Okay, well I have a little announcement to make, then we'll get into a short post (is that really possible? We'll see) on the symbolism of the gryphon. I've decided to record mp3s of the the fairy tales and myths that I interpret. First I gotta get brave enough to learn a new recording program- I gave up using free software since I have a PC. I realize how folks are strapped for time in life, and it's pretty useless to do interps of stories that folks don't know well. That's why I've done very popular stories til now. But even those are more solidly understood these days in Disney terms. I want to do some that are not all that well known, anyway, like The Griffin. I can't offer audio on this site unless I upgrade, so I am going to offer the mp3s on request. Then you can listen to fairy tales while you wash the dishes or dust- or just close your eyes and relax!
If you've read much of this blog before, you know I'm using alchemical magic as a basis for interpreting stories here- fairy tales, myths, and other stories. This site is in support of a collection of films interps, as a matter of fact, my e book Poetry in Motion. There are a few short film interps found on the Film Reviews page, if you're curious.
And gold is what magicians, wizards, are looking for in alchemical terms.
I'm eternally grateful to Rowling for bringing magic back into Euro-Western culture with such a resounding bang. Using a combination of mythic and alchemical symbolism, she's given us stories of the magical human developmental journey into a wise adulthood and beyond, in alchemical terms. Voldemort, Harry's nemesis, is discovered to be an aspect of himself, for example; as within, so without. My materialistic culture had obviously been missing the magic.
And the Gryphon epitomizes that search, since it is one of the great wisdom monsters, or fantastical beasts. It's composed of two sovereign animals, the king of the birds (eagle) and the king of the beasts (lion). It's a magical yin-yang symbol, since it's composed of heaven and earth, heaven being the yang/masculine, earth being yin. The meeting of heaven and earth is balance, center, wisdom, the alchemical gold.
The fact of the Gryphon representing the alchemical marriage is found in its reputation as monogamous, mating for life. This attribute just about instantly gets an animal alchemical status, for example dove, raven, and swan. Eagles have this tendency, too. Gryphon, in line with the royalty thing, is famously a guardian of golden treasure. That's the treasure of alchemical wisdom. Along the same lines, the great sun god of enlightenement, Apollo, is seen riding a gryphon:
Gryphon has a special egg thing going, too; the gryphon egg, supposedly like an agate, was used to make ritual cups. Like the unicorn horn cups of medieval days, these cups conferred protection and power of some kind- of the kind wizards are pursuing, I'd say. Their tail feathers were magic too- but do they have bird tails? hm. This will come into play in the Grimms' fairy tale (or more accurately, alchemical tale) I'll be looking at soon, as a young man is sent to fetch the griffin's tail feather in order to marry the princess.
Along the lines of enlightenment as portrayed by the alchemical integration of opposites, the gryphon turned the wheel of Nemesis, the ancient Greek goddess of fate and destiny.
Since Nemesis came to be very strictly associated with retribution, of the gods, specifically, she can be confusing, for most folks are not interested in the matters of duality and integration. But Nemesis is a goddess of opposites, of the wisdom of understanding the nature of opposites and the alchemical work of seeing through the dualistic perception. Seeing through duality is the essence of wisdom, really, and this is what Nemesis teaches. So, for example, Nemesis might balance out a person's experience by imposing its opposite; poverty for the rich, the loss of beauty for the handsome one (I referred to this in the blog posts on Narcissus, August 2013), and etc. Our "nemesis" is always that which we are in opposition to, the thing we can't figure out, like Voldemort in Harry's story, like Professor Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes, like the cruel sister in the stories and songs of that tradition, one of which I began this blog with.
An interesting note in English heraldry, for which the gryphon is the most common monster, is that a male gryphon has no wings. Instead, it bears rays upon its back and body, like the sun. Gryphon is a very solar animal, both lion and eagle strongly associated with the sun, as is gold. The rays would emphasize this, I guess. Sometimes they had horns, too. From that viewpoint most gryphons we see depicted are female! Opposites always break down in the end, however, as male and female, dark and light, etc. are always further divisible. Opposites are always illusory when you look into anything deeply enough. They are only useful on a certain level of investigation.
And notice Harry ends up looking at his reflection in the water, while the hippogryph drags its paw on the surface. Hagrid mentions the feather-pulling, too.
Another way to think about the gryphon's/hippogryph's fearsome, even deadly nature is that the truly wise do not fear death. They have faced it and found it is another illusion, even a welcome release, perhaps. This is why the gryphon is the most popular of mythic creatures in European heraldry.
That wasn't too long then, was it? I'm thinking of doing rabbits/hares next, since they come up in The Griffin. They're an important moon animal, therefore they tie into the whole concept of reflection of opposites. For Earth dwellers, the moon reflects the sun. This truth has been used to denigrate the feminine, for the moon itself creates no light. Women are then meant to be a reflection of men, taken in a dogmatic manner. However, the sun's magical power is useful only in upperworld, daytime, worldly activity. There's a lot more to life than that...