The Horn of Plenty

The Horn of Plenty, also known as The Cornucopia is classical antiquity that assumes a horn-like shape and is believed to symbolize nourishment and limitless abundance. Its shape in a large container overflows with produce such as flowers, nuts, grains, and fruits. The name takes roots from the Latin language with the term Cornu meaning horn while Copiae represents abundance or plenty (Adkinson, 2009). In modern culture, the Horn of Plenty signifies the numerous roads every individual can embark on and travel through as he makes choices while seeking for fulfilling opportunities as well as pursuing his destiny. There are several symbolic messages stemming from this symbol all taking root from various folklore stories and mythologies.

Horn of Venus
Horn of Plenty Talisman Gold and Silver

As the Greek mythology would have it, the Horn of Plenty is associated with two legends: Amalthea and Zeus as well as Amalthea's horn and Hercules. Notably, it is believed that the symbol dates back to the 5th BC. The first mythological description connects the symbol with Zeus' infancy. The story narrates how upon his birth, Zeus was placed under nymphs Adrasteia and Ida's care by his mother Goddess Rhea as well as his grandmother known as Goddess Gaea. Adrasteia and Ida are well-known daughters of the king of Crete commonly known as Melisseus. It's during this period where Zeus was nourished by milk from the phenomenal goat Amalthea and as a token of his appreciation, he placed the goat among heavens constellations. This was followed by the rewarding of Adrasteia and Ida with one of Amalthea's horns which were conferred with the magic of perpetual fullness of whatever the possessor of this horn desired for sustenance. Another version of Amalthea and Zeus tells a story of how the goat nurtured and raised Zeus from the time he was an infant while shielding him from his father, Cronos. Amalthea is believed to nurse and protect Zeus in the mountains of Crete preparing him to become a future God. However, one day as they were playing, Zeus broke the goat's horn accidentally and in his remorse, he offered to repay Amalthea by granting Amalthea the wish of having the horn filled with whatever she wished on a perpetual basis.

The second myth tells the story of Hercules, son of Zeus and the Princess of Alcmena. The legend tells of how Achelous (God of the River) fought in a battle against Hercules in an attempt to win the love of King Aeneus' beautiful daughter Deianira. During this battle, Achelous transformed himself into various creatures as part of his tactics to defeat Hercules, and at one point, while being pinned to the ground by Hercules, he transformed himself into a serpent, then a bull but was overpowered by Hercules who managed to break one of his horns. With this defeat, Achelous shifted back to his god-like form and returned to the river. There are two varying ends to this mythology. One, Hercules and Deianira took this horn and filled it with fruits, flowers and grains in celebration of their marriage and two, naiads (water nymphs) possessed the horn, sanctified it filling it with fragrant flowers and abundant fruit before awarding it to the Goddess of Plenty who called it the Cornucopia (Huggens, 2013).

The Horn of Plenty was used in various ways. First, in the ancient world, the Horn of Plenty was a widely popular religious symbol. It was stamped on Jewish coins commencing in the Maccabean period and was also used in rings and seals as well as architecture. It was also used in the Hellenistic era, where most civilizations were greatly influenced by the Greeks (Nasrallah, 2010). Traditional European cultures also commemorated the end of harvest through creating corn dollies or corn maiden that were aimed at ensuring prosperity and fertility in days to come and its earliest forms involved the use of the Horn of Plenty (Adkinson, 2009).

Horn of Plenty in Coin from Roman time 
Fig 1. A Rome mint (Traianus Denarius). Source: (Huggens, 2013).

Additionally, with Christianity becoming the official Roman religion, Abundantia (a Roman Goddess often portrayed in 3rd-century coins and heavily associated with the symbol) was banned along with other pagan spirits. However, some followers were hesitant on banishing this symbol thus went underground with Abundantia which would later resurface in medieval Europe in the form of Dame Abundance. During this period, worshiping of Abundantia was only by witches and in secret. It was believed that Dame Abundance visited at night bringing endless luck and prosperity (Nasrallah, 2010).

Abundantia with Horn of Plenty

Fig 2. Abundantia with the Horn of Plenty. Source: (Adkinson, 2009).
As a ritual tool, this symbol has adopted numerous forms depicted both in ancient and modern times. Initially, it was in its original actual curved horn form, but that has changed and fashioned out with other materials such as ceramics, wicker, stone, metal or wood. Presently, most Cornucopias take the form of horn-shaped baskets. Today, the Horn of Plenty is used as a ritual tool in several ways. First, it's used during the fall equinox offerings where cornucopias are filled with overflowing assorted fruits, nuts, flowers, and vegetables in Thanksgiving mode. It is also used during ritual feastings, a sign of the season, house blessing, prosperity magic and deity invocation (Adkinson, 2009).
In conclusion, this symbol was a powerful figure depicted in paintings in medieval Europe but has changed over the years. Today, they are autumn centerpieces taking various forms and depicted in numerous artworks. This symbol still resonates with people to this day and its relevance to fruits, earthly prosperity and abundance remain relevant and unchanged across centuries.

Adkinson, R. (2009). Sacred symbols: A visual tour of world faith. New York: Harry N. Abrams 
Huggens, K. (2013). Complete guide to tarot illuminati.
Nasrallah, L. S. (2010). Christian responses to Roman art and architecture: The second-century church amid the spaces of empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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