet tender juicy ant without stopping to eat it. It was lunchtime all day long with him. The tiger discharged him and sent him away without paying him anything.

At last the rabbit applied for the position. The tiger laughed at him and said, “Why, little rabbit, you are too small to do the work. The monkey, the goat, and the armadillo have all failed to give satisfaction. Of course, a little beast like you will fail too.”

However, there were no other beasts who applied for the position so the tiger sent for the rabbit and told him that he would try him for a little while.

The rabbit worked faithfully and well, and soon he had cleared a large portion of the ground. The next day he worked just as well. The tiger thought that he had been very lucky to hire the rabbit. He got tired of staying around to watch the rabbit work. The rabbit seemed to know just how to do the work anyway, without orders, so the tiger decided to go away on a hunting trip. He left his son to watch the rabbit.

After the tiger had gone away the rabbit said to the tiger’s son, “The ox which your father is going to give me is marked with a white spot on his left ear and another on his right side, isn’t he?”

“O, no,” replied the tiger’s son. “He is red all over with just a tiny white spot on his right ear.”

The rabbit worked for a while longer and then he said, “The ox which your father is going to give me is kept by the river, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” replied the tiger’s son.

The rabbit had made a plan to go and get the ox without waiting to finish his work. Just as he started off he saw the tiger returning. The tiger noticed that the rabbit had not worked so well when he was away. After that, he stayed and watched the rabbit until the whole farm was cleared. Then the tiger gave the rabbit the ox as he had promised.

“You must kill this ox,” he said to the rabbit, “in a place where there are neither flies nor mosquitoes.”

The rabbit went away with the ox. After he had gone for some distance he thought he would kill him. He heard a cock, however, crowing in the distance and he knew that there must be a farmyard near. There would be flies of course. He went on farther and again he thought that he would kill the ox. The ground looked moist and damp and so did the leaves on the bushes. Since the rabbit thought there would be mosquitoes there he decided not to kill the ox. He went on and on and finally, he came to a high place where there was a strong breeze blowing. “There are no mosquitoes here,” he said to himself. “The place is so far removed from any habitation that there are no flies, either.” He decided to kill the ox.

Just as he was ready to eat the ox, along came the tiger. “O, rabbit, you have been such a good friend of mine,” said the tiger, “and now I am so very, very hungry that all my ribs show, as you yourself can see. Will you not be a good kind rabbit and give me a piece of your ox?”

The rabbit gave the tiger a piece of the ox. The tiger devoured it in the twinkling of an eye. Then he leaned back and said, “Is that all you are going to give me to eat?”

The tiger looked so big and savage that the rabbit did not dare refuse to give him any more of the ox. The tiger ate and ate and ate until he had devoured that entire ox. The rabbit had been able to get only a tiny morsel of it. He was very, very angry at the tiger.

One day not long after the rabbit went to a place not far from the tiger’s house and began cutting down big staves of wood. The tiger soon happened along and asked him what he was doing.

“I’m getting ready to build a stockade around myself,” replied the rabbit. “Haven’t you heard the orders?” The tiger said that he hadn’t heard any orders.

“That is very strange,” said the rabbit. “The order has gone forth that every beast shall fortify himself by building a stockade around himself. All the beasts are doing it.”

The tiger became very much alarmed. “O, dear! O, dear! What shall I do,” he cried. “I don’t know how to build a stockade. I never could do it in the world. O, good rabbit! O, kind rabbit! You are such, a very good friend of mine. Couldn’t you, as a great favour, because of our long friendship, build a stockade about me before you build one around yourself?”

The rabbit replied that he could not think of risking his own life by building the tiger’s fortifications first. Finally, however, he consented to do it.

The rabbit cut down great quantities of long sharp sticks. He set them firmly in the ground about the tiger. He fastened others securely over the top until the tiger was completely shut in by strong bars. Then he went away and left the tiger.

The tiger waited and waited for something to happen to show him the need for the fortifications. Nothing at all happened.

He got very hungry and thirsty. After a while, the monkey passed that way.

The tiger called out, “O, monkey, has the danger passed?”

The monkey did not know what danger the tiger meant, but he replied, “Yes.”

Then the tiger said, “O, monkey, O, good, kind monkey, will you not please be so kind as to help me out of my stockade?”

“Let the one who got you in there help you out,” replied the monkey and he went on his way.

Along came the goat and the tiger called out, “O, goat, has the danger passed?”

The goat did not know anything about any danger, but he replied, “Yes.”

Then the tiger said, “O, goat, O, good kind goat, please be so kind as to help me out of my stockade.”

“Let the one who got you in there help you out,” replied the goat as he went on his way.

Along meandered the armadillo and the tiger called out, “O, armadillo, has the danger passed?”

The armadillo had not heard of any danger, but he replied that it had passed.

Then the tiger said, “O, armadillo, O, good, kind armadillo, you have always been such a good friend and neighbor. Please help me now to get out of my stockade.”

“Let the one who got you in there help you out,” replied the armadillo as he went on his way.

The tiger jumped and jumped with all his force at the top of the stockade, but he could not break through. He jumped and jumped with all his might at the front side of the stockade, but he could not break through. He thought that never in the world would he be able to break out. He rested for a little while and as he rested he thought. He thought how bright the sun was shining outside. He thought what good hunting there was in the jungle. He thought how cool the water was in the spring. Once more he jumped and jumped with all his might at the back side of the stockade. At last, he broke through. He did not get through, however, without getting bad cuts on both his sides from the sharp edges of the staves. Until this day the tiger has stripes on both his sides.

Written in 1917.

 

 

 

 

Sources & References:

Cooper, JC (1992). Symbolic and Mythological Animals. London: Aquarian Press.  ISBN 1-85538-118-4.

I. & P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 1952)

Spring Goddess Ostara Celebration

The Spring Equinox March ushers in a joyful Ostara Spring celebration.

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The Druids revered the Spring Equinox on the full moon of the Spring Equinox month. The Spring Equinox also called Vernal Equinox was revered by the ancient Celtic and Saxon pagans for centuries.

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Above Illustration: Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts

Ostara is the name of the pagan Anglo-Saxon Spring goddess, she represents dawn. Ostara manages nature with the aid of The Horned god, securing the growth of budding plants, and fertility of nature while celebrating the welcome of the Spring equinox through dance. Below shows Ostara on the pagan wheel of the year.

pagan wheel of the year

Ostara or Eostre is the namesake of the festival of Easter that ushers in spring and fertility.
In ancient times, Eosturmonap also known as the month of April. Eostre or Ostara feasts were held in her honor by pagan Anglo-Saxons. Ostara was mentioned early in ‘The Venerable Bede,’ 673-735 Ce.
The Christian Paschal month usurped Ostara and changed it to ‘Easter’ to celebrate the Christ resurrection or Spring Sun rebirth. During the Christian takeover of pagan Europe from the 7th to 15th centuries. Pagans were persecuted, burned at the stake and forced into Christianity.
Jacob Grimm discovered evidence that Anglo-Saxons once revered Austra an old Norse fertility goddess. Her cult of the goddess was located in the Southeast region of England.

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Today more and more NeoPagans and Wiccans have returned to their ancestral, nature religions that embrace the rule of natural law, that is sustainable and compliments mother earth. The brown hare and eggs accompany Ostara to usher in the Spring Vernal celebration.

Symbols of Spring:

The European Brown Hare also known as the ‘March Hare’ awakens out of its winter slumber to embrace the warm earth and graze on grass and clover robustly, after a long frigid winter.

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Eggs:

Folklore cites one can stand a raw egg on the end of the exact time of the Spring Equinox.

Spring equinox

March flower is represented by the Narcissus also known as Daffodil

According to folklore, daffodils are famous for bringing good fortune. An old tradition cites that if one makes the resolute effort not to trample on daffodils, Lady Ostara will award one with abundance and good luck. Daffodils are noted as the flower for those born in March.

Daffodils open a doorway to light and positive energy between the physical world and the otherworld. These cheery flowers represent Springtime,fertility, rebirth, they usher into our physical realm benevolent entities of light such as faeries and angels.

According to folklore, always give Daffodils as a bunch. A single Daffodil given to another will bring bad luck to the receiver. In some parts of the UK neighborhoods, folks who are the first to sight a Daffodil will be blessed with abundance.

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Source & Reference:

  • Shaw, Pagan Goddess in the early Germanic World, 49-71.
  • Holly, T. (2001). “Mad World of the European Hare”. In MacDonald, D. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 710–711. ISBN 0-19-850823-9.
  • Old Farmers Almanac 1792
  • Pictures in Public Domain
  • http://www.Vicnews.com

Irish Folktale: Children of Lir

The Children of Lir is an Irish Folktale, Lir was the lord of the sea. His first wife conceived four children with him. Later she died and Lir married his wife’s sister Aoife.

Unfortunately for his four children, Aoife was green with envy of them and concocted a magical spell transforming the 4 youngsters into 4 large white Swans. The children stayed as swans for 900 years until St. Patrick arrived in Ireland. According to Irish legend St. Patrick rang a Church bell and it miraculously broke the curse and returned the spellbound youngsters back to their former selves as children.

 

 

Source & Reference:

  • MacKillop, James, ed. (2004), “Oidheadh Chlainne Lir”, A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198609674.001.0001

 

  • Featured Art: The Children of Lir (1914) by John Duncan

Sámi Goddess: Akka

Today we celebrate International women’s Day! Here are some special female Goddesses of the Sámi people.

The Sámi people revere Akka, which means ‘Old Woman.’ In Finnish it means Great Grandmother. The Sámi drum represents The Great Mother Goddess Maderakka , the mother of creation, fertility and plenty. Maderakka has three daughters who help her bestow fertility to the Sámi. Sarakka means ‘Dividing Woman’ who opens the womb to allow birth. Offerings were left at the fire, daily. Juksakka, known as ‘Bow Woman’ dwells just beneath the earth she is a guardian deity that protects children. Uksakka means ‘Door Woman’, who guards both women and children, reindeer milk was sprinkled outside the door for her favour. Uksakka is responsible for the formation of the fetus in its’ mother’s womb and delegates sexes.

There is also Jabme-Akka is the goddess who governs the underworld, soothing infant spirits of deceased babes to the underworld. However, all other spirits reside in sorrow. The dead are buried with vital tools for living since everything is the opposite.

Sámi women are known for their highly, skilled weaving of textiles that is passed down through their mothers and grandmothers.

Below: Mother and child, © Nord-Troms Museum. NTRMF42-03137. Samer i Nordreisa i Troms fylke. Gunhild Marie Inger Anna Siri og Nils Isak Persen Siri. Fotografiet er fra 1940. Kvinnen bruker et vevd samisk belte. Sami mother with child in Nordreisa (1940), Troms County in Norway. The woman is wearing a woven belt

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Norwegian Sámi artist Mari Boine in Warszawa, September 2007. Photo shown below by Henryk Kotowski, 2007. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

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Source & Reference: