Bartholomew the Englishman

On the Gryphon

Introduction by Juris Lidaka

Bartholomew says: "The Gryphon is a winged and four-footed animal born in high northern parts or the mountains, by each part of their body they are lions, only by their wings and head are they similar to eagles. They are very hostile to horses, and they tear living men to pieces, as Isidore says in book 12 [Etymologies 12.2]. They are so hostile to horses, as says Hugustio, that they would snatch armed horsemen with one high into the air. as says the gloss on Deuteronomy 14[:12]. Moreover, gryphons guard the mountains, in which there are precious gems, like emeralds and jaspers, and they do not allow them to be borne away. Thus says Isidore in [Etymologies] book 14 chapter 3."

original latin

Could you spell that again please?
First, there are many ways to spell gryphon in English and Latin.  You will see several variations in the commentary below.

The Greeks got the griphin from the Babylonians (modern-day Iraq), but moved its home far to the north, to a land they called Hyperborea (“above Boreas,” the North Wind).  The Babylonians also introduced this aquiline feline to the Hebrews, as it appears in Deuteronomy 14:12 (and also Leviticus 11:13) -- unless your translator altered the text to eliminate what is now long known to be a mythical creature.  Another version of the gryffin occurred, of course, in the bestiary.

Certainly the griffon was considered mythical by Sir Thomas Browne, whose Vulgar Errors includes a chapter “Of Gryphins” (or “Of Griffins”) in the Book titled “Of divers popular and received Tenents concerning Animals, which examined, prove either false or dubious.”

Debunking beliefs can be fun, but the beliefs themselves lasted a long time.  Luckily people did not build their lives around their ideas of this particular creature.  For example, no one seems to mind that the crest of the House of Gryffindor features a lion and not a gryffon.