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On the next episode of Inside The Goblin Universe Ronald Murphy and Bryan Bowden welcome Al Santariga, founder of the Bronxville Paranormal Society BPS, into the Rabbit hole to discuss Sasquatch and Strangeness – High Strangeness!
Tuesday December 12, 2017 at 8:00 PM EST/GMT
on Black Swamp Digital Radio
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“When we think about unicorns now, we think of this horse like body, pure white, with a white horn that looks like a narwhal tusk, which is very different from how it was first talked about by the Greek and Romans.
“They believed it to be quite large, with really powerful hooves that were single, like a sheep, and not split like the horse. The horn itself was supposed to be very long and black, so the antelope would have given aspects such as the horn the colouration.
“By the time we get to the European side of things, a lot of people have not been to these places where the other types of animals came from, so they could only work off of what animals they could see in the bestiaries’, or drawings of animals that they knew themselves.
“So you see in these bestiaries’, the drawings of unicorns were given characteristics from animals like greyhounds, sheep and goats. The depiction of the unicorn got smaller and smaller, until it became this very tender, goat like creature.
“Actually in some of the depictions they look as small as mice; in others they look larger, around the size of a boar and they had various characteristics added onto them as stories do over the years. So they might have the body of a boar but the head of a pig and the tail of a horse; or the body of a goat and the tail of a lion.”
In medieval Europe, the unicorn became this highly influential status of power, which impacted every level of society for thousands of years. This only lead to Elyse’s growing obsession with the creature.
“I became very interested in how something that didn’t actually exist, what was it about the unicorn, that became so influential to people?
“Because merchants would sell unicorn horns – they were often gifts for kings or for different religious institutions. And these things would cost tens of thousands of pounds, and that’s before you do the currency conversion into modern money. They were absolutely extravagant.”
The unicorn became so universally believed in because it was so heavily integrated with their daily lives.
“The horn was used as an antidote in medication, so people weren’t just talking about these things as a mythological creature, but were literally interacting with what they thought were unicorns themselves. That personal interaction, that touch – it makes it more than something that’s lofty or an ideal that can’t be touched. It became an ideal that was almost corporeal in a way.”
This was an important aspect as to how people came to believe that the unicorn existed for all those thousands of years.
“There are four main aspects of how to sell a myth.
“It needs to provide for a need, which the unicorn provided through being an antidote to poison.
“It needs to fit into the scientific knowledge of that time – it can’t be this explanation of ‘just because magic’, or ‘the supernatural’. It really needs to fit in with the understanding people had and it needed to be plausible.
“It needs to be something people can interact with – so the importance of touch and the importance of those items which were sold and traded as unicorn horns. Whatever they were used for – whether it was goblets or jewellery or even just table decorations – the importance of that physicality.
“Also how there needed to be tests of authenticity for these things – you couldn’t just give someone something and say that it works, there has to be some sort of confirmation that it works. We can look back at the steps the horn had to go through before it became important to society.”
The way unicorns are now portrayed in society has very much changed from its noble, lofty status, to a very child orientated tale. It’s drawn a lot of characteristics from the Asian depictions of unicorns, this idea of a purely benevolent creature that has been immersed in a lot of modern society, probably due to the spread of media. But the unicorn in medieval Europe could be used of good or for evil. It could represent purity or lust depending on the depictions.
From popular culture to Charlie the Unicorn, or even My Little Pony, it seems that it will always have a place in society.
As published in the Scotsman.com on Thursday 19 November 2015
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