by Tess Whitehurst
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
Unicorns are not what they seem.
On the surface level, in mainstream modern culture, unicorns are all but synonymous with fluffiness and frivolity, in the form of fancy birthday cakes, festive makeup tutorials, and fussy nail art. But, dig just a tiny bit deeper, and you will discover ancient spiritual traditions from both east and west, steeped in spiritual significance that is venerable, varied, and vast.
Here are seven of the most pronounced mystical meanings of this wise and elusive creature who has managed to remain prominent in human consciousness in multiple cultures and continents for thousands of years.
It's difficult to imagine a clearer and more obvious symbol of wonder than the unicorn. The very thought of them can transport so many of us to the realm of child-like delight and awe at the relentlessly unknowable nature of time and existence. And as jaded as mainstream culture implies we should be, the fact remains that jadedness is in no way a rational response to the exquisite beauty of life: such as the beauty we witness when we feel love in our hearts, gaze at a bright blue sky, or catch the glimmer of sunlight sparkling on waves.
Like the phoenix and the butterfly, with whom the unicorn's symbolism is traditionally wed, the unicorn represents the transformation that occurs within us when we open ourselves up to spiritual wisdom and power. Just as sunlight and rain combine to create the harmoniously balanced spectrum of color we call a rainbow, unicorns are highly attuned to the kaleidoscopic, intricate interactions of seen and unseen, known and unknown, day and night, yang and yin, the five elements, and the three realms of earth, sky, and sea. By the same token, within our consciousness, the unicorn dissolves the illusory appearance of the mundane world and reassembles it into the truer and more authentic experience of magic.
It is said that only those who are pure of heart can see unicorns: they will only appear to those with the noblest of intentions. It has also been traditionally believed that a unicorn horn can transform anything toxic—even an entire swamp—into water that is sweet, crystal clear, and perfectly pure. Another legend states that as long as there is one single living human with the passionate desire to love and serve all of life, somewhere deep in the forest there is a unicorn who runs wild and free. Clearly, there is a reason the unicorn is appealing to so many of us at this time in history, when world peace is so desperately desired and purity of our oceans, forests, and air is of such dire importance to the survival of our species and planet. And on the personal level, when you close your eyes, call up the inner vision of a unicorn, and breathe deeply, you will likely feel your personal energy become purer, cleaner, and brighter.
Considering the three specialties of the unicorn we have already discussed, unicorns are clearly aligned with healing: not only of mind, body, and spirit, but also of earth, ocean, and air. When we are drawn to the unicorn, it's likely a natural response to being in need of some form of healing. For example, in Treasures of the Unicorn, Ted Andrews writes, "At a recent conference, I was approached by a social worker who had spent great amounts of time in homes serving as a court representative for abused children. She mentioned finding paintings and figurines of unicorns in many of the homes...Since the unicorn is the most gentle, loving, and healing of all creatures, maybe its essence is required to restore such a loss of innocence and to stimulate a new birth." In mythology of both east and west, the unicorn was considered a master healer. The popularity of unicorns at this time coincides with a collective need to heal trauma on both personal and planetary levels.
- Natural Power
You might say the fairy realm is the conscious presence and aliveness of the natural world. And the unicorns are among the rarest, most magical, and most sophisticated denizens of this realm. They are traditionally aligned with the forest, as well as the healing power and wisdom inherent in crystals, herbs, flowers, trees, and animals. When the unicorn calls to you, you can inwardly connect with unicorn consciousness in order to gain mastery in working with the gifts of nature to create positive change in your life. Some of the crystals particularly associated with unicorns include amethyst, apophyllite, moonstone, and spirit quartz. Unicorns are especially aligned with certain herbs and plants, such as cinnamon, lilac, apple, water lily, holly, and clover. There are also a number of animals who have a special affinity for the unicorn, like bluebirds, deer, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and swans.
Everyone knows unicorns are sweet, pure, and filled with light. But they are not doormats! In fact, they can be quite fierce and fearsome when the situation calls for it. After all, as sparkly as they may be, unicorn horns are not merely for decoration: they are sharp weapons that can be used to defend all that is loving, peaceful, and pure of heart. Again, this mirrors the need at this time in human history to channel our loving desire for peace and the planet into bold and decisive action. Indeed, when we truly connect with unicorn energy, we become inspired to move out of our comfort zone in order to help our fellow earthlings and environment.
It is said that while unicorns can occasionally be killed, they can never captured. They far prefer death to imprisonment. This makes them powerful symbols of freedom. Admittedly, traps sometimes exist purely in our minds. But, like unicorns themselves, this doesn't make them any less real. For example, when a thought pattern ties us to a negative self-image, that is a trap. So is a habit of criticizing yourself, or an expectation that you will fail. But just as you contribute to holding these traps in place, you also hold the key to liberation. Aligning with the unicorn archetype helps us to liberate ourselves from limitations and traps of all varieties. We can call upon their image and energy to break old bonds, bust through old blocks, and generally establish a sense of freedom in every area of life.
Clearly, unicorns are good medicine, and there is a reason why they're so prominent in our cultural consciousness at this time. Feeling drawn to unicorns indicates a natural desire to heal both ourselves and our world, and to restore our beloved planet to its natural state of wholeness, harmony, and well-being.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2019. All rights reserved.