Saturday, 23 April 2011

₪ A Horn, some juicy Cherries and a Croissant

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
If you are easily offended, you should drink some vinegar and bite your thumb better click away on the Bright Side of the Internet.

Minoan Rhyton
Since antiquity, mankind always worshipped gold in a religious, sociopolitical and artistic way. The reason for this is that gold has truly amazing characteristics. It is the most malleable of all metals, a single gram could be beaten into a whole square meter of a golden sheet. It is the best natural conductor of electricity and heat found on earth, a most rare metal; all the gold in the world would barely fill three swimming pools, it glows a shining glittering colour that mesmerises all eyes, and most important of all; it doesn't corrode; it's forever. These abilities connected all ancient societies with men's greatest weaknesses; vanity and mortality. Thus, gold became a symbol of power, gravitas, divinity and immortality, that would penetrate all human societies through rulership, religion, and arts. Gold was the measure of everything and all, and it was around 7th century BCE, that the Greeks of Asia Minor would stroke the first golden coins in history. 

Golden Myrtle Wreath
  There was though a problem; how would they measure it? They would need a common unit of mass that could apply to all transactions, domestic and international and the solution to that challenge was a tasty one; carobs. The carob tree (also known as Saint John's bread/Johannisbrotbaum) could be found in most of the Mediterranean world, and specifically, in the Greek region could be found a unique type that its seeds had a particular pear shape and exclusive characteristic; they were all of the same size and weight, making those sweet little snacks, an indisputable unit of measuring gold, silver, and other precious metals and stones, establishing the carats as the first de facto unit.

Italian Ivory Horn
   The etymology of carat, is found in the keras, which means horn in Greek. Now, someone might think that this is all of it; but in fact, this term has influenced literally hundreds of words, derivatives, and expressions that we use today, due to the significance that horns had in the ancient world. Due to their phallic shape and their direct connection with the bull, a significant animal around the Mediterranean world, horns were to become a symbol of power, fighting might and fertility. Horns would be found everywhere and be used for everything. The Minoans would take art to another level, with godly artifacts that would decorate their world. Drinking vessels with incredible artistry and crafting technique were common amongst the Thracian cousins of the Greeks, something that expanded to the Scythians, and become a cult amongst the Nordic tribes of northern Europe and Scandinavia. 

 Another use of the horn was of course on sound and music. Firstly used as hunting and war instruments, horns represented in battle an object of might, strength and power, while in religion they would be a very important part of Jewish rituals in the ancient Near East, and even used in triumphs by the Romans for political reasons of prestige and gravitas.

Actors of Commedia dell'Arte
François Bunel c.1580
   During early middle ages, the horns would become a symbol of cuckoldry for the Greeks of the Byzantine Empire, something that still persists today all over Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. There are many theories as of why the horns, and in all honestly, most of them sound proof, but I'll leave that for you to decide. One theory wants the horns as a symbol of fertility to have been placed upon the "patient" that was incapable sexually, leaving for all the rest to assume that his wife would fulfill her needs elsewhere. Another approach suggests that castrated roosters would have their spurs transplanted to their combs, thus again the cuckoldry (I must note here that the related term in German is Hahnrei, meaning rooster-deer). Other suggestions want the horns to show that something upon a man's head (infidelity) cannot be seen, or simply that Satan himself was showing his wife what a hell of a shag is indeed. I'll personally incline with the natural fact that bucks -male goats- tolerate or don't mind sexual access of other males on their females, in contrast to the strong and fertile round horned rams -male sheep- that would demolish any intruder in their zone of influence and any attempt of another sexy sheep doing their beloved and faithful ewe.  

Kitab Al Bulhan
   Speaking of the devil, horns have always been part of the Satan-Corna association, something that would eventually fade away until metal music and its culture (with a wee bit of satanic folklore) brought it back to life. Big stars like Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio from Black Sabbath made the sign once again popular amongst the fans of hard rock and metal music. 
The most comical scenes occur at home, when my very religious Orthodox Greek mum shall pay us a visit, and my son and I make sure to turn her green by showing her the horns, while playing heavy metal on Guitar Hero, or when she goes around the house with the burning incense, we pop up, throw her some horns until she freaks the fuck out and run. Priceless.  

"Horned God Pan"
Adolphe Bouguereau
   What intrigues me the most is the tales and myths about horns amongst cultures, their powers, their abilities and supernatural character. Stories like the Horn of Amalthea that fed the king of all Olympian Gods; Zeus, or Gjallarhorn, the sounding horn that God Heimdall, used to announce Ragnarok in the amazing Norse mythology. 
One of the suggestions that I've always fancied is the Greek migration theorem. According to many historians, the Mycenaean Greeks that moved during the Dorian Invasion sailed to northwestern Europe -either for trading ores like tin and copper; or for avoiding conflict- and settled trading colonies and societies that became bigger with time. Some suggest that the Danes were initially a greek tribe (see Danaans) that prospered in the area that would become Denmark, and that some other found a safe harbour in Britain, particularly in Scotland and Cornwall.

   Horns are everywhere, and I personally like it, I mean; they do look nice indeed. I remember when on a trip in the fantastic Arcadian mountains of the mystic God Pan, in southern Greece, a place with strong bucolic culture, me wife and I decided to buy some really cool ram horns. Wonderful. A couple of days later, whole bloody hell broke loose when we realised that they weren't quite "dead" yet, having disgusting worms and other crap developed due to the decay, and the most horrible smell a man can experience and hundreds of tiny living shit moving all over the car. Good thing it was a rental.  


a.8Carat ‣ Med. French ∴
a.7Carato ‣ Italian ∵
a.6Caratus ‣ Latin ∵
a.5Qirat / قيراط  ‣ Arabic ∵
a.4Kerato ‣ Modern Euboean Hellenic ∵
a.3Keras ‣ Hellenic Euboean ∵
a.2Κέρας • ΚΕΡΑΣ /kéras/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Horn"
a.1Κερ • ΚΕΡ /kér/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Tip", "Head", "Point", "Horn"

Tip: From the same suffix as in Kéras, we get the term Cherry in modern English. 
The cherry tree is considered to be domestic to the ancient Greek city of Cerasous in Pontus, in modern day Giresun in Turkey. The city was named after her horn-shaped peninsula, therefore; her exclusive at that time cherry tree, was named after the city.


b.8Cherry ‣ English ∴
b.7Cheri ‣ Old English ∵
b.6Cherise ‣ Old French / Norman ∵
b.5Ceresia ‣ Vulgar Latin ∵
b.4Cerasium ‣ Latin Proper ∵
b.3Kerasion ‣ Hellenic Euboean ∵
b.2Κεράσιον • ΚΕΡΑΣΙΟΝ /kerásion/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Cherry"
b.1Κέρας • ΚΕΡΑΣ /kéras/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Horn"


c.8Horn ‣ Old English ∴
c.7Hurną ‣ Proto-Germanic ∵ cognates: Proto-Norse "horna", Gothic "haurn"
c.6Kern ‣ Old French Breton ∵
c.5Cornua ‣ Latin ∵
c.4Kárnon ‣ Hellenic Euboean ∵ "horn of an animal, animal"
c.3Kéras ‣ Hellenic Euboean ∵
c.2Κέρας • ΚΕΡΑΣ /kéras/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Horn"
c.1Κερ • ΚΕΡ /kér/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Tip", "Head", "Point", "Horn"

"Minoan Bull Leaping"
Knossos, Hellas

d.6Creissant ‣ Old French ∴
d.5Crescens ‣ Latin ∵ present active participle of "crēscō"
d.4Crēscō ‣ Latin  ∵ "Grow, Bring Forth, Rise" / from "moon" because it looks like a horn 
d.3Kéras ‣ Hellenic Euboean ∵
d.2ΚέραςΚΕΡΑΣ /kéras/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Horn"
d.1Κερ • ΚΕΡ /kér/ ‣ Hellenic Koine ∵  "Tip", "Head", "Point", "Horn"

Tip: From the same suffix as in Karnon and Kéras, we get the a plethora of derived terms in the English and other languages that are related to "horn", either for its shape, phallic and strength symbolisms, or its connection to animals. Some good examples are the words: 
Corn, Korn, Cherry (Norse Kirsebæar), Keratin, Koryphäe, Crow, Corvus, Kråke
Cornual, Croissant, Rhinoceros, Triceratops, Corona, Crown, Krone, Crane, Church
Corner (Old Norse Hyrna, Modern Norwegian Hjørne), 
Horny (as sexual desire due to phallus, thus only males should use the term technically) 
Cornwall (as Corn from Keras, and Wallus for Aeolus, the God of Wind that blew his horn to help sailors reach their destination).