The Unicorn, a Mythological Investigation, by Robert Brown, , at sacred-texts.com
WITH the lunar phases is closely connected the mysterious goddess, Hekatê, 'the-Far-shooting,' whose Aryan name, like the epithets Hekatos, Hekatebolos, Telephos, Telephassa, etc., describes 'the far-reaching action of the solar or lunar rays.' 1 Unmentioned in the Homerik Poems, she appears before us in the pages of Hesiod 2 as an august figure, daughter of Perses 3 and Asteria, the star-lighted splendour of space, honoured above all by Zeus and the other gods although a Titanic being of a race earlier than the completed Pantheon of Olympos. Sole-begotten, a survival of the fittest, endowed with a triple dominion in earth, sea, and heaven, she sits in the seat of judgment beside kings, crowns whom she will with victory in war and in the games, grants wealth and honour, is patron of riders and mariners, and is generally Kourotrophos, 'a Nursing-mother.' This remarkable personage, whose character seems more complicated than that of an ordinary Aryan divinity, and who receives the
utmost respect from the race of Zeus to which she does not belong, presents a striking analogy with the august Moon-god of the Euphrates Valley, sole-begotten 'amongst the stars that have a different birth,' wise and ancient ruler of the sea, connected with growth, with the horse, and, as we shall see, with the Unicorn, and in some way or other of a triple character; Hesiod gives her dominion in earth, sea, and heaven, whilst others give her sway in heaven, earth, and underworld. True she has received an Aryan name, and in accordance with the lunar feelings of the Greeks, is represented as a goddess; but these circumstances are by no means conclusive on the question of her origin. I am unable, however, to pursue the enquiry here, suffice it to draw attention to the parallel. The cult of the goddess appears to have entered Greece from the direction of Thrakê. 1
The very important element of triplicity is a remarkable link between the Euphratean Moon-god, Hekatê 2 and the Unicorn. The Moon-god Sin, as we have seen, 3 is represented by the three tens from the natural circumstance that his course was completed in
about thirty days. This is one aspect of his triplicity, and tends to bring his trigonic phase into greater prominence; but he was also regarded by the Babylonians as having a threefold movement, 'one in longitude, one in latitude, and one in an orbit,' 1 and here is a second aspect of triplicity. But ere men calculated the course of the moon, or considered its real or supposed different movements, they observed the orb itself, and noticed its three phases or formsCrescent-moon, Half-moon, and Full-moon. 'Cum tribus pingebatur, faciebus, inquit Cleomedes, quia veteres tres in luna figuras observabant, bicornis scilicet lunae, mediae et plenae.' 2 In the Argonautika, 3 a poem of late date, but to which in common with numerous other apocryphal productions the name of Orpheus 4 has been attached, Hekatê Triformis appears as Horse, Dog, and Snake. Sir G. W. Cox connects the Horse with the Full-moon, the Snake with the Waxing-moon, and the Dog with the Waning-moon; but, whilst this connexion is anything but obvious, another view of these phases will I think be admitted to be the correct one. And here let me call special attention to one of the most venerable relics in England, a drawing of a portion of which forms the Frontispiece of this Monograph, namely, the ivory horn of Ulf
now in the vestry of York Minster. 'An inscription in Latin upon the horn states that Ulphus, prince of the Western parts of Deira, originally gave it to the church of St. Peter, together with all his lands and revenues. Camden, in his Britannia, mentions this horn, and quotes an ancient authority for an account of the donation of which it served as a token. The church holds by this horn several estates of great value, not far eastward from the city of York, and which are still called Terrae Ulphi.' 1 And now upon this famous Horn we find both Hekatê Triformis and the Unicorn; the Horned-horse is palpably the Crescent-moon; the Snake or Serpent is the emblem of the rays of light from the Full-moon, the Gorgô Medousa; 2 and the Dog, whose head and neck only appear, represents the Half-moon. The Dog may be also connected with the New or Invisible-moon. Pausanias says that 'the Kolophonians sacrifice a black whelp to Enodios,' 3 i.e., Hekatê, as goddess of cross-roads. The Unicorn of Ulf has the prominent eye before noticed in unicornic representations, 4 and which refers to the increasing moon soon to be full. The horn, it will be observed, is fast in the Sacred Tree, 5 and this feature of the myth I shall have occasion subsequently 6 to notice particularly. Suffice it
to remind the reader here that dark groves were sometimes sacred to Hekatê, as e.g., near Lake Avernus in Lower Italy. 1 Black female lambs were also offered to the goddess. 2
It is evident that this triple-moon-phase, Unicorn-horse, Serpent and Dog, familiar alike to the artist of the Horn and to the writer of the Argonautika (not to mention others), is of a high antiquity. Hekatê has a triple power in 'Hesiod,' the Euphratean Moon-god is equally connected with triplicity; 3 but the chief point in the present investigation is that the Unicorn, whom we have seen in Babylonian art in the closest connexion with the lunar power, is shown by this venerable Horn to be beyond all contradiction the undoubted emblem of the crescent-moon.
Elsewhere I have observed, 'Hellenik divinities whose shapes are grotesque, monstrous or unhuman, are invariably not indigenous. Apparent exceptions to this canon, such, for instance, as the Horse-headed Dêmêtêr of Phigaleia, or the Arkadian Pan, on careful examination, serve only to confirm it.' 4 After noticing 'the Four-faced Karthaginian Baal,'
[paragraph continues] 'the solar Time-king in his four changing seasons,' I remarked;
'In the Kerameikos, at a place where three ways met, stood a four-headed Dionysiak statue, the work of the sculptor Telesarchides. It has been frequently said that Hekatê and Hermes derive their occasional triplicity, and other unanthropomorphic adjuncts, from presiding over places where three roads met and the like. But although in later times these ideas were to some extent connected, and though the statue of a tri-kephalik or tetra-kephalik divinity might indeed with much propriety be erected where three or four roads met; yet the previous supposed character of the personage would occasion the act, the idea of many heads would not spring from that of cross-roads. That the heads in origin were quite independent of the roads, is well shown in the instances before us, in which a four-headed god presided where three ways met.' 1 Other epithets of Hekatê, such as Trioditis, 2 Triceps, Tergeminus, Trivia, etc., require no further remark; and with the degradation of the goddess, the process by which she at length becomes a demon-witch, culminating in the Shaksperian Hekatê, I am not here concerned, nor in the present investigation can I refer further to the Moon-dog.
41:1 Rev. Sir G. W. Cox, Introd. 66.
41:2 Theogonia, 409-52.
41:3 Vide secs. VII. XII. subsec. 3.
42:1 Cf. Paus. II. xxx. 1.
42:2 'Tergeminam Hecaten, tria virginis ora Dianae' (Vergil, iv. 511). According to Pausanias, 'Alkamenes [cir. B.C. 420] first made for the Athenians the statue of Hekatê with three bodies joined in one' (Paus. II. xxx. 1). There was also a 'three-handed Hekatê' (Sir G. W. Cox, M.A.N. i. 370). The statue of Alkamenes was not unanthropomorphic, but three female figures addorsed (vide G.D.M. i. 420), like the example given by Montfaucon (vol. i. pt. i. pl. xc. fig. 5), and frequently since reproduced.
42:3 Sec. IV.
43:1 Prof. Sayce, in T.S.B.A. iii. 147.
43:2 Montfaucon, vol. i. pt. i. p. 152.
43:3 V. 975 et seq.; vide Sir G. W. Cox, M.A.N. ii. 142.
43:4 Probably 'the Vedic Ribhu or Arbhu, a name which seems at a very early period to have been applied to the sun' (Sir G. W. Cox, Introd. 191; cf. R. B. Jr., G.D.M. i. 10).
44:1 Winkle, Cathedral Churches, i. 62.
44:2 Sec. VII.
44:3 Paus. III. xiv. 9. It is to be noticed that he uses a masculine form of the name of the goddess. Euripides calls her Enodia.
44:4 Sec. III. Nos. V. XIII. XXX.
44:5 Cf. the instances of Unicorn and Tree, sec. III.
44:6 Sec. XII. subsec. 3.
45:1 Vide A. S. Murray, Manual of Mythology, 78.
45:2 Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. xlix.
45:3 If the three-headed Lion-god of Meroe (vide Rawlinson, Herod. ii. 35), who has four arms (vide my remarks on the four-armed Lakedaimonian Apollôn, G.D.M. i. 359 et seq.) be solar, we should have an instance of solar triplicity also. The Triform Hekatê appears at times on Roman lamps (vide Birch, Ancient Pottery, 507, 511. As to these representations of the goddess, vide also Petersen, Archaeologisch-epigraphische Mittheillungen aus Oesterreich, vol. iv. pt. ii.).
45:4 G.D.M. i. 359. In this work I have examined many instances of unanthropomorphic divinities which appear in Hellenik regions.
46:1 G.D.M. i. 362.
46:2 Orphik Hymn, i. l.