Unicorn Banner

I made this banner for my personna in the SCA (Aline le Fey).  Machine appliqué with hand embroidery; 33" x 50".  The background is brocade, the unicorn, flower petals and flower centers are white and yellow satin, and the the leaves are green velvet.

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I wrote a poem meant to capitalize on the Christian elements of the Unicorn Tapestries. Here you go (with some other information):



The hunters pursued through river and wood;
On one quarry their will was bent
Though they could not see Him, they followed the trail
Of His legend, His rumor, His scent.

The imprint of hoof and the glint of horn
And shimmer of silvery mane,
A tremor of strength like no courser before,
How they lusted this horned one to tame.


The hunters espied a maiden, blue-clad
Clear-voiced with pure heart and bright face.
She sang a song of the Spring, and she danced -
Each gesture, each step full of grace.

Hearing her hymn, the great horned One emerged
She more potent than hunter's trap.
He came to the maiden there in the glade
And laid His horned head on her lap.


Out poured the hunters with halter and whip,
With bridle and saddle and chain.
Each wanted to take, to tame the great beast.
Each wanted His horn and His mane.

He would not be tamed and could not be owned
Yet gave Himself freely to all.
They divided the mane, cut off the horn
And made Him drink bitterest gall.


Then shaven (or severed) and shorn of mane and of horn
And pierced by cruel spear in His side,
Hoof strong and tail light, flesh supple, eyes bright
Fell silent, and fallen, He died.

Those in despair for the fallen One cried,
Yet not long had they to mourn.
For the Fallen did rise and leapt up on high
And renewed was the mane and the horn.


Love thwarted the hunters wild in the wood,
Though they tracked with greatest of skill.
Yet Love in the virginal lap did lie
And for love was captured and killed.

Love slain for love broke the Law of the Wood.
Dying, Love caused death to die.
Love rising renewed the life of the loved.
Love living lifted the loved high.

When my family was deep in fundamentalism, we heard and believed that the unicorn was a symbol of the anti-Christ. Imagine my surprise, as I began to learn about medieval Christianity, that it was a symbol of Christ instead. In fact, there was a series of tapestries done on the hunt and capture of the unicorn. More on that later. For the purposes of my poem, the Unicorn represents Christ. The Hunters are the theologians, scientists and philosophers who tried to capture the Truth of God, or any Truth, using their own methods. But it was only the purity of the Virgin and love of Christ for man that brought Him to Earth. That idea, by the way, comes from certain medieval bestiaries:

Latin name: Unicornis

Description: The unicorn is a fierce beast that can only be captured by a maiden

Allegory/Moral: The unicorn signifies Christ, who was made incarnate in Mary's womb, was captured by the Jews, and was put to death. The unicorn's fierce wildness shows the inability of hell to hold Christ. The single horn represents the unity of God and Christ. The small size of the unicorn is a symbol of Christ's humility in becoming human.


The theme of the tapestries is the fight between the unicorn and the humans who pursue it.

The first tapestry, The Start of the Hunt, introduces us to the hunters but not the unicorn. The hunters are not dressed for hunting, but rather in clothing in rich colors and textures.

The second tapestry, The Unicorn at the Fountain, is where the unicorn uses his magical horn to remove the snake's venom from the water. It is here that the theory begins that the unicorn is a symbol of Jesus Christ. Here the unicorn, Christ, saves all from the snake's poison, Satan. Even the humans who were hunting the unicorn are awed by this act.

The third tapestry is The Unicorn Leaps the Stream. Here the serenity of the second tapestry is abandoned as one looks at a highly charged action scene. The hunters now have ugly and cruel faces--symbolizing the persecutors of Jesus Christ.

For the fourth tapestry, The Unicorn Defends Himself, the unicorn becomes savage, kicking and butting people and animals. A new comer to the scene, a man with a horn, is thought to symbolize the archangel Gabriel.

Unfortunately, the fifth tapestry, The Unicorn is Captured by the Maiden, is now in fragments because of mishandling over the years. According to tradition, the unicorn can only be trapped by a virginal maiden. The enclosed garden that the two are in, was a medieval symbol of chastity. Also, the apple tree in the center of the tapestry has many religious meanings. The most obvious is a reminder of the Fall of Adam and Eve, hence suggesting that the unicorn, Christ, and is the Redemption after the Fall.

The sixth tapestry, The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle is wrought with emotion. The overall scene is centered the slain unicorn, who is bleeding in the upper left hand corner. All in the scene seem to be awed and shocked by the sight of the slain beast being brought towards them.

The seventh tapestry, The Unicorn in Captivity is the most famous of all the Unicorn Tapestries. The unicorn here is miraculously alive again. In this tapestry he rests chained to a circular wooden gate. The rise unicorn is symbolic of the risen Christ. However, since the unicorn is chained there is some confusion to this symbolism. One theory is that the unicorn, like Jesus Christ, is linked to life or humanity forever. The other theory is that the unicorn symbolizes a bridegroom secured by his lover.

This is beautiful, thank you for sharing this!
Posted by Kester on Friday, January 13, 2012
The greatest human rights crime in America today is allowing innocent children to be murdered in the womb.
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