Griffin feathers are splendid magical cores, evocative of the strength, courage, and ferocity of the beast. Half lion and half eagle, the griffin’s predatory skills combine those of the two greatest hunters. This yields a spirit ideally suited to all manner of hunting and questing, whether for sustenance or more intellectual pursuits. Although some griffins are as large as African lions, the more common European variety (which at some point migrated to the Americas) is about the size of a mountain lion or bobcat combined with a golden eagle. In any case, the gryphon has a set of pointed ears and a tufted beard under its beak. Gryphons should not be confused with Hippogriffs, which are a half horse and half eagle and have sometimes been domesticated as aerial mounts. Of the Hippogryph, Nigg says:
“The Hyppogryph is the offspring of the Gryphon and the horse. The hippogryph is the creation of a single known writer, Ariosto, an Italian Renaissance poet,who devised the beast forhis epic, Orlando Furioso. In classical tradition, the Gryphon is the mortal enemy of the horse. Ariosto mated the improbable pair, inspried by a line from Virgil’s Eclogues: ‘Now griffins will be mated with horses.’ In Orlando Furioso Ariosto joins the two as a symbol of love.” (Joe Nigg, The Book of Gryphons, p. 32)
The Griffin, on the other hand, can be traced back through artistic representations to 3000 B.C. Associated with the sun, Griffins pulled the chariot of Apollo. They were guardians of the Great Goddess in Minos. Griffins also pulled the chariot of the Greek god Nemesis (Nigg, 47). Griffins also have a long association with gold, reportedly seeking and digging for gold to make their nests of that precious solar metal.
Gryphon feathers when conjured metaphysically shine with a golden-red light and an aura of pride and courage that is quite palpable. Elementally, the griffin, because it is both aquiline and feline, partakes of strong affinities with Air and Water. However, its fiery qualities of masculine action and assertion are also pronounced. In legend, magical powers of healing have been attributed to the griffin’s feathers, even the curing of blindness, which may be symbolic for enlightenment.
“The Gryphon (and the many spellings there of) is a fabulous beast with the characteristics of two of the most noble of beasts — the lion and the eagle. It is most easily recognized as a eagle having the hindquarters of a lion. Representations are found in art wide-spread through many cultures, appearing as heraldic beasts, ancient sculptures, relief’s, mosaics, and legends.
“The 9th century Irish writer Stephen Scotus asserted that gryphons were highly monogamous. Not only did they mate for life, but if one partner died, the other would never re-mate. The egg-laying habits of the female were first properly described by St. Hildegard of Bingen, a German nun writing in 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 eggs (about the size of Ostrich eggs), and stand guard over them, especially protecting them against the mountain lions which then roamed the areas inhabited by the gryphon. Some authorities claimed that griffins hatched out of chunks of agate rather than eggs.
“Griffins love gold and gemstones, which they steal, hoard and guard with savage strength and ferocity, in ancient times they were symbols of guardianship, protection and the retribution of justice, but in the 19th century assumed the mantel of harmless, and even gentle creatures.
“The vast majority of gryphon’s belong to the one species, Raptopantthera gryphos. There are two main varieties: the northern, or Hyperborean griffon, and the Indian griffon. The northern gryphon lives in the hilly forests and mountains of north-eastern Europe and Russia. These forested areas once extended deep into the Ukraine – much further south then they do today. The Indian griffin is found in mountainous regions of North-Eastern India and the Middle East. The only other species of the genus is the opinicus, Raptopanthera opinicus, recognizable by its feline, as opposed to aquiline, forelimbs. It was always rare and is now most certainly extinct.”
“The griffon is a large, fierce looking creature, about 2 ft higher then a shire horse. The strong wings sprouting from its back are strong enough to carry it at enormous speeds, and lift it off the ground bearing heavy prey.
“Long ears, sharp eyes and cruelly hooked bills make the griffon a fearsome beast. The tail functions as a rudder in flight. The heavy rear paws help provide extra thrust during take-off and are used to hold pray down while the beak and claws do their worst. The claws are like massive eagles’ feet. As the griffon swoops on its quarry, the rear talon sinks into the flesh first. Then the front claws close to form a deadly cage, firmly gripping the doomed creature.
“The world’s only stuffed griffon is a fine specimen of the Hyperborean variety. The gryphon was shot down over Copenhagen by the Belgian Huntress Nadine Legrand. It is now preserved in a Danish Museum.”