Unicorn Magic
Unicorns were thought to have magical abilities that enabled them to escape fromtall enclosures, but of all the things they can do, it seems we are most fascinated by their power to heal. For the touch of a unicorn's horn can pull us away from death, toward immortality. Unfortunately for the unicorn, the horn retains its power even without a unicorn attached which has led people to hunt it rather ferociously. The basic method for catching a unicorn is fairly simple. A pure young woman is taken into the woods and placed beneath a tree. Since unicorns are irresistibly attracted to such young

ladies, if there is a unicorn in the vicinity it will come and lay its head in this maiden's lap. At this point she may sing to it, or slip a golden bridle over its head. Once the unicorn has been tamed in this manner, the hunters leap out from hiding and either capture or slaughter the beast. When they do, the greatest prize, of course, is the horn itself. (Though some people also believe there is a precious jewel, a "carbuncle," hidden underneath the horn.) The correct term for the horn is "alicorn," a word some people think was invented simply because "unicorn horn" sounds so awkward. Alicorns are among the most powerful of magical items. They were prized by popes and kings because they provided

protection against all manner of evil, including epilepsy, pestilence and poisoning.A horn set in the middle of a table would begin to sweat, or form a dew, if any of the foodstuffs had been poisoned. Even a little powder filed from such a horn was an antidote to the most toxic substances.

Small wonder that in a place like fourteenth century Italy, where poisoning was a common way to deal with one's enemies, these horns were considered treasures indeed. As might be expected, an item both so valuable (horns sometimes sold for ten times their weight in gold) and so rare (some legends have it that there is never more than one unicorn on earth at a time) was a great temptation for frauds. With so many people selling false alicorns, it was necessary to find a way to determine which were real.

Some of the tests included: * Drawing a ring on the floor with the alicorn. A spider placed in such a ring would not be able to cross the line, and in fact would starve to death trapped within the circle. * Placing the horn in water, which would cause the water to bubble and seem as if it were boiling, even though it remained cold. * Placing a piece of silk upon a burning coal, and then laying the horn on top of the silk. If the horn was truly an alicorn, the silk would not beburned. * Bringing the horn near a poisonous plant or animal, which would burst and die in reaction to it.
The trade in alicorns was very real in the Middle Ages, and many noble houses listed one of the mystical horns among its treasures. However most of us today would agree it is far better to leave a unicorn's horn where it belongs: on top of its head!
With its horn properly in place, a unicorn can do many wonderful things. One of the best known
is purifying water for other animals, a trick known as "water conning." Generally this takes place where there is some venomous or poisonous material polluting lakes and streams.