LONDON — Unicorns are real. At least they are in Scotland where the mythical creature is considered the national animal.
Starbucks may have made big headlines in the United States last month for its limited release of the Unicorn Frappuccino blended drink.
But the northern British country went one step further to celebrate National Unicorn Day on April 9 with a 7-foot sculpture made of willow as one of the centerpieces. VisitScotland, the nation’s tourism body, invited the public to spot sculptures and paintings of the mono-horned animals at heritage sites.
The unicorn appeared in artworks from Mesopotamia, an ancient region in the modern day Middle East, and is part of ancient Indian and Chinese mythology. It was written about by Ancient Greeks, Persians and Celts, and appears in the Old Testament of the Bible.
So how did Scotland, a land of myths and legends, come to adopt the creature as one of its two national animals — along with the lion?
In the mythology of the Celts, who lived across Europe in ancient times, the unicorn represented purity, innocence and power, according to VisitScotland.
The organization says the unicorn was first used on the Scottish royal coat of arms in the 12th century by William I.
However Katie Stevenson, keeper of Scottish history and archaeology at National Museum Scotland, said although it may have been used before, the unicorn’s first traceable use was when James I, King of Scots, adopted it as a royal symbol in the 15th century.
“The unicorn is a really popular medieval animal because of its association with purity, virginity and the taming of a wild beast,” Stevenson said. She added the symbol of Scottish kings harnessing the powerful, mythical animals was important to project at that time. The unicorn, with its feminine energy, also counterbalances the masculinity of the lion, Stevenson said.
The two beasts can be seen holding up a shield on the British royal coat of arms today, and appear on many British coins.
From these historic origins, an industry has brewed. Images of multi-colored “unicorn” food and even “unicorn” hair have been prolific on social media in recent months.
Adeline Waugh, a…