How to catch a unicorn, medieval style

This lovely and odd bit of embroidery brings us closer to the cover reveal for my forthcoming book on unicorns, On the Reality, Mythology, and Fantasies of Unicorns to be published by Dragonwell Publishing this September.

One of the more common myths of the the unicorn found in Medieval Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa is that a chaste or virginal woman was the ideal bait to capture a unicorn. The woman would be left in a clearing alone, and the unicorn couldn’t resist coming to her. Some versions of this myth required the woman to be naked.

Nudity in the European medieval mind was a step away from civilization and a return to being more like an animal – going wild if you were. If you were naked, you were not civilized. Despite this, it was not uncommon to find people portrayed as naked in Medieval European art, both in public and private settings.

The woman in the embroidery is portrayed wild in her nudity, covered in fur like an animal to express this exact thought symbolically. Her hair is long and flowing, with a wreath of flowers. Medieval women are often depicted in art with their heads covered, the hair often hidden. In this embroidery, it is not enough to be a chaste maiden, a woman must strip off the niceties of civilization to attract a unicorn.

Heliotrope put out an album of music called:The Romance Of The Rose – Feminine Voices From Medieval France, which uses this image on the cover. It is beautiful. Listen to a sample from it at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s