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Gryphon Myths and Legends
The Gryphon is a symbol of dual natures; good and evil, tame and wild. Its physical features consisted of the body of a lion, wings and talons of an eagle, and ears of a horse. Gryphons represented the majesty of the bird, and the power of the animal kingdoms.
They varied in size, according to each cultures legend, but it was unanimous in that they were strong enough to fight dragons (although not tigers or lions), their feathers healed blindness, and their claws were magical.
Liquid placed in a cup which had been fashioned from a Gryphons claw would change colour is poisonous. Acquiring a claw was not easy; they were said to only be given to holy men as payment for their kindness, when they healed a Gryphons of its illness.
First documented in the Asian region known as
Scythia, and passing to the Greeks through the tales of nomads, Gryphons were said to live in the mountains, have a natural ‘finding’ instinct, and hoard gold.
The Gryphons love of gold is representative of its associations with the Sun, and the gods associated with the Sun and light, such as Apollo, Dionysus and Ball. They are also believed to have laid eggs of agate (solar eggs).
Greek chariots were adorned with depictions of the Gryphon, and they were also prominent in Greek art, but essentially only featured as chariot-pullers for gods. Indian art often portrayed Gryphons and chariots to represent the Sun.
In art form, Gryphons were often depicted inside a circle or wheel; a trait born from other symbolic meanings, such as the circular path of the Sun across the sky, and Nemesis’ Circle of Retribution, where all things including vengeance, eventually return to the beginning.
In the art of Heraldry, the Gryphon was the most-used creature. It signified the strong, aggressive and distinctly dual natures of the eagle and the lion. Interestingly, the eagle was the most used bird, and the lion the most used beast.
Gryphons were believed in ancient times to be real creatures; however, this may have been a result of nomadic peoples coming across ancient dinosaur bones in the
Gobi desert. The prehistoric creature, Protoceratops, is a small horned dinosaur with many similarities to that of a bird, which bear resemblance to the Gryphon.
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