Tuesday, 12 January 2016


We all need a little magic in our lives, but I'm not sure where I stand on unicorns. I’ve always thought that they were mythical creatures - unlike mermaids who are definitely real - but like most myths how can anyone be sure that they don’t have some foundation in reality? It’s all a bit mixed up really and the internet hasn’t helped, there are pink, fluffy unicorns all over it.

Real or not I feel some sympathy for the poor creatures. Everybody expects these magical beasts to do things like vanishing into thin air, flying, purifying unclean water, shedding tears that heal and cure blindness and even shoot flaming stars from their eyes. In reality at best they are just horses with a horn stuck in the centre of their foreheads.

I guess that some people would think it great to have a horse with a long twirling horn between its eyes, but I'm sure that most unicorns would see it as a bit of an inconvenience. After all they are very sensible creatures. If they were some sort of horse then they would eat grass and hay and wouldn’t really need a bloody great spike to spear their prey; although it could be useful for picking apples out of the branches of trees I suppose. There may be some self-defensive benefits, and unicorns are said to be fierce, but horses can run very fast and failing that can always kick the shit out of you with their hooves.

Then there's the medicinal properties attributed to pretty much all single horned creatures like Rhinos and Narwhals and errrrr... I can’t think of any others. Unicorn tears and their blood are pretty good as a medicine apparently. Good for love potions and guaranteed to make a man both fearless and invincible. But it’s the unicorn’s horn, ground to a powder, which seems to be what people really wanted back in the day.

A unicorn horn, or alicorn, could cure anything including rubella, measles, pox, fevers and pains, the monks of Paris would sprinkle it in drinking water and give it to lepers. It was an antidote for poisoning from scorpions, vipers and dragons. It had powerful wound healing properties and was a sure-fire defence against catching the plague. It was a top class aphrodisiac and often used to test the virginity of young girls – only a virgin could catch a unicorn and if a non-virgin tried the unicorn would trample her to death.

In general a unicorn horn was a pretty useful thing to have around the castle even if it did cost ten times its weight in gold.

For an animal that nobody alive has ever seen or found any remains of they seemed to have been pretty popular and numerous in the past. They are a number of mentions for unicorns in the King James Bible and apparently refused to get on the ark; they are found on the ancient seals of Babylonia and Assyria and have royal approval from our very own Queen who has them all over the place on her coat of arms. They even named two gold coins after them in the 1400’s: the unicorn and the half-unicorn.

Of course, I’m not exactly sure where rainbow unicorns stand in all of this but they were around long before Pillow Pets. The earliest record of unicorns in Western literature belongs to Greek historian Ctesias in the 5th century BC. He described unicorns as having a white body, purple head, blue eyes, and a multicoloured horn—red at the tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. Mind you he was perpetually stoned on magic mushrooms.

So, were unicorns real or not? I’m afraid that may always remain a t-horn-y subject. Sorry for being so uni-corny.