Myths from Asia are filled with stories of magical beings that are very similar to the western concept of unicorn. Often these creatures are kind and benevolent beings with purest of hearts.
Stories about unicorns can be found from around the world. Magical deer and horse-like creatures with one horn in the middle of the forehead. In many Asian myths story of the unicorn begins with a statement that unicorn was the first creature that was created and it was the most magnificent and purest creature to wonder in this earth. Asian unicorn was told to be a gentle soul who would not even hurt a fly – quite literally. Unicorns were careful not to crush insects while walking. They did not eat fruits because of the life inside them. Their hooves barely touched the grass when they were running. This might have connections to the concept of ahimsa from Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina religions where one of the main principles is to honour life because all life is sacred.
According to Eastern legends the free and wild unicorn who was also the most gentle of all beings would hide itself into the mystical other realms until day would come when mankind would give up on it´s evil ways. Only then would unicorn appear to men and would allow itself to be tamed.
Qilin's statue in Beijing's summer palace
The Chinese Qilin
In Chinese mythology Qilin is a hybrid creature who has the body of a deer or a tiger, hooves of a horse, tail of an ox and a head of a dragon. It´s body is also covered with shiny green scales like a fish. There are descriptions which say that Qilin has wings or at least that it has ability to fly and it has clouds in it´s feet. Qilin has a single horn growing from it´s forehead but it is not a straight spiral shaped horn. Qilin´s horn curves backward. Qilin was believed to be one of the most benevolent animals who offered protection, comfort, prosperity and guidance for those who respected it. Qilin represents goodness and like other Asian unicorns it is a gentle soul who does not wish to harm any living beings. Attributes such as wisdom, harmony, purity, knowledge and gentleness are connected to Qilin. It was also told to have the gift of prophesy.
From Japanese mythology we find two types of unicorns; Kirin and Sin-You. Kirin is a kind and shy creature. Sin-You has tendency to be more judgmental. Legend tells that Sin-You has the power to detect those who lie and it possessed ability to tell the right from wrong. If Sin-You found the wrongdoer guilty it would kill them by impaling it´s horn to the person´s heart.
Unicorns in Vietnam
In Vietnamese folklore unicorns are known as qué ly or lan. First mentions of these creatures in come from 2700 years ago from the time period of Duong Dynasty where they symbolized prosperity. For Vietnamese qué ly was one of the most sacred animals and many of the temples were decorated with images of it. Qué ly or Qué lan it usually was depicted to have a dragon´s head and a horse´s body. There are more detailed imaginative descriptions which say that it also had a mouth of a crocodile, dog´s ears, nose of a lion and a horn of a deer. It also may had scales covering it´s body and mustache of a catfish. Qué ly was able to shape shift it´s appearance so it would have appeared in different forms to people. It was a symbol of good luck, happiness and longevity.
Story of Kiringul is connected to the ancient kingdom of Kogyryo. According to the legend founder of this ancient Kingdom King Tongmyong rode kiringul. In Vietnam and in Korea it was believed that Kirin and Kiringul lived inside caves and high in the mountains. These myths might have links to the past of these two countries where several of the ancient civilisations lived in caves. Some of the caves had a whole Eco-system with lakes and fountains inside them. They were idyllic places for these magical creatures to live.
Ancient Kingdom of Persia also had it´s own stories of the unicorn but unlike it´s other Asian counterparts Persian Kardakann was frightening and ferocious warrior. According to some descriptions it had six eyes and nine mouths and three hove's on each leg. Kardakann was also a shape sifter who could change it´s shape at will. Most impressive was it´s horn which was told to be pure gold. Kardakann was told to be an aggressive beast who intimidated all the other animals accept the ring dove. Stories tell that Karkakann had particular fascination to the bird´s song and that it was the only thing that could tame the wild beast. It is possible that some of the stories of the wild beastly Kardakann were inspired by Rhinos and it´s aggressive nature was simply a reflection of the Persian military power. There are also milder version of the Kardakann describing it to be a deer, stag, horse or an antelope with one-horn. This kind of Kardakann was a gentle soul and like other western unicorns it had ability to purify water simply by immersing it´s horn into a stream, lake or a pond but the consequences of this would be that all the females would immediately become pregnant.
Unicorns in India
There are lots of unicorn-like creatures in Indian folk tales and legends. Most famous of them is rsya. Creature that looks like an antelope or a water buffalo who has one singular horn rising from it´s forehead. Ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata even mentions human-like being called Rsyasrnga who also had a horn in his forehead.
Origins of the Legend
In all of these countries and cultures artists were found of portraying mythical creatures. Most of the time unicorns are inspired by animals who traditionally grow antlers on each side of their forehead but there are oddities in nature and sometimes one-horned deer's, antelopes and bulls are born. Depending on the specie some animals can drop their horns/antlers after mating season, coming of age or loose them in battles. Could they be the original inspirations to the legend of the unicorn? You decide.
The Natural history of Unicorns by Chris Lavers
Unicorns, the myths, legends and lore by Skye Alexander
As all Harry Potter fans know J.K.Rowling has magical talent to come up with great character names. Interestingly enough many of the Harry Potter characters are named after gods and goddesses of the ancient world and in many ways these particular characters share the same traits as the deities they were named after.
Hermes God of Thieves and Alchemy
Hermione is the brightest student of all Hogwarts. According to J.K.Rowling Hermione was named after a character in Shakespeare´s play Winter´s tale. However name Hermione is derived from Greek god Hermes. Hermes was the second youngest Olympian god. He was the son of Zeus and a nymph called Maia. He was the patron god of herdsmen, thieves, market place, merchants, travelers, boundaries, public speakers, heralds and graves. Hermes could travel between worlds; both mortal and divine. He was a god who wore golden sandals and he had a staff called Caduceus that had two snakes entwined into it. His name Hermes means putting things together which also made him god of logic and analytical thinking. During the classical era of ancient Greece Hermes became the patron god of magic, magicians and alchemy. This begins to sound more like our Hermione. She is no stranger for stealing either. Do you remember how in her second year at Hogwarts Hermione stole ingredients from Snape´s cabin to make the Polyjuice potion?
Minerva Goddess of Wisdom
Minerva McGonagall is the professor of transfiguration and the Head of Gryffindor house, Deputy Headmistress and later on became the Headmistress of Hogwarts. She is also a registered animagus and can transform herself into a cat. According to Harry Potter Wikia Minerva was named after her grandmother. A talented witch also named Minerva.
In the Roman mythology Minerva is the goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, arts, trades, handcrafts and strategic warfare. Origins of Minerva lie in Greek myths and stories about Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, warfare and shape sifting. Athena was the protector goddess of Athens, city that was named after her. Birth myth of Minerva also follows the birth myth of Athena. According to the myth her mother was titaness Metis, goddess of thinking and knowledge and her father was Jupiter/ (Roman) Zeus (in his Greek form) the ruler god of the skies. Minerva burst from Jupiter´s head fully armored. Minerva´s symbol was the owl, animal which represented hidden knowledge, learning and wisdom. Like all deities in Greko-Roman myths Minerva also had ability to change her form and most often she took the shape of an owl. She was also known as Minerve Medica, goddess of medicine and physicians.
In the battle of Hogwarts Minerva McGonagall was one of our heroes fearlessly leading troupes into the battle to fight against Voldemort. She is also one of the most famous hatstallers. Sorting hat spent good five and a half minute pondering whether Minerva ought to go to Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. She is both smart and brave.
Luna Goddess of the Moon and Imagination
Luna is one of my favorite characters in Harry Potter books. Her name comes from Roman goddess Luna who was the goddess of the moon and her Greek counterpart was Selene. Luna means moon in Latin and is derived from the Latin word "lucere"meaning shine. Luna was a minor goddess who was seen as in three aspect as part of triple goddess (diva triformis) consisting Luna, Hekate goddess of witchcraft and Proserpina goddess of fertility. Luna was seen as the goddess of moon, dreams, sacred feminine and imagination. Other well-known goddesses connected to the moon in Roman myths were Juno, goddess of warfare and sacred unions and Diana, goddess of hunt. In Roman mythology Luna is the female compliment of the sun (Sol). She was believed to be a beautiful young woman who would ride across the night sky in a chariot pulled by shining horses or ox´s which were sacred animals to her. In Harry Potter books Luna is eccentric young woman who is not afraid to be herself. Sometimes other people made fun of her and called her Loony Lovegood. Words meaning mad like loony and lunatic are also derived from the word Luna. Back in the days lunatic was a specific word to describe someone who was especially effected by the full moon making them bit insane. Maybe Luna is a bit loony but she has heart of gold. She is very loyal to her friends and there is bright aura around her. One of the symbols of the moon goddess is the hare. I´m sure you can all remember that in Harry Potter book´s Luna´s patronus is also a hare.
Pomona goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards
Professor Sprout who´s full name is Pomona Sprout is motherly leader of the Hufflepuff House. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty and loves everything that grows. Professor Sprout was named after a goddess who was not too different from her. Pomona was a Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens, orchards, fertility and abundance. In Greek myths she is often associated with Demeter, goddess of grain and harvest. In ancient port of Rome there was a sanctuary dedicated to Pomona called Pomonal. Pomona was a wood nymph and her name originates from a Latin word for an orchard fruit. According to the legend she was courted by two woodland gods Silvanus and Picus but in the end she married Vertumnus, Roman god of seasonal change. In ancient Rome a festival was hold to honor Pomona and Vertumnus on August 13th. Pomona was often depicted holding a bowl of fruits or the cornucopia, eternal symbol of abundance in her hands.
Parvati Goddess of Universal Energy
Parvati and Padma Patil are twin sisters and students at Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. Parvati is in the Gryffindor house while her sister Padma is in Ravenclaw. In Hindu mythology Parvati was the feminine form of shakti, the universal life force, pure divine energy. She was married to Shiva god of war and lord of dance. Parvati was daughter of the mountain king Himavan (also known as Parvat) and queen Mena. King Himavan was the personification of the mount Himalaya therefore name Parvati implies she of the mountain. Parvati was also told to be the sister of the god Vishnu and the river goddess Ganga (who´s after the river Ganges is named). Parvati was mother of Ganesha, the half-human, half-elephant god of luck and success. She represents creativity, love, devotion, determination, fertility of the earth and spiritual connection. Padma on the other hand means lotus which is the symbol of the goddess in Hindu legends.
Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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