Have you ever noticed that throughout history, across many cultures, horns seem to sprout from the crowns of the mythological, unworldly, monstrous or divine?

Some of the more commonly known examples are:

⦿ The Anunnaki (Sumerian gods)

⦿ Cernunnos (Celtic god)

⦿ Judeo-Christian Demons

⦿ Many depictions of Dragons

⦿ Herne the Hunter (English folklore)

⦿ Ikenga (Nigerian god)

⦿ Jackalopes/Wolpertinger

⦿ Some depictions of the Biblical Moses

⦿ Variations of Nian (年獸, Chinese mythological creature)

⦿ Oceanus (Ὠγήν, Greek god)

⦿ The Oni (鬼, Japanese Demons)

⦿ Pashupati (पशुपति)

⦿ Satyrs/Silenos (Pan, Agreus and Nomios. Greek mythology)

⦿ Succubi/Incubi

⦿ Unicorns

⦿ Yamāntaka (यमान्तक, Buddhist god)

The list could go on and on. I purposefully omitted the many horned deities that were somehow affiliated with Bulls. Because some might argue that the deity having horns is merely a consequence of it being affiliated with the Bull. But in actuality, it is more likely that the Bull was so often revered throughout antiquity, because of its horns.

So why is it, a horse is just a horse until a horn protrudes from its head? Then it becomes something mystical. Why is the key characteristic of most depictions of Satan, horns (of varying types and sizes) appearing on his brow? Is it purely by coincidence that horns so frequently appear throughout mythology, just as they appear throughout the natural world?

One theory behind the appearance of horns in mythology, is essentially imitating the primary usage in the natural world. Horns in many species are a sexual dimorphism, but not only do they indicate males and females, they too represent an easily identifiable rank of social status. Most species that possess horns use them to intimidate their opponent(s). If a male has significantly larger horns than a rival, in most instances the rival will not compete for territory and/or the right to mate. So in a way, the evolutionary development of an organic weapon, has aided in lessening violent confrontation, by visual dominant representation.

So if the Lord of the Herd in ancient times, often possessed large horns protruding from his head, like the crown of a king, it’s possible that humans wanted to emulate this concept. The horns acting as a sort of naturally grown crown, to signify a supernatural or mystical birthright to power/importance.

Hybridization is a common practice throughout virtually all mythology as a collective, worldwide. The Egyptians often gave their deities human forms with animal heads. The gods often bore similarities to the animals as they were viewed by the Egyptian people (cats were useful in warding off snakes, so they saw them as protectors and providers of justice. The gods, such as Bastet, with cat features conveyed those characteristics).

If an individual/character was depicted with living snakes for hair sprouting from their scalp, like Medusa (of Greek mythology) it would be safe to assume the character was going to be some sort of nemesis or villain. Because, firstly, as a species we have evolved to fear snakes and secondly, it would be considered monstrous by virtually every culture on this planet. If something inspires fear and disgust, it’s likely (at least in ancient mythology) that character it is aligned with is going to be evil. Just as the protagonist/hero is generally pure/morally superior.

When horns appear on a creature’s head, in mythology or literature, a creature that otherwise doesn’t usually have horns (or a horn), it tells us that it is somehow different and unique. Most anomalous developments were seen as divine signs in the ancient (or current superstitious) world and even if by some keratinous skin tumor, if a seemingly horn-like structure appeared, it would be considered ‘supernatural’.

There are many documented cases of humans and other species developing growths that resemble horns of various types and formations. There are claims of human skulls being discovered with biologically grown horn-like structures, allegedly fused with the bone. However the claims I managed to find all seemed very dubious and unreliable.

Is the recurrence of the depiction of horned beings and creatures, purely symbolic? Or is it possible that there were horned variants of certain species (including humans) that no longer exist today?

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