Fig.1/ Venus of Laussel, Dordogne France.

The Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty is a legendary object, a symbol of prosperity and abundance, originally dating back to the earliest myths of mankind. One finds the first depictions of a horn already dating back from the Upper Palaeolithic. The Venus of Laussel (France, approximately 25,000 years old) is such an example. Here, the mother goddess holds a horn in her hands. (Fig.1)

Fig.2/ Sventovit with a horn in his hands in a phallus shaped statue, Zbruch idol. Collection of the Krakow Archaeological Museum in Poland.

Originally an attribute of the mother goddess, the horn is also adopted by male gods. Examples are found in Slavic mythology, such as the god Sventovit (Fig.2). The fertility of the female, related to plant life and water, is complemented with the potency of the male, relating to the bloodline and fire. While the meaning of abundance remains. Slavic priests used the horn to predict rich harvests. (Vyncke, 1969)

Fig.3/ Ancient Tibetan Fertility Horn (c.1840)

The horn of plenty thus becomes a phallus that guarantees the reproduction of the clan and the abundance of the harvest (Fig.3-4).

Fig. 4/ Ancient Roman allegory of Tiber River. By Erin Silversmith (talk · contribs) – Own work, GFDL,

The cornucopia contains a male and a female aspect, which is why this object can be an attribute both of male and female deities. Examples of goddesses wearing the horn are personifications of Earth (Gaia); the nymph Mai, and Fortuna, the goddess of luck, who had the power to grant prosperity (Fig.5-6). (Source:

Fig.5/ “Fortuna” by Jean Francois Armand Felix Bernard
Fig.6/ Fortuna governs the circle of the four stages of life, the Wheel of Fortune, in a manuscript of Carmina Burana.

The concept of the Cornucopia, its male and female aspects, consists of parts and variations in meaning that can be clarified by the different levels of meaning in the Semantic Colour Space.

First, there is the horn, which is classified under the 64-level code red-on-black or white-4 (ecru, off-white). Red-on-black is the code for kingship, which prescribes laws and rules, and administers justice. In the same way, red-on-black contains the meaning of the phallus, which underlines the king’s potency and supremacy. A stylized phallus is the sceptre (a combination of 8-level black: stem and red: circle) Both the phallus, the sceptre and the horns denote the blood, the lineage, the pedigree, which gives the right to the holder to issue laws and rules. The white 8-level aspect of white-4 is the line. We recognize in this image the bloodline of descent, but also the (moral) rules imposed by the king. (Fig.7)

Fig.7/ The construct red-on-black and white-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.
Fig.8/ The construct black-on-red and green-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.

The second part concerns abundance. The horn is filled with attributes from the harvest, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, wine, later also with coins. Important in this image is that the horn overflows. The name ‘Abundantia’, the Roman Goddess of fortune, prosperity and abundance, literally means ‘plenty’ or ‘overflowing riches’. This concept was classified in the Semantic Colour Space under the 64-level code black-on-red, or green-4 (a darker aquamarine-green). Keywords such as abundance, flood and fullness, describe a situation that is at a peak, like the sun at noon. (Fig.8)

While in the inverted code red-on-black the laws are laid down and justice is spoken, in this sign they will be implemented by severe punishments. Weapons such as swords are often attributed to the deity as a means of enforcing laws and providing protection from the enemy. The green aspect in green-4 is the relationship to nature, alive, flow (8-level) and contains a feminine (physical) aspect. The (over-)fullness of life, accurately describes the core meaning of this sign. (Fig.8)

However, it is an unstable state, because when water overflows, it can become a dangerous force that causes destruction and grief, as in the case of flooding, or when one burst into a crying fit because of accumulated tension. It includes the creation of life in all its fullness, but therein also lies the danger. So the sign encompasses both creative abundance, and its destruction.

The horn of plenty, as a combination of white-4 and green-4, is classified under the code white-on-green or red-4 (. This colour combination is often used by artists to depict the female deity wearing the cornucopia, such as the goddess Fortuna (Fig. 5-6) or Abundantia. The core image contains the wind (white) blowing above the flowing water (green), causing the water to scatter and dissolve into foam and bubbles. The contents of the overflowing horn are thus scattered over the earth. (Fig.9)

Fig.10/ Statue allégorique de la Loire sur la fontaine de la Place Royale à Nantes. Fontaine de Daniel Ducommun de Locle, Guillaume Grootaërs et Simon Voruz (1865).

The white-on-green coding implicates that the plenty is of an uncertain nature, that the rich harvests are not guaranteed, instead, they are a question of fate, of luck. That is why the cornucopia is often a means for fortune-telling, a white-on-blue keyword. Then, the colour combination white-on-green becomes a movement in the depth dimension from white-on-blue (code 110-000) to green-on-blue (code 010-000) in this classic conceptual construct. (Fig.11)

Fig.9/ The construct white-on-green and green-on-blue in the Semantic Colour Space.

The concept of fortune is an addition to the white-on-green code. Fortune is coded green-on-blue. It is the earth (blue) on which life (green) grows that gives fortune. The idea represents the earthly womb that bestows life. This womb is represented by an amphora or pitcher, from which the water of life flows. (Fig.10)

Fig.11/ The construct white-on-blue and green-on-blue, with a movement from white-4 to green-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.

I.Michiels, red.

The shape of the Horn of Plenty

The cornucopia, as a symbol of abundant life and prosperity, is classified under the code white-4 on green-4. This code can give an explanation for the shape of the horn of plenty.

While the horn is often depicted in white-4, a mixture of white and brown (Fig.1), the shape has elements of the green-4 code, associated with the combination black-on-red. The ‘abundance‘ and the ‘flooding‘ are then the main meanings.

Fig.1/ Mercadian Masques, Horn of Plenty card by Brian Despain.

In many images, the horn is drawn with a sharp pointing curve at its end. Compare the shape with the teeth of a Vampire, turned upside-down. The curving is the purple primary shape element.

Fig.2/ Green-4 shape

The round ball-shaped fruit, overflowing from the horn, can be identified as an associated black-on-red shape as in the image of abundance. When the scattering is the main meaning, the fruits have the shape of bubbles, such as in the symbols of the white-on-green code.

I. Michiels, red.