The Griffin (Gryphon) has had a long association with humans. For example, She is a part of people’s last names and featured in their coats of arms. Since the time of Sumner, the Griffin has stood for majesty and nobility.
Various myths depict the Griffin as the combination of the lion and the eagle. Since both of these earthy animals are monarchs of their own domains, the Griffin is considered the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. This mythic animal, with her offspring Hippogriff, are the only members of the Tribes of the Cosmos. While the Griffin protects the Tree of Life with its Golden Apples, the Hippogriff carries the worthy traveler between the worlds. Because of this, the Griffin is also the Sentinel of the Throne of Heaven and Earth.
What is a mythic animal? Traditionally considered a product of people’s imaginations, they are animals that do not exist on the physical plane. In fact, many mythical animals are a combination of several real animals. (They usually have the characteristics of both animals.) But mythic animals are real to those who dream.
Mythic animals live on the edges of our minds. Moreover, they live in our world, in places where everything is a little wild and primitive. Furthermore, we may encounter them, when we least expect it. For example, on a foggy day or a moonlit night, you may glimpse one. I have seen dragons sunning themselves on mountains as I traveled a busy highway. Dragons have also appeared briefly in raging snowstorms in my local area.
12th century England, the yeomanry crushed beneath the heel of their Norman overlords. Shooting a deer to feed your family is a capital offense. The people cry out to their ancestral god to free them.
And Herne, ancient god of the forest, hears his people's cry. He calls a dispossessed young English nobleman, Robin of Loxley, to be his son and to lead his people in their struggle against Norman oppression.
This is the heady premise of Richard Carpenter's landmark Robin of Sherwood, which aired in the UK from 1983 to 1985, the first television series to be shaped by the newly-emergent paganisms of the West. In the process, it transformed forever both the Robin Hood mythos and modern paganism itself.
Though Terebus knew it was the time of his death, he gathered gifts of abundance to give each person. These were gifts that would help pass the cold season until he would return again: clay for making bowls, reeds for making baskets, glass and beads, paint and songs. Even knowing that he was to die, he pranced and tossed his horns, jingling the bells that had been tied there. When all the gifts were gone, he came and stood before Tellus, in her dark domain, mother of the soil who limits us all.
She spoke, “Terebus, we have spent and built, created and sold, grown and developed for a season. Now it is time to rest, to assess what we have done, to cherish what we have created, to enjoy the fruits of our labors.”
I only know one person who is an open atheist and I don’t tend to have any opinion when I hear discussions about the existence of god. I’ll confess that I feel somewhat sorry for atheists. I think its kind of sad that they don’t get enough joy and satisfaction out of a religion to justify a bit of faith when needed. Most humans practice religion of some kind. It has been fashionable in the twentieth century to bash religion and declare it one of the major causes of human suffering. My father-in-law was one such. Culturally Jewish, his father fled the Czar when he was found to be a Communist. Harry believed firmly in an afterlife, but he had bad things to say about religion. All while participating in his Jewish community. This might seem a paradox, but it really isn’t. Judaism does not dictate belief, only behavior, and by all means debate away!
I didn’t agree with Harry, although I did agree that there had been religious wars and persecution. Religions must be part of our biology and thus serve us in a survival capacity, otherwise we wouldn’t make so many of them! It comes down to a few simple ideas. Our brains want to create stories about what happens to us. We have a biological need for meaning. (For more on this I recommend the works of Eugene D’Aquili and Andrew Newberg.) What survival need does this serve? It creates hope. Hope allows one to continue in the face of fear, anguish, and physical or emotional pain. Without hope, we are more likely to give up. For our ancestors, giving up would have, more often than not, meant death.
Here’s a tale, the story of the Deer Wife, and well it might be the oldest tale in the world.
One day a man takes his rifle and goes off into the woods, where he sees a pretty little doe. He takes aim, shoots, and hits her in the shoulder, but he doesn’t kill her outright. So he follows the blood-trail into the forest until he comes to a clearing.
But there’s no doe in that clearing. Instead there’s a woman standing there, naked and bleeding. Her hair is like red fire and her skin like apple blossom, and she’s got a bullet lodged in her shoulder.
I have been given an opportunity to read and review author Theodora Goss' newest book, Songs for Ophelia, due in stores soon. This is an exquisite volume of poetry, mystical, mythical, fantastical, even spiritual, a must-read, and I thought I would share my review here, so others might have the opportunity to read this volume themselves.