The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries
The innocence of the Unicorn is signified, not only by its clean, white coat, but by its single, uncloven, horn. One horn suggests unity, it cannot be entered, it wards off intrusion. Dual horns, in this context, suggest that that which was whole is now split. The possessor of two horns lives in the world of opposites, of two sexes, and therefore is concerned with procreation. That which is split then seeks reunion through the birth of the third, mirror image of itself, and so the regenerative cycle goes on.
That is why the Unicorn can only be tamed by a virgin, for the Virgin is undefiled, unitary, and protected. The Men of the World cannot open the Unicorn’s body unless he lies in the lap of the Virgin who comes forward voluntarily with an aura of sacrifice. The symbolism of the single fertilizing horn in a Virgin’s lap is clear. In the case of the Unicorn, there is a divine fertilization. Only when the Soul, (the Virgin) is torn away from her union with the Divine, can she be joined with man. Therefore the men, who seek to re-discover lost innocence, and because they are of the World, cannot value purity as inner possession only, and kill the Virgin’s Divine connection so she will be available for them in the world of duality.
This interpretation suggests that there is an alternate allegory to that of the passion of Christ possible here, something to do with the Virgin as World Soul in union with the Divine, and the Unicorn as the mystic seeking return to the source.It is also a Creation myth that shows the Fall into duality without which earthly life would not be possible.
For me, the quest for the Unicorn, and these beautiful tapestries, evoke great Mystery, so they are part of my Mysterious Domain…which is of course, in my imagination…
A Mystery is Sought
The Hunters represent primal man, crude, blind, and driven by base desires without the light of consciousness. They enter the forest to hunt, but find themselves on the path of a great Mystery that will instill a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Only a powerful encounter with the Otherworld will be shocking enough to awaken them.
They come upon a Unicorn dipping his horn in a fountain.
The Hunters break out of the woods and find a garden where all the animals, both hunter and hunted, live in peace and harmony together. It is the Garden of Paradise before the Fall, before the intrusion of Man.
A beautiful, pure white Unicorn dips his horn into the Waters of Life, both to purify them, and fertilize the Earth with his divine power.
The Waters springing up from the Underworld let us know we are in the Realm of Faery…
The Unicorn leaps over a stream
The Unicorn sees the Hunters and leaps over the stream that runs from the fountain. In the old traditions, bodies of water, especially rivers and streams, are crossing points between the mortal world and the Otherworld of Faery. It is interesting to note that while the Unicorn was at the fountain, he was safe in Paradise where the Hunters were not able to act against him. By leaping over the stream, is he not, therefore, running toward danger, straight into the spears and arrows? If that is the case, it would seem his sacrifice is voluntary, as all true sacrifices must be.
The Unicorn defends himself
The Unicorn defends himself by attacking the dogs. Is this not a representation of how the most pure, Divine power must seek protection from the defilement of the basest instincts of Man symbolized by the dogs? In the old fairy stories, animals often stood for the gross sexual appetites, unrefined and undisciplined by the consciousness of the higher mind. The idea of the tail wagging the dog comes to mind when you think of people who chase after sexual pleasure, or release, irregardless of the consequences.
Rather than defending himself, could the Unicorn be protecting the Virgin? Could he be trying to prevent the primitive Hunters despoiling her with rude weapons and coarse sexuality? For the Unicorn is the Virgin’s lover is he not?
The Ladies know what it means to capture the Unicorn
A Virgin Tames the Unicorn
This is event is always referred to as the Virgin taming the Unicorn, but it not be seen another way? It is really an image of the Unicorn laying hos head in the Virgin’s lap. While lying there between her legs, he is killed by the Hunters. Perhaps the Unicorn lays down its life to protect the Virgin from the instinctual, untamed, and unenlightened desires of the Hunters. He is her purity, and her inviolability. Once the unity is cleft, there can be no return to Paradise. Innocence is lost forever.
Interestingly, this piece of the tapestry is damaged and the figure of the virgin torn away. The red gowned Lady coyly looking on is merely her handmaiden. We see the dog drawing the Unicorn’s blood.
So much for the pure, innocent Soul of the World in our times…
The Hunters slay the Unicorn
The Unicorn is pierced through the heart , both his spiritual heart located below the throat and his physical heart in his breast. The Palace of civilization stands on the other side of a lake. The refined Lords and Ladies stream down from the palace to receive the Hunters who seem changed by their encounter with the Unicorn.They approach the Ladies who appear to instruct them, perhaps on the proper attitude of respect to maintain regarding the Procreative Mysteries.
Indeed, the Lord and Ladies seem to ignore the Unicorn as he is impaled above them, at the edge of the palace garden. They seem much more intent on sharing the gifts of civilization with the Hunters. The palace is thus the realm between the higher and lower levels of being.
The Unicorn is restored to life
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