The horn is an essential symbol of a unicorn. What is a unicorn horn, though? Why do unicorns have horns?
We´re going to start by discussing, what a horn of an animal actually is, and if the unicorn horn is different from other animal´s horns.
We are also going to explore the healing properties of unicorn horns, and the various uses of unicorn horns in history. Finally, we will talk about the connection of a unicorn and its horn.
What Is An Animal Horn?
According to a Wikipedia article on animal horns, “a horn is a permanent pointed projection on the head of various animals consisting of a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of live bone”.
Horns are not the same thing as antlers. Antlers, which are found on deer, are an extension of an animal´s skull. Unlike horns, they are not permanent; antlers are shed and regrown. Usually only male deer have antlers.
Horns are found on bovids, such as sheep and cows, and on pronghorns. The core of a horn is also an extension of an animal´s skull, but on top of the bone core growing from a skull, there is a keratin covering.
Also in species with horns, it is common that only the male have horns. Horns are often curved and they have ridges.
Animals with horns and antlers use them for self-defense, fighting and attracting females.
Many animals have horn-like features, which are often called horns, even though they are not actual horns.
The horns of unicorns are often compared to the “horns” of rhinoceroses and narwhals, because the narwhals and some species of rhinoceroses have a single horn like unicorns.
In reality, the “horns” of rhinoceroses are not horns, because they consist of just keratin; they do not have a bone core like horns.
The narwhals don´t have horns; the long “horn” of a narwhal is a tusk. Tusks are super-sized teeth. Elephants and wild boars also have tusks, but narwhals are identified with unicorns because they only have a single tusk.
What Is A Unicorn Horn?
Now that we know what a horn of an animal is, it is easier to specify what is a unicorn horn.
“A horn” is the best word to describe the unicorn horn; the unicorn horn is indeed “a permanent pointed projection on the head”. Unlike most horned animals, all unicorns have horns, not just the male.
How about the composition of a unicorn horn? Does it fit in the definition of a horn having a bone core covered with keratin? Unicorn is a magical creature, so there is no certain proof of their biology.
This means we can´t know for sure what a unicorn horn consists of either. We can study different sources, though, and make our own conclusions based on research.
According to The Magical Unicorn Society Official Handbook, “unicorn´s horns are made of precious materials, such as coral, opal and silver.”
Are unicorn horns actually made of gemstone? If so, is the whole horn made of gemstone, or just the covering?
I wonder if unicorn horns have a bone core, but the covering is gemstone instead of keratin. We don´t know that much about unicorn´s biology, so we only have legends to rely on.
Anyhow, unicorn horns are not like the horns of other animals. Unicorns are able to glow their horns, and they are able to use their horns for healing.
The Healing Powers Of Unicorn Horns
Unicorn horns, or alicorns, are known for their medicinal properties.
First of all, unicorns are able to purify water with their horns.
It has been believed, that drinking from a unicorn horn would protect from disease and poison. Drinking from a unicorn horn is also supposed to relieve stomach ache and epilepsy.
It is believed that unicorns are able to heal wounds by touching a wound with their horns.
On Bruce Coville´s novel Into the Land of the Unicorns, a young unicorn purifies the water of a river with his horn, just in case.
Even if the water was not contaminated in the first place, the unicorn dipping his horn in the water seems to do magic.
When Cara, the main character, drinks the water, she exclaims excitedly: “It tastes like diamonds!” Maybe this is because unicorn horns are made of gemstone.
Unicorn Horns In History
Already in Ancient Greece, around 400 BCE, Ctesias told the unicorn horn to protect against poison.
The healing powers of unicorn horns were even mentioned by early Christian writers. In a Christian book Physiologus, there is a story about a snake poisoning a river, and a unicorn that purifies the water with its horn.
Read more about unicorns and Christianity on the post about unicorns in the Bible.
In the Middle Ages, unicorn horn cups were highly valued. Actually, these cups were made of rhinoceros horn or narwhal tusk. However, people believed these were unicorn horns.
In the 1600s, there were newspapers in London advertising healing liquids and pills made of unicorn horn.
The royalty were also attracted to unicorn horns. The Throne Chair of Denmark is made of unicorn horn. The imperial crown of the Austrian Empire was made of unicorn horn too.
Unicorn horns were also exposed in cabinets of curiosity. Obviously, most of these horns were likely narwhal tusks.
The Connection Between A Unicorn And Its Horn
Unicorns can´t survive without their horns, and this also goes the other way round.
Unicorn horn has no magical or healing powers whatsoever, unless it´s attached to a unicorn! It does not work as a talisman for humans.
Therefore, the historical artifacts made of unicorn horn (or narwhal tusk) had no magical properties.
Unicorns can indeed purify water using their horns. But that is because the unicorns are using their horns for that. Drinking from a unicorn horn would do nothing, because then it would be just a horn without a unicorn.
The same applies to the healing powers of unicorn horns. A unicorn can heal a wound by touching it with its horns. Again, that is because the unicorn is using its horn for healing.
Unicorn And Its Horn – An Inseparable Union
Unicorn horns have intrigued people throughout history. Unicorn horns have been believed to cure diseases and purify water.
In the Middle Ages, cups made of unicorn horn were highly valued, since people believed drinking from one would protect from poisoning.
Up until 17th century, liquids and pills made of unicorn horn were widely sold as medicine. Artifacts made of unicorn horn also attracted the royalty.
In reality, most of the historical objects made of unicorn horn were actually made of narwhal tusk. Anyhow, these objects could not have any healing properties, because a unicorn horn can only have magic when it´s attached to a unicorn!
Unicorns can´t survive without their horns, and their horns only have magic when they are attached to a unicorn´s head. A horn is the most magical part of a unicorn, and it is believed to be made of gemstone.
Unicorns can glow their horns, and they can indeed heal wounds and purify water using their horns. This is like a wizard using his magic wand; the wand alone can´t do any magic. There needs to be a wizard with the magic.
Let me know, what you think about unicorn horns! What is a unicorn horn in your opinion? Do you believe it´s made of gemstone or something else?
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