The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature withe the body, head and legs of a lion (king of beasts), and wings, claws and beak of an eagle (king of birds), thus it is the king of all creatures. It has feathery back, occasionally a serpent's tail and special claws, which do not heal poisoning like the horn of a unicorn, but show its presence by color-changing, while its feathers restored eyesight.
Griffins mated for life, having a so unbreakable bond, that if one of them was to die the other never searched for another mate. The griffin thus became the symbol of the sacredness of Christian marriage.
By the 12th century the appearance of the griffin was substantially fixed: "All its bodily members are like a lion's, but its wings and mask are like an eagle's." It is not yet clear if its forelimbs are those of an eagle or of a lion. Although the description implies the latter, the accompanying illustration is ambiguous. It was left to the heralds to clarify that.
The griffins dig for gold in the high mountains of India for nestling purposes. They collect agates as well, for it has a healing power that should protect the nest and the nestlings. If a human tries to steal the treasure of a griffin it is usually bad luck for him, because the griffin feeds its nestlings with human flesh, though the grown up griffin prefers horses.
The hippogriff is born when a griffin mates a horse, but it is merely impossible, for griffins hate horses and rather eat them if they can. Virgil roman poet mentions the crossbreeding as an example of the impossible. Later in the 16th century Ludvico Atiosto Italian poet creates the impossible hippogriff in the Orlando Furioso epic.
Being a union of a terrestrial beast and an aerial bird, it was seen in Christendom to be a symbol of Jesus, who was both human and divine. As such it can be found sculpted on some churches.
The hippogriff is thus a creature of mere impossibility, though it gained fame over the centuries and now is believed to be a real mythical creature.
In heraldry, the griffin's amalgamation of lion and eagle gains in courage and boldness, and it is always drawn to powerful fierce monsters. It is used to denote strength and military courage and leadership. The combination indicates the presence of intelligence and strength. In British heraldry, a male griffin is shown without wings, its body covered in tufts of formidable spikes, with a short tusk emerging from the forehead, as for a unicorn. The female griffin with wings is more commonly used.
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