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Its National Unicorn Day so I thought we ought to take a closer look at them for #folklorefriday

Did you know that the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. How did this mythical creature become the symbol for a country?

Well the unicorn was believed in the middle ages to be the natural enemy of the lion. England uses the lion as its symbol of power so the Scots took on the symbol of the unicorn (in addition to its own lion rampant) to show they would not be defeated by their neighbours.

As the nursery rhyme shows however they ultimately were, resulting in the union of the crowns (1603) and union of parliament (1707)

The lion and the unicorn Were fighting for the crown The lion beat the unicorn All around the town.

Some gave them white bread, And some gave them brown; Some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town.

The unicorn has long been seen as a magical creature who could cure all ailments and purify water. Depictions of a single horned white horse have persisted in artworks throughout history since the bronze age. From Mesopotamia to India and China images have been used to decorate tablets and form the basis of artworks. In ancient Greece unicorns were believed to come from India, and was seen as a ferocious beast who kept all its power in its horn.

A creature with a single horn, conventionally called a unicorn is the most common image on the soapstone stamp seals of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization ("IVC"), from the centuries around 2000 BC. (Wikipedia)

In Europe during the renaissance people believed that the Unicorn was a symbol of purity and grace, leading to all sorts of associations with virginity and sexuality. Narwhal horns began to be sold claiming they were from unicorns, taking over from rhinoceros horns. Perhaps people have always been looking for something magical that can whisk us away to a better time and place.

Maybe there are real unicorns out there somewhere

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