Unicorns and Peacocks
From Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend:
- In Biblical etiology the unicorn is now extinct because he was thrown out of the ark and drowned. [...] Traditionally, it can be tamed by the touch of a virgin. If the horn of a unicorn is dipped into water the water will become pure. If a dish containing poison is touched by a unicorn's horn, the poison will be disclosed. [...] Robert Graves [author of The White Goddess] reports that "the unicorn's single exalted horn represents the single exalted pole" which reaches directly up to the zenith, the hottest point attained by the sun. In Egyptian architecture it is the obelisk and expresses dominion over the four quarters of the world and the zenith.
- In Greece the peacock was sacred to Hera and kept in her temple. [...] It is sacred among the Jats and Khonds of India and in the Punjab its feathers, smoked, will heal snakebite. [...] In European lore the peacock is a bad omen, though in medieval hermeneutics the peacock was the symbol of the soul.
From Le Bestiare Divin de Guillaume, Clerc de Normandie (13th century):
- The unicorn has but one horn in the middle of its forehead. It is the only animal that ventures to attack the elephant; and so sharp is the nail of its foot, that with one blow it can rip the belly of that beast. Hunters can catch the unicorn only by placing a young virgin in his haunts. No sooner does he see the damsel, than he runs towards her, and lies down at her feet, and so suffers himself to be captured by the hunters. The unicorn represents Jesus Christ, who took on Him our nature in the virgin's womb, was betrayed by the Jews and delivered into the hands of Pontius Pilate. Its one horn signifies the Gospel of Truth.
From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
- The peacock's tail is an emblem of an evil eye, or an ever-vigilant traitor; hence the feathers are considered unlucky.