What do you look for in a friend? Loyalty? Protectiveness? Fierceness? Wisdom? Kingly status? If these are on your list, then you, my friend, want to go cyber-stalking and add the next gryphon you find to your social media account (I mean, really, who wouldn’t want a gryphon for a bestie? And since we’re all currently in quarantine, the likelihood of meeting one on your morning commute seems rather slim).
This mythological beast with the head, wings, and talons of an eagle, and the body and tail of a lion (www.dictionary.com), has pervaded cultures all over the ancient world, though no one is sure where these stories originated. There are traces of this mighty winged creature in ancient middle eastern and Mediterranean cultures, and from there it seems to have spread to Asia and down into Greece. When Rome took over the world, they took stories of gryphons with them.
One of the most fascinating origin possibilities is found in the fossil record (who doesn’t secretly like dinosaurs?). Many gryphons are depicted with sharp ears, widespread wings, the classic beaked face, four legs, and long slender tail. To someone unaccustomed to reading fossils, a pentaceratops, with its bony protrusions like ears, huge frill spread like wings, four legs, beaked mouth, and long narrow tail, this animal contains all the possible attributes of the classic gryphon (www.gods-and-monsters.com/mythology-griffin.).
Did you know that the two most widely used emblems in early heraldry (cue my medieval happy dance…) are the lion and the eagle? Coincidence? Perhaps. The earliest known use of a gryphon as a heraldic device dates back to 1162. The gryphon appears on the seal of the British Earl of Exeter, Richard de Redvers, but there is some evidence that the same family used it as early as 1107. The heraldic gryphon may signify that the bearer possesses qualities both of the lion and the eagle (www.gryphonpages.com/heraldry).
Not only is this mighty creature considered the king of all beasts (long live the gryphon!), but it’s also frequently presented as a sacred animal. It can often be found among burials, tombs, and sanctuaries (www.britanica.com). It was used in both medieval Christianity as a symbol of marriage commitment, and as an example of Islamic virtue. Many gryphons are shown guarding treasures, similar to a dragon. Medieval alchemists used supposed gryphon bones, wings, and claws in their potions. Allegedly, drinking from a chalice made of a gryphon’s egg would prolong one’s life (move over, Ponce de Leon!) (www.mythology.net).
While the illusive but symbolic gryphon remains mysterious, it has become a staple in mythologies world over. Even today, sites all over the web use griffins, gryphons, or griffons, to inspire loyalty to their products and strike feelings of pride into viewers and consumers.
Do you have a “gryphon” of a friend? Comment below and tell me how you met!
Creative Writing Prompts
- The sun seemed to hide behind the golden wings as they spread, lifting the massive body into the air. The wind from the creature’s wings beat against my face, and I found myself…
- You are a gryphon. What sort of treasure are you guarding?
- Looking down, I marveled as my giant wings spread, my tail swished, and my claws dug into the soft earth as the wind ruffled over the feathery plumage at my neck. The world lay before me, subject to my ruling. My first action as king would be to…
An interesting short on gryphons