Griffin

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Griffin

Post  Admin on 10/27/2008, 12:53 am

Griffin

by Micha F. Lindemans
The Griffin is a legendary creature with the head, beak and wings of an eagle, the body of a lion and occasionally the tail of a serpent or scorpion. Its origin lies somewhere in the Middle East where it is found in the paintings and sculptures of the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Persians. In Greek mythology, they took gold from the stream Arimaspias and, neighbors of the Hyperboreans, they belonged to Zeus. The later Romans used them for decoration and even in Christian times the Griffin motif often appears. Griffins were frequently used as gargoyles on medieval churches and buildings.
In more recent times, the Griffin only appears in literature and heraldry.

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Re: Griffin

Post  Admin on 10/27/2008, 12:53 am

Griffin


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.




For other uses, see Griffin (disambiguation).
Roman griffon, Turkey



The griffin (also spelt gryphon, griffon or gryphin) is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle with the addition of prominent ears. The female has the wings of an eagle. The griffin is generally represented with four legs, wings and a beak, with eagle-like talons in place of a lion's forelegs and equine ears jutting from its skull. Some writers describe the tail as a serpent. See the entry European dragon for a 19th century painting of St George and the dragon, showing a dragon very like a classically-conceived griffin.
Classical and heraldic griffons are male and female. A so-called "male" griffin, called a keythong in a single 15th-century English heraldic manuscript, is an anomaly that belongs strictly to a late phase of English heraldry: see below.
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Nature of griffins


The tales of the griffins and the Arimaspi of distant Scythia near the cave of Boreas, the North Wind (Geskleithron) were elaborated in the lost archaic poem of Aristeas of Proconnesus, Arimaspea, and eagerly reported by Herodotus and in Pliny's Natural History.
The griffin was said to build a nest, like an eagle. Instead of eggs, it lays agates. The animal was supposed to watch over gold mines and hidden treasures, and to be the enemy of the horse. The incredibly rare offspring of griffin and horse would be called hippogriff. Griffin was consecrated to the Sun; and ancient painters represented the chariot of the Sun as drawn by griffins. The griffin was a common feature of "animal style" Scythian gold; it was said to inhabit the Scythia steppes that reached from the modern Ukraine to central Asia; there gold and precious stones were abundant; and when strangers approached to gather the stones, the creatures would leap on them and tear them to pieces. The Scythians used giant petrified bones found in this area as proof of the existence of griffins and to keep outsiders away from the gold and precious stones. It has recently been suggested that these "griffin bones" were actually dinosaur fossils, which are common in this part of the world.
Heraldic guardian griffin at Kasteel de Haar, Netherlands



Adrienne Mayor, a classical folklorist, has made tentative connections, in Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times, between the rich fossil beds around the Mediterranean and across the steppes to the Gobi Desert and the myths of griffins, centaurs and archaic giants originating in the classical world. Mayor draws upon striking similarities that exist between the Protoceratops skulls of the steppes leading to the Gobi Desert, and the legends of the gold-hoarding griffin told by nomadic Scythians of the region; among the artistic evidence, the 6th century Greek vase on the book's cover is incontrovertible.
A modernist, Egyptianized guardian griffin, Washington D.C.



A 9th century Irish writer by the name of Stephen Scotus asserted that griffins were highly monogamous. Not only did they mate for life, but if one partner died, the other would continue throughout the rest of its life alone, never to search out for a new mate. The griffin was thus made an emblem of the Church's views on remarriage.
The egg-laying habits of the female were first clearly described by St. Hildegard of Bingen, a German nun author of the 12th century. She outlined how the expectant mother would search out a cave with a very narrow entrance but plenty of room inside, sheltered from the elements. Here she would lay her 3 eggs (about the size of Ostrich eggs), and stand guard over them.
In architectural decoration the griffin is usually represented as a four-footed beast with wings and the head of a leopard or tiger with horns, or with the head and beak of an eagle. The griffin is the symbol of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and you can see bronze castings of them perched on each corner of the museum's roof, protecting its collection.
Gryphon illustration by Sir John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland



A griffin (spelled "gryphon") is featured in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in which the Queen of Hearts' orders the gryphon to take Alice to see the Mock Turtle and hear its story. The original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel depict the gryphon in an unusually naturalistic style (pictured to the left).
Some large species of Old World vultures are called gryphons, including the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), as are some breeds of dog (griffons).[edit]


Heraldic griffins


Medieval figure of a heraldic griffin



The griffin is often seen as a charge in heraldry.
A heraldic griffin (or gryphon) has the hind parts (including legs and tail) of a lion, the upper parts (including feathered neck, wings, claws, and head with beak) of an eagle and also ears. It is the ears which distinguish the griffin's head from an eagle's head in heraldry, which is important because, as well as the full griffin, the griffin's head is also often found in heraldry and would otherwise be identical to the head of the eagle.
Modern illustration of a heraldic griffin - coat of arms of the Griffiths family



According to John de Bado Aureo (late fourteenth century) “A griffin borne in arms signifies that the first to bear it was a strong pugnacious man in whom were found two distinct natures and qualities, those of the eagle and the lion”. This is clearly fanciful, but since the lion and the eagle were both important charges in heraldry, it is perhaps not surprising that their hybrid, the griffin, was also a frequent choice. The symbolism of the lion-eagle combination was also the subject of a quotation attributed to Chassaneus by Alexander Nisbet in his System of Heraldry (1722; p 343 of Vol I of the 1816 edn): "Gryphus significat sapientiam jungendam fortitudini, sed sapientiam debere praeire, fortitudinem sequi.". This translates as: “The griffin represents wisdom joined to fortitude, but wisdom should lead, and fortitude follow".
Heraldic griffins are usually shown rearing up, facing left, and standing on one hind leg with the other leg and the claws raised: this posture is described in the Norman-French language of heraldry as "segreant", a word uniquely applied to griffins, and which is the exact equivalent of the description of lions and other creatures in heraldry as "rampant".
Arms of the City of London flanked by the dragons popularly referred to as griffins



A heraldic griffin was included as one of the ten Queen's Beasts sculpted for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 (following the model of the King’s Beasts at Hampton Court) and this is now on display at Kew Gardens.
The City of London adopted what are usually described as griffins as supporters for its coat of arms, and it marks its boundaries with statues of a single "griffin" carrying the City coat of arms at each road leading into the City of London. However, the City of London griffins are, in fact, heraldic dragons, with scaly bodies and wings, no feathers, and no eagle's beak.[edit]


The "keythong"


The heraldic beast called a "keythong" much enjoyed among members of the Society for Creative Anachronism is claimed to appear in a single English manuscript of the reign of Edward IV, a heraldic solipsism. J.R. Planche's Pursuivant of Arms (London 1859) notes, under the badge of the Earl of Ormonde (first creation) as recorded in a College of Arms manuscript under Edward IV, the single contemporary reference: "A pair of keythongs." Planche's footnote: "The word is certainly so written, and I have never seen it elsewhere. The figure resembles the Male Griffin, which has no wings, but rays or spikes of gold proceeding from several parts of his body, and sometimes with two long straight horns. ­­Vade Parker's Glossary, under Griffin." (Society of Creative Anachronism website). At the end of the 20th century the "keythong" began to be taken up enthusiastically among amateurs of heraldry.[edit]


Griffins in Literature



  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol (see reference in summary above)
  • The "Crossroads" series by Nick O'Donohoe, including "The Magic and the Healing", "Under the Healing Sign", and "The Healing of Crossroads". Griffins play a significant role.
[edit]


Spelling variants


Griffin has been spelled various ways: girphinne, griffen, griffin, griffion, griffon, griffoun(e), griffown, griffun, griffyn, grifon, grifyn, greffon, grefyne, grephoun, griphin, griphon, gryffen, gryffin, gryffon, gryfon, gryphen, gryphin, and gryphon.

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