Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Griffin

The Griffin, (also griffon or gryphon) is a medieval amalgamation of lion and eagle.  The lion being the king of beasts and the eagle the king of birds was thought to be a majestic and extremely powerful heraldic creature. The Griffin has the powerful body and hindquarters of a large lion and the head and wings of a massive eagle.  The forelimbs are interchangeably the talons of the eagle or the forelimbs of a lion depending on the author or artist depicting the griffin. Also, differing from the eagle, the griffin is shown often with erect ears, sometimes those of a lion, sometimes more resembling a horse, while in still other instances the ears are feathered.

In heraldry, the griffin was a depiction of courage and bravery, often seen battling other fearsome creatures. The griffin was formerly used in denoting military strength and courage as well as leadership.  The combination of avian and beast is meant to convey both strength and intelligence to the viewer of the heraldic symbol. 

The lesser known male griffin in British heraldry is depicted without wings, but with a mane of spikes and a horn similar to a unicorn's on its head. The female griffin is the most commonly found in heraldy. 

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