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Griffin Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

illustration of a griffin

Griffin symbolism is often linked with the likes of other mythical creatures like the phoenix, sphinx, and dragon. If you are wondering what griffins are, then they are mythical or imaginary creatures with an eagle head lion body. Griffin symbols have been seen on the seals of Earl of Exeter as early as 1167 AD. Let us study the mythical griffins and their symbolism in detail.

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Griffin Symbolism and Meaning

To understand the griffin symbol meaning, we need to answer the question of what is a griffin? The griffin, gryphon, or gryfin is a strange beast with an eagle’s head and lion’s body. 

It is a chimerical, mythical creature that was believed to be sacred to the sun. The eagle is the king of birds and the lion, the king of the beasts. Thus, the griffin has the characteristics of both. 

The ‘cloud-cleaving’ eagle is shown with the necks, wings, and talons of an eagle. 

This is joined to hinder parts of the lion. The eagle’s projecting ears represent a ‘keen or sharp sense of hearing.’ Some historians believe that the griffin actually exists. 

griffin statue with blue background

Smith’s Classical Dictionary talks about a creature called Gryps or Gryphus that may have come from the East. They are also mentioned in the fabulous beasts that guarded the gold in India. 

In ancient art, the griffin symbol is often shown as the guardian of the gold. Griffin was also sacred to Apollo and Persians and Teians worshipped them. The griffon symbol also changed over the years and from place to place. 

Some ancient coins, for example, depicted the griffin with rounded wings, whereas, in other places, the wings were pointed. Some other gigantic engravings of wingless griffins have also been seen in the East.

Griffin Native American Symbolism

Griffon symbolism comes very close to the Great Spirit as far as the Native Americans were concerned. 

The eagle personifies divine power and the lion (puma or mountain lion) symbolized strength, virility, and royalty. Together, the eagle and the lion – the griffin- symbolize the rise to power. 

Rising to such powers lets the griffin observe everything and everyone- a sign of divinity. The Natives believed that the griffon symbolizes seeing the whole truth of life- light and dark. 

This means that one should embrace the positives and negatives. 

All these experiences serve to take one to the higher realm. They show us our true purpose. A griffin can help you become better and connect to your higher self. 

illustration of a griffin

According to some Indian legends, only the female griffin or gryphon had wings. The males were unwinged and had scales or spikes. Since Natives believed in guardian spirits, they thought the gryphon to be one. 

After all, like the sphinx was Egypt’s guardian, the gryphon may have been the guardian in Asia, Greece, and Mediterranean lands as well as the American Continent. The Natives believed that almost all animals and birds were messengers of the Great Spirit. 

For them, these mythical guardian animal-bird hybrids would show up in dreams. Among the South American Indians, the blessing of the guardian animals would only be limited to shamans after swallowing hallucinogens.

Griffin Eastern Symbolism

Eastern dragon and griffin symbolism are similar. The composite beast is a half bird and half animal, hence very sacred to the Chinese. Like the dragon, the griffin is a guardian animal. 

It is called upon for wisdom, vengeance, and alertness to danger. In some parts of the Eastern world, the griffin has negative meanings. It can stand for chaos, danger, waste, infertility, and ruin. 

Griffin symbol represents the air and the earth elements- since the eagle is in the air and the lion on the land. In China, there are 5 types of griffin symbols: the imperial griffin is depicted with 5 claws, whereas all others have 3.

griffin head statue

The celestial griffins guard the heavens. Griffins are also symbols of the sun and sacred to the sun. Two griffins symbolize enlightenment and wisdom. The male and female gryphons are like the yin-and-yang symbols. 

When shown together, they represent balance and harmony. Male griffins are guardians of treasure. Griffins are the Jewish emblem of Persia. Herodotus says that the griffin lives in the mountains of India and builds its nest out of gold. 

A link between the griffin and the myth of the sun had been established in ancient times. The symbolic griffins found in India were held sacred to the sun, which is always depicted in a chariot drawn by four of them.

Griffin Christianity symbolism

According to Christian symbolism, griffins are related to the sun and represent the wealth of the sun. Gryphons were very dear to the sun. 

The griffin symbol in Christian art represented strength, invincibility, watchfulness, and the relationship between psychic and cosmic forces. 

Alexander the Great used the griffin symbol as his emblem. Griffins were also linked to Archangel Michael. Two griffins symbolize enlightenment; griffon with its foot on a ball or globe shows enlightenment protecting the wisdom. 

A chariot drawn by griffons showed its link to the sun god. Christians believed the griffin to represent the dual nature of Christ – the eagle in the air and the lion on the earth

griffin statue

Christian symbolism for the griffin was also Incarnation. Griffons’ symbols represented the Christ Kingdom in heaven and earth. They were the perfect attributes for Christ and represented His omnipotence and omniscience. 

The negative symbolism linked with griffins in the Christian world were those who persecute and oppress Christians. It was also linked to the Devil, who ‘flies away with the souls.’ In some medieval literature, the griffin and dragons were used interchangeably. 

It also became symbolic of the pope’s power. During the Greco-Roman period, the griffin became symbolic of strength, vigilance, and the obstacle to overcome on quests.

Griffin Celtic Symbolism

Gryphon or griffin has been mentioned in many European tales. In fact, the gryphus from Greek may have been the origin of the European Griffin symbolism, although the gryphus itself might have come from the far east. 

The majestic creature has been known to have the body of a lion. The head of the gryphus is that of an eagle. In some Celtic depictions, the griffin is also represented as the chimera and has the tail of a serpent. 

In Medieval Europe, the griffin became the symbol of knights. Thus, much of the Celtic symbolism of the griffin is linked with strength, bravery, valor, war, victory, and power. 

illustration of two griffins

The gryphon symbol became one of the most popular depictions on helmets, coat of arms, and on the decorations of crusader shields. Irish and Welsh folk tales are full of griffin and griffin legends. 

In most of these, it is believed that the person having the feather of griffins would always know the truth. As a result, folk tales of Celtic heroes in search of the griffin feather abound. 

The griffin is always described as an intelligent and magical beast. 

They are also very strong creatures and often given the task of guarding treasures. Throughout Celtic history, the word griffin has been spelled in 24 different ways!

Griffin African Symbolism

In Africa, the roc bird is closely linked to the mythical gryphon or griffin. The roc has even been mentioned in Sindabad’s story from Arabian Nights. 

These large birds pick up the cadavers and take them deep into the valley for feasting upon them. So strong were the rocs that they could even swoop down upon elephants and carry them off. 

The famous Moroccan traveler, Ibn Batuta, described in his writings that during his travels between Africa and Asia, his ship encountered a mountain that was not on any map. 

The strong winds and waves of the sea started propelling their ship straight into the mountain. 

griffin statue

Suddenly, the mountain moved upwards and started to fly, revealing itself as the roc bird. At this, all the ship’s hands started bidding farewell to one another. 

But soon, the wind changed direction and the roc bird failed to see the ship. In Egypt, the griffin symbol was linked to the sphinx. The only difference between the two was that the sphinx was wingless. 

Another winged monster Akhekh in Egypt is also linked with the griffin. Akhekh is linked with darkness. In most African symbolism, the griffin is a protector, a guardian of the treasure, thus a symbol of security.

Griffin in Dreams

A griffin in dreams combines the alertness of an eagle and the strength and power of a lion. A griffin is also the symbol of the sun. It represents the sun’s energy. Dreaming of a griffin can also mean treasure since they are guardians of treasure. 

Seeing a griffin in your dreams means you are rising up like an eagle but are also grounded like the lion. Due to the eagle’s head, a griffin is also the messenger of the divine. 

Perhaps you are getting some message from your angels through your dream. 

In Native American culture, griffins came in dreams only of shamans and medicine men with powerful messages and after they had consumed hallucinogens.

illustration of a griffin

They gave messages for the benefit of the tribes. Therefore, a griffin in dreams can mean a spiritual awakening, a journey, or some sort of vision that is truer than your real vision. 

The griffin also symbolizes a position of power. Be very careful, though: for with power comes responsibility. It also brings envy. 

Dreaming of a griffin can mean that you have more innate power than you are aware of. 

Do not let others push you. Stand your ground like the griffin or soar high and rise above where no one can touch you! 

Griffin Encounters and Omens

Since the griffon is a mythical creature, omens and encounters might only arise in dreams, books, visions, or through media. Perhaps the griffon symbol keeps popping up unexpectedly in your life. 

Perhaps you keep seeing it on TV or reading about it in books. In any case, the griffin is trying to tell you something about yourself. 

In Ibn Batuta’s travels, when the deckhands saw the griffin-like roc bird, they considered it a symbol of death. 

However, the griffin is a symbol of the sun. Its presence may be pointing you to some brighter aspect of your life. Gryphons are also symbols of bravery.

griffin statue

In your dream, you might have seen a griffin intimidating or threatening you. This could indicate some innate part of your psyche attacking you. It may even be an omen of an accident or illness. 

In folk tales and legends, the griffin encounters and omens had mixed connotations. Some looked upon the mythical creature as a sign of good fortune. 

Others thought it to be bad news.  In Gnostic emblems, the Gryphon is sometimes represented with its paw or claw upon a wheel; sometimes, “the same griffin’ s tail ends in a scorpion. 

In the first case, it represents enlightenment and wisdom. In the latter, it could mean death or a bad omen. 

Griffin Mythology and Folklore

Griffon Greek mythology mentions a hybrid creature called the Gryphs or gryphus, which may have originated in the far east and might have been what is known as the griffin. 

In most Greek legends, this animal-bird hybrid was depicted as a monster with an eagle’s head, a lion’s body, and completely covered with feathers. 

Instead of eggs, this creature would lay agate in its nests. So large were the griffin’s claws and talons that the people made them into drinking cups. 

Greeks believed that the griffin originated in India. Legends state that these creatures used gold for making their nests. 

illustration of two griffins

As a result, the griffin nests were much sought after. In Japanese and Chinese mythology, the griffin had an animal body, birds’ heads, talons of an eagle, and a tail of serpents. Soon the griffin symbol found its way to Rome and Christian countries. 

The gargoyles found on churches and medieval buildings are also considered griffins where they symbolize the protector or the guardian. The Italian city of Perugia has a griffin symbol as its emblem. 

Griffin’s strength and power also earned them a place on the coat of arms of warriors. In most folk legends and mythological tales, griffins are known to hide up in mountains where they guard their ill-gotten or plundered hoards of gold.

Griffin Spirit Animal

Griffin is a mythological hybrid, like the sphinx. This legendary creature, as you know by now, has the body of a lion and the head and talons of an eagle. 

The eagle is the king of birds while the lion is the king of animals, so the griffin spirit animal can be considered as the king of the world or as the Universal totem. 

Indeed, you are blessed to have this powerful spirit animal guiding you with its magic. The message of the griffin is to guard your treasure. What treasure is He talking about? Certainly not the materialistic ones.

No, the Giffin spirit animal is asking you to pay attention to your inner treasures. Because the griffin combines the characteristics of the eagle and the lion- both of which are majestic beasts; he can bring you treasures and priceless possessions. 

There are many myths and legends about the griffin and some of them show him in a negative light. However, among its strengths are its ability to mate for life. 

Even if the griffin loses its mate, he will live alone and never remarry or search for another mate. 

The griffin spirit brings that same magic of everlasting love to you. The griffin’s spirit and medicine are to believe in our faiths and truth.

Griffin Totem Animal

Many totem animals no longer roam the Earth physically. They wander in the Higher Realm, but they continue watching over those in their protection. You may find your totem to be the unicorn, griffin, or dragon. 

Each works mystically and these are magical totems to have. Griffins teach the magic of alchemy, uniting the powers of lion and eagle as a fierce guardian. 

They are guardians and protectors and they instill the qualities of a warrior in you. 

Like the griffin totem, you are strong, powerful, and independent. You are a lone ranger and like the griffin, you prefer having a vantage point. 

griffin statue

This way, you can place yourself above everything and keep a watch. At the same time, you are spiritually enlightened, grounded like the lion, and very wise. Like your totem, you have treasures to guard. 

You use your words with care and do not give advice too easily. But once someone comes to you for help, they have your protection and care for life. The griffin is strong and it brings its medicine to you. 

You have the power, knowledge, and confidence to get through everything. In Asia and Africa, many gold prospecting tribes took on the griffin as their totem. Gold is precious to you, but so is the sun. Bask in the sunlight daily to recharge and refresh.

Griffin Power Animal

It is difficult to look at a griffin and not think you are in the presence of the divine. The griffin is close to the sun God and a symbol of divinity. It combines the power of an eagle and a lion – both of which are majestic beasts. 

Its tremendous wings flap majestically as they beat away from the earth. Its powerful talons and claws are ready to rip and shred the enemy. 

Humans have made the mistake of thinking griffins to be mere beasts, weird and strange. Legends and folktales have shown the mighty creature in a negative light; that they hoard treasures and are shallow and materialistic.

illustration of griffin

In reality, the griffin is a symbol of enlightenment and wisdom. This is not a mere carnivorous animal looking to forage food. This is a powerful, strong, spiritually heightened animal who is also the messenger of God. 

Its massive, intimidating size cannot be defeated by any army. This is a creature that cannot be controlled or enslaved by anyone. Griffins can easily swoop down and trap an elephant in its claws. The griffin power animal is there to protect and guide you. 

Meditate on the griffin and ask for its help when you feel overwhelmed by worldly matters and concerns. The griffin, like a gargoyle, is always keeping an eye on you. With this knowledge, move ahead with confidence and power.

Griffin Tattoo Meaning

If you are planning to get a tattoo, it should have some meaning. And what better than a griffin tattoo to depict the strength and power of two of the most majestic creatures: the eagle and the lion? 

The griffin tattoo combines the air element of the eagle and the earth or land element of the lion. Together they indicate a grounded, spiritually ascended being. 

Griffin tattoo acts as a symbol of the sun, light, wisdom, and enlightenment. It also means a guardian or protector. Griffins in mythological legends represented guardians of great treasures that they would hoard high up in the mountains.

illustration of griffin

So, a griffin tattoo might mean treasure or divine gifts. The tattoo can also serve as a reminder that you are not alone. 

Does the griffin have a special symbolic meaning in your life? Perhaps you’ve had visions or dreams about it? Maybe it is your spirit or power animal. 

In such cases, too, the griffin tattoo is a great choice. You can have it represented as winged or wingless. Some cultures believe that only the female griffin has wings. In any case, the tattoo of a griffin will serve you well. Discuss your vision with an expert artist before getting inked.


As you can see, griffin symbolism means aspects like the sun, wisdom, treasures, guardians, protectors, and even enlightenment. This majestic beast combines the strength of a lion and the flight of the eagle. Together, they represent a majestic creature whose symbolic, mythical, and mythological stories continue to inspire and awe humans. We hope this guide helps you decode the griffin meaning in your life.


1 thought on “Griffin Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”

  1. Doug Woolridge

    A friend of mine bought a wood carved bench that looks old. There are carvings of griffins. Could you help depict the meaning of the bench if I were able to send you a picture?


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