by Leaf McGowan
A mystical beast of legends and mythology, especially within the Greek, Roman, and Celtic worldviews – the Griffin (aka griffon, gryphon, grypon, gryps, and gryphus) is a fantastical creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head, front leg talons, and wings of an eagle. Sometimes it is represented without wings (later called an alce or keythong in other mythologies). It was always representing royalty and leadership, with power and majestic authority as king of all beasts and birds. It many legends, the Griffin ruled over all creatures, protecting richly treasures, and gold. There is a proposition by folklorist Adrienne Mayor that the griffin was a misconception derived from the fossilized remains of the Protoceratops found in the gold mines of the Altai Mountains of Scythia, present day Kazakhstan.
amongst the earliest representations of a griffin were found in Ancient Persian and Egyptian art dating around 3,000 B.C.E. The Egyptian palette from Hierakonpolis called the “Two Dog Palette” dating to 3300-3100 B.C.E. possibly depicts a griffin. Cylinder seals from Susa, Persia dating from 3000 B.C.E. depicts griffins. They can also be found in ancient art from the Levant, Syria, and Anatolia dating from the Middle Bronze Age (1950-1550 B.C.E.) Ancient Greek art from the 15th century B.C.E. frescoes show griffins in the Throne Room of the Palace of Knossos. From 5th-4th century B.C.E in Central Asia, the griffin appears in iconography representing the Achaemenid Persian Empire who considered the beast a protector from evil, witchcraft, and secret slander.
There are other mythical beasts carrying resemblance to the griffin including the Lamassu (Assyrian protection deity hosting a bull or lion’s body, eagle wings, and a human head); Anzu (demon creature from Sumerian and Akkadian mythos – half man and half bird); the Jewish Ziz (resembles Anzu); the ancient Greek Phoenix; Minoan Genius; and the Hindu Garuda (large bird-like creature).
Griffins were believed to have mated for life, and if its partner passed, the other would continue the rest of its life alone never searching another. Because of this the Church used it as an emblem to represent its opposition to remarriage. A Griffin’s claw was believed to possess medicinal properties and its feathers could restore sight to the blind. When represented in a herald or crest, the griffin represents courage, strength, power, boldness, leadership, and military courage. In British iconography, the male griffin is shown without wings, body covered in tufts of formidable spikes, and a short tusk protruding from his forehead. The female griffin is depicted with wings.Want to follow the travels of Sir Thomas Leaf? Click Here!