Monday, November 21, 2011

History of the "Horn of Plenty"

The horn of plenty, or also known as cornucopia, has been associated with Thanksgiving for generations; but have you ever wondered where it actually originated? The word cornucopia comes from two words: “cornu” means horn and “copia” means plenty, put the two together and you get the term we know today as “Horn of Plenty”.

The Horn of Plenty that is used today by many families to decorate their Thanksgiving table actually dates back to the 5thCentury BC. Today it is usually a basket that is curved and overflowing with brilliant colors of fruit, flowers, grains and whatever else the decorator desires, but in the beginning it really resembled a curved goat’s horn.

There are two versions of the origin of the horn that are the most common, both are from Greek mythology. The first version is about a feud between Hercules and the river-god, Archelous. During a battle when Archelous changed himself into a bull, Hercules tore off one of his horns. The horn was treated as a sacred object and filled it with beautiful flowers.

There second version is a little easier to understand, it is about Zeus. When he was born his mother sent him away to hide him from his father. She sent him to Cretewhere he was raised by some of the king's daughters. Zeus broke off one of Amalthea's horns, the goat that provided his milk. The horn had the power of becoming filled with whatever its owner desired. Zeus later gave the horn to the daughters as a way to say thank you and from then on it was known as the symbol of plenty.

Though today it has changed from a horn to a basket the original meaning remains the same. Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and/or friends and share plenty of food so it is fitting that a Thanksgiving table be decorated with a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, to symbolize abundance.

By Cindi Hinton
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