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Animals and Witchcraft

(The Witches Familiar)

The Unicorn

Written and compiled by George Knowles

The New Year is nearly upon us, a time of goodwill and merriment, but also a time of reflection and preparation for the future.  For many people all around the world, even in places of conflict, it is a time of hope and a time to let the imagination roam free.  It is also a mystical time of the year when inspired by the beauty and wonders of the winter landscape, fairies, sprites and all-manner of mythical creatures appear and disappear, limited only by our imaginations.  One of the most enduring of all mythical creatures is the Unicorn, that magnificent silver white stallion with a long spiralling horn protruding from his forehead.  When visualised against a snowy moonlit background, the Unicorn encapsulates all the virtues of freedom, courage, strength and nobility, while at the same time representing wisdom, enchantment, benevolence and hope.

Myths and legends about Unicorns have been around since ancient times and variously describe it as:  huge, strong and fierce, or lamb-like, small and cuddly.  Ctesias of Cnidus, a Greek historian and physician to the Kings of Persia around the 5th century BC made one of the earliest mentions of the Unicorn.  In his history of India (ca. 398 BC), he recorded that:  There are in India certain wild asses, large as horses, their bodies are white, their heads dark red and their eyes dark blue.  They have a horn on the forehead about a foot and a half in length.  The dust filed from this horn is administered in a potion as protection against deadly drugs.  The base of the horn is pure white, the upper part is sharp and of vivid crimson, while the middle portion is black.  Drinking vessels are made from these horns, and those who drink from them are not subject to convulsions or the holy disease.  Indeed they are made immune even to poisons if, either before or after swallowing such, they drink wine, water, or anything else from them.

Later historians and writers such as Aristotle (384-322 BC), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) and Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) also made mention of Unicorns, which they describe as having the likeness of:  Antelope, Rhinoceros, Ox, Ram, Goat, Bull, Donkey, Horse, Serpent or Narwhal.  Pliny the Elder embodied combinations of all the above when he states that it is:  “.... a very ferocious beast, similar in the rest of its body to a horse, with the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, a deep bellowing voice, and a single black horn two cubits in length standing out in the middle of its forehead.  An animal that could never be taken alive.”

Aristotle and Pliny were considered great authorities on many subjects during their times, and their writings and theories were believed well up into the Middle Ages.  But no text from antiquity was more influential than the early Hebrew Bible, in which an animal called the “Re’em”, is mentioned several times (much later identified as a “bos primigenius”, the giant aurochs, a double horned species of wild buffalo that became extinct in Mesopotamia by about 500 BC).  However, Greek translators of the Old Testament mistranslated “Re’em”, and described it as ‘monoceros’, which in Greek means ‘single-horned’, and so in both the Old Latin Bible and some passages of the vulgate Bible it became known as “Unicornis”, and in the King James Bible as “Unicorn”.  As the Bible was familiar to all Christians throughout the Middle Ages, to doubt the existence of the Unicorn would have been to question the very word of God and so it remained.

The giant aurochs

Of the stories in the Bible about Unicorns is the legend of Noah’s Ark (mentioned in the Old Testament and the Koran).  According to this legend, Noah the son of Lamech was tenth in descent from Adam, and later as a survivor of the great flood became known as the father of all humanity (Genesis 6-9).  When God became angry about all the corruption in the world he decided to destroy it with a great flood lasting for 40 days and 40 nights.  Noah, because of his piety was forewarned to build a huge Ark, a great ship, and take on board his wife and three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, together with their wives.  He was also instructed to save two mating specimens of all the animals on Earth, but sadly he forgot to include the Unicorn, which is why they don’t exist today??  (There are various other stories about this myth, one such states... “Because of their huge size, they were tied to the stern of the Ark by their tusks and forced to swim, but after 40 days and 40 nights their strength finally gave out and they drowned before landfall could be found.”)

Perhaps the one of the most popular myths surounding the Unicorn is that he can only be captured by a virgin maiden (typically in bibical terms she is represented by the Virgin Mary).  As soon as the unicorn sees her, it lays its head in her lap and falls asleep thus enabling hunters to capture it.  Clearly this is not the same “fierce” Unicorn mentioned above.  This story is told in a famous series of tapestries called “The Hunt of the Unicorn” (thought to have been woven in Brussels or Liège during the early 1500’s) and now hangs in the Cloisters division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Because of this association with virgins, the Unicorn became a symbol of purity, innocence and playfulness.

Belief that the Unicorn was a real animal persisted right up into the Middle Ages, which is why there is such a wealth of mythology and folklore about them, but most myths are concerned with the mystical and magical qualities of the horn itself (known as Alicorn).  Folklore has it that the horn had magical healing properties that could neutralize any poison.  One story of old states:  “.... a serpent poisoned the watering hole of local animals making it unsuitable for them to drink.  When the Unicorn arrived and found the other animals thirsting, he dipped his horn into the water counteracting the poison thus making the water safe again to drink.”

Because of such stories, a lucrative trade in false Alicorn’s began, but mostly these were the horns of Bulls, Goats and other exotic animals such as the Narwhal (Monodon monoceros), a whale like creature found only in the high Arctic seas sporting a large horn-like tusk, and these were substituted.  The horns would be crafted into cups, chalices and eating utensils much prized by the wealthy.  In time the Alicorn became worth more than its weight in gold as Kings, Queens, Emperors and Popes were among the wealthy rich eager to acquire them for protection.  Through the Middle Ages until about the eighteenth century Apothecaries and pharmacies had elaborate signs of Unicorns made or showed Narwhal tusks above doors to assure customers they had the real thing in stock.  One such pharmacy still survives, the famous “White Unicorn” Pharmacy at Klatovy in the Czech Republic, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The “White Unicorn” Pharmacy at Klatovy.

Complete Unicorn horns are very rare, however, one example owned by Queen Elizabeth I of England (Queen from 1558–1603), was at the time valued at £10,000, or the equivalent of about 3,000 ounces of gold, enough to buy a large country estate complete with a castle.  The Throne Chair of Denmark (located in the Castle of Rosenborg, Copenhagen) is also thought to contain Unicorn horns, but those are almost certainly Narwhal tusks.  One carved Narwhal horn can be found located in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and measures 110 cm long with a diameter of 5.2 cm tapering to 2.5 cm.



Narwhal  -  Narwhal Horn/Tusk

Unicorns circumvent the world and feature in the myths of many different countries and cultures.  A French priest called Abbe Huc from the 19th century stated that the Unicorn originated from Tibet and is known as Serou or Kere in Mongolian.  The oldest Unicorn is Ki-Lin of China, which has been known about for 3,000 years.  There are others from China, as well as the Catazonon of India and Unicorns from Ethiopia and the Middle East.  Here in the UK it is probably best known from the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland, which has two supporting unicorns.  Later it was joined with the Lion of England to represent the 1707 union of Scotland and England in supporting the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom.  The Arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in London also has two golden Unicorns as supporters.

Today there is still a desire to discover that real Unicorns exist and many attempts have been made in the 20th century to create one.  In the 1930s a Dr. W. Franklin Dove of Maine in America manipulated a calf’s horn buds to create a bull with a single horn growing out of the middle of its head.  Although this experiment did not offer an explanation about the existence of Unicorns, it did show that it was possible for animals to grow a single horn.  Fifty years later on, Oberon Zell-Ravenhart, the founder of the Church of All Worlds in America used the same procedure on a white kid-goat to produce Lancelot, the “Living Unicorn”.  Lancelot later became a great attraction at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Oberon Zell-Ravenhart and wife Morning Glory with Lancelot the living Unicorn

Unicorn as a Totem animal or Spirit Guide:

As a guide the Western Unicorn is generally thought of as a symbol of purity, grace and hope, and as a guide, tells us to find these things within ourselves and rediscover our sense of wonder in all the beauty and goodness that surrounds us.  When Unicorn visits it could mean that he wants you to reach-out and extend good will and generosity toward others, or is he letting us know that someone near to us is in need of our help and attention??

The Unicorn is connected with Nature and the Spirits of the Forest, the Fairy Folk, and all animals who dwell in the animal Kingdom.  Here he is a symbol of strength, endurance and wisdom, and in this guise he helps us to find and develop our personal powers and nurture it.  To stand-up and be proud of all our achievements (“Nothing is impossible for you if you set your mind to it”).  But he also installs in you “wisdom”, to tread cautiously and weigh all option before decision-making.  He will also bring you great powers of healing and unlock your own potential as a healer allowing you to connect deeply with others.

Not forgetting the symbolism of his colour: 

White is the colour of innocence, purity and perfection.  White, which is symbolically similar to silver, represents the lunar, feminine aspects of receptivity, instinct, intuition and virginity.  Virginity in its truest metaphysical and alchemical aspect represents the unadulterated (untainted) mind and spirit; it is the prima materia (pure matter) and the prisca sapientia (pristine knowledge, or Wisdom).  It is for this reason that to have a Unicorn appear to us is both a great honour and Divine Gift.  Only the pure of heart and virtuous of deed are deserving to have Unicorn appear to them.” **

As the Unicorn is predominately recognisable in the form of a Horse, a symbol of Travel and Movement, so to is the Unicorn a spiritual Horse.  It has the ability to Travel and appear wherever and whenever it wishes and throughout all realms and dimensions.  In this guise he teaches us how to breakdown the barriers in our lives and step forward with courage and determination into the unknown, and to some, what may be an uncertain future.

The single, spiralled Horn of the Unicorn is symbolic of the endless Cycles of Time. It is also symbolic of the Sword, and as the Sword symbolizes the mind, so the Horn signifies Unity of Thought and Purity of Reason.  The Horn also protrudes from the centre of the Unicorns forehead, which is the location of the crown Chakra.  The crown Chakra represents the “Border Between Realms”, and is the highest level to which our minds can attain.  This is the Spiritual Gateway to the higher realms of Spirituality and Divine Consciousness, and if requested Unicorn will lead you there.

So this year as we transition from 2016 (and leave past baggage behind), and enter into the new adventures to be gained in 2017, what better then if Unicorn calls, to heed his calling and follow his teachings, or call on his help should you need him  :-)

Best wishes to all for the New Year 2017, and may your chalice tonight be made of Alicorn  :-D


Pic -

Man, Myth and Magic  - Edited by Richard Cavendish

Animal-Wise:  The Spirit Language and Signs of Nature  -  by Ted Andrews

Animal-Speak - by Ted Andrews

** Quoted from:


Written and compiled on the 31st December 2016 © George Knowles

Best wishes and Blessed Be



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Traditional Writings:


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Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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