Your O.W.L. exams are almost upon you. Soon, each of you will sit through a theoretical test of your knowledge of Defense Against the Dark Arts, along with participating in a practical examination that will test your ability to react appropriately in actual situations. I hope I do not need to emphasize how important these tests are more than I already have. If you struggle on the O.W.L. exam, you will find the N.E.W.T. level work to be beyond you. Prepare to the best of your ability during these last couple of weeks. We still must cover two more creatures before we reach the O.W.L., though. Today, we will cover the first of these creatures: the majestic griffin.
An Overview of Griffins
The history of griffins, also commonly written gryphons, is long and complicated and difficult to trace to its roots. Some sources note the existence of griffins starting in Ancient Egypt around 3300 B.C.E. while other sources say that there is evidence of the gryphon in Ancient Mesopotamia. Mr. Newt Scamander, famed author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, claims their origins in Greece during the time of Greco-Roman mythology. While it may prove difficult to trace an exact origin, what we can determine is that griffins are ancient creatures with longstanding roots. There also is little agreement in what a griffin looked like throughout history. There are records of creatures, which have been identified as gryphons by magizoologists, with falcon heads and without wings. The most common portrayal of the griffin, the one based off of the true magical creature, portrays the griffin with the body of a lion and the head, wings, and talons of an eagle. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly suggest seeing a griffin in flight - they truly have earned their reputation as one of the most majestic creatures.
What makes the griffin so interesting, besides its wealth of history and the mystery around its origin, is that it is known to represent a variety of things that can be quite applicable to our studies in Defense Against the Dark Arts. These creatures are also discussed in Care of Magical Creatures and Mythology, so some of the information here will be skimmed over, but what we lack in breadth, we will make up for in depth. Through this lesson, we will not only cover how griffins attack and how to defend ourselves against them, but we will also cover some of their mythological appearances - focusing on what information we can glean from those myths about the real creatures - and also how griffins can be used as protective measures as well.
Mythological Representations and Why We Care
It may come as a surprise that there are very few specific stories that surround the griffin. This is, partially, because people tend to care more about what griffins mean, rather than why they have come to symbolize what they do. However, I think it is important that we cover the major story surrounding these marvelous creatures, because without this understanding, it will seem like concepts have been randomly assigned to this creature, which is not the case.
Long ago, before records were written, there was an epic battle between three legendary beasts: the dragon, the chimera, and the griffin. The dragon and the chimera both had obvious strengths - the dragon could breath fire from a distance and the chimera, with its many heads, was able to see attacks coming from multiple directions. Unlike its counterparts, the griffin had no obvious strengths that made it stand apart from the others. The dragon could fly, so it matched the griffin in the sky, and the chimera could see the griffin coming from any direction it tried. For all intents and purposes, the griffin should have lost the battle.
However, the griffin did have an advantage over its opponents: it’s intellect. It was clever and witty, even moreso than the dragon. While the dragon and the chimera raged in combat, the griffin held back and observed. Instead of rushing in, it planned and strategized. Only once it had analyzed both of its opponents and knew their weaknesses did it charge in. To defeat the dragon, the griffin chased it into a body of water. Within the water, the dragon’s fire was taken away from it, which took away its primary advantage. After that, the dragon was defeated with ease. This left the chimera. With its multiple heads, it appeared as though it had all angles covered, but the griffin found a direction that the chimera was not expecting: from below. The griffin tunneled underneath the chimera and caught it by surprise. Due to the surprise, the chimera was unable to recover in time and the griffin was the victor of the three way battle.
So why do we care? How does this relate to our studies in Defense Against the Dark Arts? In many ways, if we analyze the situation fully. First, the griffin refused to enter combat before it was ready. The fight had begun, but the griffin held back and analyzed the situation; it found the weaknesses in its opponents before it began its assault. As we encounter combat situations, it is prudent that we follow the example of the griffin. Instead of rushing in headstrong, play it safe and study your opponent. Figure out their techniques and how they fight. If you do this, you stand a much greater chance of walking away from the encounter. No matter how difficult and unbeatable the opponent may appear, in the same way that the chimera and dragon did to the griffin at first, there is always a way to defeat the opponent; if you are patient enough, you will be able to find it.
It also demonstrates that we, as combatants, should always play to our strengths. We cannot expect to win if we worry about trying to match our opponents. No matter how hard we try, we are not them. We will not always be the fire breathing dragon orthe multiple headed chimera, but we can almost always be the wise griffin. As we continue our studies of spellcasting combinations, I want you to think about where your strengths and weakness lie as a magical person and as a dueler. Do you excel in Offensive combinations or are you more adept at Defensive combinations (which we will begin covering the theory of in Year Six)?
The Symbolism Behind Griffins
Griffin Coat of Arms
What you see here is a coat of arms, or a visual representation of a family, individual, or corporation. They gained popularity during the Middle Ages, but still have continued use today. The one you see here has a griffin on it, which was not uncommon due to the majestic and regal appearance of the creature. Yet, appearance aside, what was being portrayed to opposing families or persons when they would see a griffin approaching for battle? The symbolism and usage behind the griffin is quite interesting and can tell us a lot about the inner workings of how griffins fight, which (if the need arises) can tell us a lot about how to fight them.
In their own right, griffins are symbolic of wisdom, strength, vengeance, and salvation. That said, they also bring with them the symbolism of the two creatures that compose it: the lion and the eagle. The lion, symbolic of courage and the fiercest fighter (as the king of the jungle), and the eagle, the symbol of victory and freedom. This creates a powerful symbolic force, bringing together two creatures that are powerful in their own arenas. This is the main reason that griffins became popular on the coat of arms for powerful ruling families, especially in the Middle Kingdom.
In modern times, griffins have become known as guardians. They usually are found as statues and images around buildings such as treasuries and other places that hold riches within that need protection. They can be fierce friends, but their ferocity makes them the ideal guardian, especially if they have a bond with the person whose riches they are protecting. Many witches and wizards will go out of their way to store valuable items in banks that use griffins as guards. In fact, griffins are the second most popular guard creatures, second only to dragons, with trolls being a close third.
Defending Against the Real Deals
In the majority of cases, you will not need to do much to defend against a griffin. If you respect them and leave them to their duty, and do not threaten the person who they guard for, they will not bother you. However, there may come moments when you cross a griffin, or in your careers you may encounter an aggressive griffin, and will need to know what to do. When it comes to griffins, there are two primary ways to prevent an attack from them.
The first way is to make them a peace offering. Despite their aggression, griffins respect those who show them respect. They prefer raw meat and aren’t picky about what kind of meat, so it’s fairly easy to bring an offering for them, just bring whatever you happen to have at home. If it was in your freezer, make sure you have given it time to thaw - feeding a griffin frozen raw meat will only make it angrier than it already was.
In some cases, even a peace offering of raw meat will not be enough. In these cases, the griffin is excessively loyal to its owner or extremely territorial. When this occurs, you will need to fight for your life. Griffins, as mentioned previously, are extremely aggressive and have the advantage of being proficient in both aerial and terrestrial combat. Therefore, you will need to take away their aerial advantage, which will also limit their mobility. To accomplish that goal, you will need to use the Ensnarement Charm.
The Ensnarement Charm has one major restriction in that it is only usable against creatures. While it can be used against humans and other living Beings, it is most effective against Beasts, as it was created with the intent to ethically ensnare creatures when they get out of control, as spells such as the Incarceration Spell were seen as unethical. The effect of the Ensnarement Charm, when cast correctly, causes vines to jump out of the ground around the creature, tangling around their feet and trapping them on the spot. If the creature is in the air, such as a griffin, then all is not lost. This spell can be cast from any surface from which vines can grow. Most grassy surfaces are fair game, and many stone surfaces will work as well. Once you have successfully cast the spell and the vines have grabbed the creature, you will have to hold your concentration long enough to make sure that the creature is unable to break free, a feat they will not be able to accomplish so long as the vines continue to grow around their legs, or body depending on where you are concentrating; you will need to concentrate on both the target and the continued growth of the vines.
The incantation can either simply be said (the incantation is Irretio), or you can say the incantation and add the name of the creature that you intend the spell to affect. If you choose to do so, you will not need to apply as much concentration to cast the spell, as the incantation will focus the spell itself, without as much of the needed mental effort to keep the spell on target.
Spell: The Ensnarement Charm
Incantation: Irretio (eer-REH-tee-oh) creature name optional
Wand Movement: A squiggly circle that starts aimed at the surface you want the vines to grow out of and moves towards the creature to be trapped by the vines
Today we did a lot of discussion about the symbolism behind the creature rather than the specific creature itself. Part of this is because it is important to realize that defense is not always about work that can directly be done. Not every variation of the Dark Arts can be conquered by casting a spell or simply evading the situation. In some cases, some more in-depth research is required to understand the multiple layers of meaning that are contained within a given object, curse, or potion. If you earn the grade in this course’s O.W.L. exam and continue through N.E.W.T. level studies, we will delve much more into this during Year Seven.
Next lesson will be the last lesson before you take the exams mentioned above. I will take a short time next lesson to discuss what you should be prepared for, and what my expectations will be for students who want to continue studying Defense Against the Dark Arts in Year Six. Best of luck on your quiz and essay!
Note: Griffin coat of arms image taken from: http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/mythology-griffin.html