The griffin is a creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
ith the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, the griffin is considered one of the most majestic mythological creatures. Though most common in Greek mythology, versions of the griffin can be seen as far back as Ancient Egypt. The earliest interpretations of the creature date back to the 15th century BC. A griffin, depicted in the throne room of the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos, is shown as a creature with an eagles head and a lionís body, but no wings. As it was used more over the centuries, it slowly took on the appearance associated with it today, the head, wings, and forelegs of an eagle and the body and hind legs of a lion.
Griffins are known to guard treasures and are able to find buried fortunes. They have strong beaks that can break rock so they can get at the gold that is inside. The female of the pair will find a cave, where she will build a nest made of gold. When she lays her eggs, they resemble large agates about the size of an ostrich egg. They are often targets for thieves and hunters. They guard their territory with amazing ferocity and can easily tear a man to pieces.
Griffins are said to be very intelligent and can use that to their advantage in combat. One such tale that shows this intelligence is about a griffin, a dragon, and a chimera who are engaged in battle. The griffin watched his enemies and figures out a way to use their weaknesses against them. The dragon, which can fly and breather fire, follows the griffin deep into the ocean where his fire was put out forever. The chimera, with its three heads, can look in multiple directions at once. The griffin burrows beneath it and attacks its exposed stomach from beneath. The griffin, though smaller and weaker, uses its superior intelligence to win the fight.
Griffins are also considered a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine. Since the griffin is a combination of an earthly beast and a majestic bird, the Christian Church saw the griffin as a symbol of Jesus who is both human and divine. The Church used the griffin as a symbol of their views on marriage. The griffin mates for life and if one partner dies, the griffin will not try to find another mate.
In Christianity, the griffin is also used to represent the saints. The eagle side of the griffin stands for the saintís aspirations, thoughts and their souls soaring up to Heaven to be with God. The lion half of the griffin symbolizes the saintís courage in their continued struggle against evil, sin and the Devil. As an emblem of the saints, the griffin is sometimes pictures eating fruit from the Tree of Life.
In medieval lore, parts of the griffin are said to have wonderful magical properties. The claw of a griffin was believed to have medicinal properties. Medieval goblets made from griffin claws were actually made from antelope horns. A feather from a griffin was supposed to restore eyesight to the blind. Christian nobles believed that if a cup were made from a griffin egg it would bring health to any beverage.
The griffin is often used as a heraldic symbol. The hybrid of a lion and eagle is used to represent strength, courage, leadership, and intelligence. In Britain, two versions of the griffin are used. The male version has spikes down its back instead of wings and a small horn, similar to a unicorn, protruding from its head. The female version has wings and is the more commonly used version.