Uses Of Unicorns
This horn is useful and beneficial against epilepsy, pestilential
fever, rabies, proliferation and infection of other animals and vermin,
and against worms within the body from which children faint. Ancient
physicians used their Alicorn remedies against such ailments by making
drinking mugs from the horn and letting their patients drink from them.
Nowadays such drinking vessels are unobtainable and the horn itself must
be administered (as a powder) either alone or mixed with some other drug.
Genuine Alicorn is good against all poison, especially; so some say, the
quality coming from
||The Unicorn's horn, or alicorn, has been
its glory and its downfall. From the earliest times and
in parts of the world animal horns of all kinds have been accorded
medicinal and even magical properties. One has only to look at the
horn symbolism in the bible to sense their significance in cultures closer
to nature than ours. Even today throughout much of the world powdered
horn is sold to remedy a host of illnesses, but none, not even that of
the rhinoceros has ever rivaled the healing virtue attached to alicorn.
In the sixteenth century the accumulated wisdom of the ages was summed
up by Dr.Conrad Gesner of Zurich as follows.
poison, or at least reduce its efficacy. The basis for
this belief is the old story of how the Unicorn used its horn to purify
spring water so that other beasts might drink, a trick known as "water
conning." Generally this takes place where there is some venomous snakes
in order that other animals might drink of it was reliably recounted by
the fourteenth century priest, John of Hesse. Hesse visited the Holy
Land and actually observed a unicorn thus cleansing polluted water.
After the water had been thus purified, many other animals came down to
drink from it, thus water conning" was an important and highly beneficial
unicorn activity. The discovery of water conning came
|the Ocean Isles. Experience proves that anyone
having taken poison and becoming distended thereby, recovered good health
on immediately taking a little Unicorn horn. In the mere presence
of poison a piece of Alicorn is said to sweat and change color. If
a piece of horn is dipped into poison. or poison is poured into an Alicorn
cup, the Alicorn will effervesce and neutralize the
have not existed. Alicorns are among the most powerful
of magical items. A horn set in the middle of a of magical
items. A horn set in the middle of a table would begin to sweat,
or form a dew, if any of the foodstuffs had been poisoned. Even a
little powder filed from such a horn was an antidote to the most toxic
substances. Small wonder that in a place like fourteenth century
||at a critical time in European history, since typhoid
fever was then ravaging Europe's population. Many suspected that
the dread disease might be carried by the polluted water they were forced
to drink. While the Alicorn was considered by kings, scholars, and
popes, a necessity against poisons and disease, for the majority, however,
Alicorn was so scarce that for most people it might as well
Some of the tests included:
||Italy, where poisoning was a common way to deal one's
enemies, these horns were considered treasures indeed. As might be
expected, an item both so valuable (horns sometimes sold for ten times
their weight in gold) and so rare (some legendshave it that there is never
more than one unicorn on earth at a time) was a great temptation for frauds.
With so many people selling false alicorns, it was necessary to find a
way to determine which were real.
* Drawing a ring on the
floor with the aileron. A spider placed in such a ring would not be able
to cross the line, and in fact would starve to death trapped within the
* Placing the horn in
water, which would cause the water to bubble and seem as if it were boiling,
even though it remained cold.
* Placing a piece of
silk upon a burning coal, and then laying the horn on top of the silk.
If the horn was truly an aileron, the silk would not be burned.
* Bringing the horn near
a poisonous plant or animal, which would burst and die in reaction to it.
privileged classes. At least a small part
of a unicorn's horn became necessary equipment for castles or churches
to have on hand in order to deal with sickness and the bites of mad dogs,
spiders, and scorpions, and for protection against poisoning by other people.
Poisoning enemies was certainly one of the most popular methods of murder
in the Middle Ages, and noblemen, especially in Italy, lived in continuous
dread of having their foods or drinks tainted by poison. Even having
a "taster" did not guarantee
the trade in ailerons was very real in the Middle
Ages, and many noble houses listed one of the
mystical horns among its treasures.
In the Middle Ages the supply of Aileron suddenly
increased and every report of a sighting
of a Unicorn was eagerly pursued by hunters
after the treasure on its brow. After the Crusades, Eastern knowledge
of unicorns gradually permeated most of Western Europe, especially
among the wealthier and more
by a Milanese woman named Aqua Toffana, who reportedly
was responsible for abruptly terminating the careers of more than six hundred
persons before she herself was publicly strangled. Similarly, during
the mid-1600s in Rome there was a secret society of women whose sole aim
was to poison all of their husbands! Certainly under these conditions it
was in the interest of all persons of wealth and position to have a piece
of genuine unicorn horn close at hand. Unicorn horn was not the only
substance known to be useful for detecting poisons during this period.
Other objects, such as snake tongues, the claws of griffins, and the accretions
sometimes found in the intestines of various animals, were also acclaimed
as poison detectors and purifiers.
|ne's safety, for many of the better poisons were concocted
in such a way that they might not take effect for several hours, if not
days, after the poisons had been consumed. The market for unicorn horns
was therefore at least as good as the market for tasteless, odorless, and
absolutely fatal poisons. Such was the deadly "Acquette di Napoli," a prestige
brand of poison manufactured
Yet of all these, the unicorn horn was considered
paramount. Even after some of the more enlightened persons began to doubt
its effectiveness, the horn was still in great demand. Since the public
at large continued to believe in the power of the unicorn horn, servants
and peasants were disinclined to try to poison their lords or masters and
put the question to the ultimate test. Like the modern use of elks'
teeth and rabbits' feet, the horns continued to serve a purpose long after
people began to doubt their power or understand their original purpose.
As the market for unicorn horns grew, the difficulty of obtaining them
increased, and the value of true unicorn horn soared until it was worth
its weight in gold. No less a personage than Pope Paul Ill paid twelve
thousand pieces of gold for a genuine unicorn horn, and in England James
I likewise paid ten thousand pounds sterling for a horn. Anxious
to try out its effectiveness, the good king ground up a bit of it and placed
the powder in a draft of poison, which he then generously asked a servant
to drink. When the man promptly died, James was extremely annoyed,
as he obviously had not received high quality goods in spite of the price
he had paid. Correspondingly, unicorns grew ever rarer. People
began to doubt that any survived. Some suggested that perhaps the unicorns
had been unable to find adequate areas of habitation. Unicorns are
wisdom personified and their knowledge of nature enables them to remain
hidden from man. Unicorns usually have to be tricked or enticed
to be captured.
thinkers of the Middle Ages, believed the male carbuncle'
to be the king of gems, able to dispel poison, guard from plague and banish
sadness, evil thoughts and nightmares. It could be employed as either
an amulet or a powder and a good stone would shine so brightly of its own
accord as to be visible through clothing. The stone is mentioned
in several of the romances about Alexander the Great. In the Song
of Alexander by Pfaffen Lamp written in the twelfth century we hear of
a gift from Queen Candace to the conqueror: (see Carbuncle, The Ruby Stone.
In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzfal, it is said of one of the remedies
applied to the Grail King's wounds (in vain as it happens, since nothing
but the attainment of the Grail can do that). In Parzfal it
is mentioned that the Unicorn's heart was also used as a medicine.
The twelfth century Abbess Hildegard of Bingen went even further.
Drawing largely on Arabic lore, she found medicinal value in almost every
part of the poor creature's body, and provided recipes accordingly:
|Rarer still than true Unicorns horn is
the mystic ruby, also called a carbuncle, rumored to be found at the horn's
base. Some authorities have held the jewel to be the source of the horn's
powers. However, as it has not been found consistently in all
||Unicorns, it is possible that the ruby'
is some kind of distillation of the concentrated essence of the horn.
It may, perhaps, only occur in very old or wise Unicorns and be caused
by a crystallization of blood. Albertus Magnus, alchemist and one
of the most and one of the most influential
'Take some Unicorn liver, grind it up and mash with
egg yolk to make an ointment. Every type of leprosy is healed if
treated frequently with this ointment. 'Take some Unicorn pelt, from
it cut a belt and gird it round the body thus averting attack by plague
or fever. 'Make also some shoes from Unicorn leather and wear them,
thus assuring ever healthy feet, thighs and joints; nor will the plague
ever attack those limbs. Anyone who fears being poisoned should place
a Unicorn hoof beneath the plate containing his food, or the mug holding
his liquor. If warm food and drink are poisoned, the hoof will make them
effervesce; if they are cold it will make them steam. Thus one can detect
whether they are poisoned or not. Unicorns have many strange abilities,
but of all the things they can do, it seems we are most fascinated by their
power to heal. For the touch of a unicorn's horn can pull us away
from death, toward immortality.