I love griffins, these majestic creatures have been one of my favorite mythological creatures for ages….almost more than dragons. I remember in my youth when there was a line of statuary out of fantasy creatures that included unicorns and dragons, but also a family of griffins and I had desperately wished in my youth that I had the cash to get those lovely dark feathered beasts. Imagine of course my delight years later when I came to discover that griffins were so strongly associated with Apollon. Yes they are the dogs of Zeus as well, and the predominance of griffin imagery at Olympia certainly bolsters the Zeus connection….but they have a strong sacred association with Apollon as well. And why not? They combine the majesty of two of nature’s formidable predators…the raptor (could be an eagle, hawk or falcon) and a lion. this stylization is perhaps not too dissimilar from the chimera-type creature associated with the Mesopotamian god Nergal that is more of a lion-dragon with its winged feathers and long ass-like ears.
The griffin’s association with Apollon seems to have largely to do with the movement of the god and his sacred northern garden of Hyperborea. These creatures are said to cherish gold which they covet (tres dragonish) which in many ways can symbolize the beauty and radiance of Apollon whose locks of hair were of gold. Guardians of divinity in a sense, dwelling in a place beyond human reach…true liminal guardians bearing such ferocity that they truly are great counterparts for other guardian spirits: dragons/great serpents who often guarded sacred trees, caverns. streams, well etc, and the three-headed hound Cerebos who guards the entrance of the next world, friendly to the dead who enter only.
Between the dragon and the griffin we have two distinct point of Apollon’s domain being expressed. Whereas the dragon is associated with the chthonic nature of Apollon, with his provision over tombs, sacred groves/orchards as a guardian figure more in touch with the human cycle and needs, the griffin is actually less directly associated with the human existence and is utterly unapproachable by any humans. They figure into the part of Apollon’s domain as gatekeeper, lord of the doors, and that which divides humanity and the divine…guardians of the most holy. This makes them too guardians of that which is given unto us in divine blessings. Thus it is on the back of a griffin that Apollon returns bearing the blessing of grain as he returns from Hyperborea whereas Apollon had departed in a chariot pulled by swans. Unlike many sacred creatures, griffins, like sphinxes, are most holy by their composition…by their evolution and complexity (the sphinx far more so than the griffin tho).
It is for these reasons all that on my altar for Apollon that a pair of griffins stand at either side of his offering bowl as guardians of the blessings of Apollon…