Symbol of courage, strength and unwavering faithfulness, the origins of this mythological creature date back to the times of Marco Polo and the Silk Road.

Grifins, as anyone knows, are mythological winged beasts. They are so renowned that in the various legends which have alternated over the years, they have never needed to have a proper name. The Griffin is the Griffin and that is that..

Valerie Vargas, Modern Classic Tattoo, London, UK
Valerie Vargas, Modern Classic Tattoo, London, UK

Their distinguishing features are as follows: the body of a lion, the head of an eagle, long sharp claws and horse’s ears; even though in certain iconographic traditions there can be wingless Griffins. There has been mention of them practically since the dawn of time, especially in the mythologies of Persia, Egypt and Indian. Let’s take a closer look at the Indian tradition…

In ancient times, Indian merchants travelled along the Silk Road (that discovered by Marco Polo which linked Europe with Mongolia) and wrote in their travel diaries of the many fossils found in the gold deposits. Modern scientists have deduced that these must have been of a type of dinosaur which really did exist and is called “Pentaceratopo”, but the myth of the Griffins quickly spread through popular beliefs.

London, Moth & Moon Tattoo, Leduc, Canada
London, Moth & Moon Tattoo, Leduc, Canada

The Indians actually believed that these were the bones of strange creatures capable of finding gold in obscure places and mining it with their powerful beaks. This gave rise to the belief that Grifins interacted with humans, challenging them to solve riddles and puzzles. If the wayfarer succeeded in solving them, his life was spared, otherwise he would be brutally killed.

For the ancient Greeks, Griffins (who drew the chariot of the god Apollo) were engaged in constant struggle against the Arimaspians, mythological beings with only one eye who lived in Scythia (a vast geographic area which comprised modern-day Ukraine, Kazakistan, Turkmenistan and Russia). The reason for their emnity was supposedly that the Griffins were the guardians of the gold while the Arimaspians were thieves who attempted in vain to steal it.

Moriel El Mori Seror, Mori Occultum, Munich, Germany
Moriel El Mori Seror, Mori Occultum, Munich, Germany

Symbolically, they have always been associated with absolute values like strength, courage and wisdom, and Griffins are still used in heraldry to decorate flags, banners, crests and standards. In his monumental work “A New Dictionary of Heraldry”, the British author Stephen Friar goes so far as to suggest that Griffins possess the power to cure illness while a feather can restore sight to the blind.

In other legends, it is said that Griffins mated for life and if anything happened to their partner (male or female), they would spend the rest of their life alone. This greatness of heart led them to be associated with the idea of unwavering faithfulness. Another symbol undoubtedly connected with the choice of this tattoo.