Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

by Unknown
Great Bird of Legend

    The Gryphon myth originates somewhere 
    in the Near or Middle East. It is 
    found depicted in ancient Babylonian,
    Assyrian, and Persian paintings and 
    sculptures. It is believed the myths 
    found life around 3,000 B.C. to be 
    the Pharoah's companion in Ancient 
    Egypt, and later became sacred 
    guardians in Minoa.

 India was assigned as the native country of the Gryphon, 
and the people of that land made Gryphon talons and claws 
into drinking cups, they were of so great a size. Like the 
Unicorn  and other species of myth, magickal traits were 
assigned to the talons.   While the alicorn, or  horn of the 
Unicorn, was said to be an aphrodisiac, the talon of a 
Gryphon was said to detect  poison in a liquid when used as 
a drinking cup. Very handy for the nobility, as this was a  
common form of assassination.

 Gryphons, like birds, built nests, or eyries (aeries), as 
the nest of a bird of prey  is called. The Gryphon laid an 
agate, rather than an egg, therein. Gryphons found gold in 
the mountains and made their nests from it.

 This made their eyries very tempting to hunters, so 
Gryphons were forced to keep vigilant  guard over their 
nests. Gryphons had instinct which allowed them to know 
where buried  treasure was, and they would apply themselves 
to guarding it as best they could, keeping  plunderers at 

 They are found in Greek mythology, neighbors of the 
Hyperboreans and belonging to Zeus,  they took gold from the 
stream Arimaspias, the one-eyed people of Scythia. 

 It was written by Pomponius Mela, that a certain area was 
uninhabitable, "because the Griffons (a cruel and eager kind 
of wild beast) do wonderfully love the gold, which lies 
discovered above the ground, and do wonderfully keep it, and 
are very fierce upon them that touch it." Gryphons have always 
been depicted as guardians of treasure. Gryphons  themselves 
depict gold, as they represent the wealth of the sun at dawn, 
the gold in the east.  They are also said to line their nests, 
called Eyries, with pure gold, woe be to the traveler looking 
to steal it.

 Romans later used the Gryphon for decoration and in Christian 
times the Gryphon motif appears.

 In Christian symbolism, the Gryphon originally represented Satan 
and evil, but later came to represent Christ, especially his dual 
nature, both divine and earthly, as the Gryphon had mastery of 
both land and sky, and was noble and majestic. Gryphons were said 
to kill serpents and basilisks, both embodiments of evil, thus 
protecting mankind. Gryphons symbolize both strength and wisdom 
combined in heraldry. On medieval buildings, Gryphons were often 
used as gargoyles, great stone guardians.

 The Gryphon has relinquished most of these roles, and today 
appears mostly in literature and  heraldry.