Bull’s (Cattle) Horns

Bull’s or cattle horns and skulls were often depicted upon buildings, in timber and in stone, often fixed on gables, or over a doorway, or above or below windows, as a protection device against evil spirits and as a guarantee of prosperity (i.e. a horn of plenty). Cattle horns and skulls since the prehistoric period have been used for protection and burial rites, as well as denoting wealth to others, of the cattle herder / farmer, and of course fertility.

Interestingly the same is true for the UK as well as Ethiopia, however I have only seen one example which is nearly exactly the same as that upon Giyorgis rock-hewn church, in Lalibela, to that in the UK, which is carved upon the farmhouse in which I live, beneath a window, in Weston, Cheshire, UK, which is over 5,000 miles away, and in a completely different continent!

The only difference really being that: instead of the cattle’s brow, in Ethiopia the bull’s horns are surmounted by a Christian cross; and where the three tassels exist eitherside of the horn’s beginnings, leaf shaped ears protrude, as the horns radiate outwards from the head; and the horns are carved upon a horizontal timber beneath what was a flanking window, to the left of the rear entrance, whereas in Ethiopia, they are formed above and from the window hood mould and carved surround.

The example in Weston, Cheshire, dates to the construction of Hollyhedge Farmhouse, this is verified by the same carving style which was used inside, upon richly carved console brackets to the original house-place / hall, and therefore were very likely to have been carved by the same person, with the farmhouse dating to the late 16th or the early 17th century.

The very similar example in Ethiopia also dates to when the church was carved out of and made out of the rock of which it is built, i.e. rather than it being built traditionally upon the ground, it is actually carved out of the solid rock below ground, and the building, and rooms inside, actually created out of the rock itself. The church dates to the 12th to 13th century AD.

The Bull’s Horns above a Window to Beta Giyorgis Rock-Hewn Church, 12th-13th Century AD, Lalibela

The Bull’s Horns insitu and in Diagram Form which exist below where a flanking window existed, and to the left of the Rear Entrance, at Hollyhedge Farm, Weston, Cheshire

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