Gryphon: The Strength of the Incidental Tarot
Strength has always been one of my quintessentially favorite cards. I love its message of transcendence: mind over matter (or heart over mind) and spiritual steadfastness over carnal desire. I have often needed to remind myself of those challenges over the course of my life. I am an artist, an intuitive, and an empath; sometimes this combination of sensitivities can be quite a lot to bear in times of stress. Gryphon is a card that gives me strength when I feel overwhelmed…it reminds me to follow my heart, especially in those moments where my head just won’t settle down and let me see the world with clarity.
Recently, my fiancé and I took in a woefully neglected little stray kitty, sweet and desperate for attention, she clearly had not been cared for in months, if not longer. We took her to the vet, got her some antibiotics and food and set her up in a spare room while she got comfortable and stronger. It turns out she is an older kitty, probably around 10 years old, and struggling with hyperthyroidism and a probable accident that left her with arthritic hips and a loss of sensation in her tail. Thankfully, she tested negative for Leukemia and FHIV, which is great, but even under the best of circumstances, she will be a special needs companion for the rest of her life. We’re calling her Annapurrrna, since she purrs like clockwork and could use the blessing of the Hindu Goddess of Nourishment.
This is one of those Gryphon-inspired “lead with your heart” situations. Every logical thought in my head told me this is never going to work in our house (we already have 3 cats in the household that don’t get along with each other), and she wouldn’t last a week in a shelter. It will be an uphill battle trying to find her a permanent home, and there will be a lot of care and money to be spent in the meanwhile. But the heart doesn’t obey logic, and I couldn’t (and still can’t) bear the idea of sending her off to a shelter where she’d be living in a cage with little or no hope of ever getting out again. It was a leap of faith we made, scooping up that little sweetheart and making the commitment to give her a better life…and even now, I’m still looking down and not seeing any ground.
(***If you’d like to help us find little Annapurrrna a loving and permanent home, please see my note at the end of this blog.)
In traditional decks, the Strength card is often pictured as a maiden calmly taming the ferocious lion of adversity. I love this image, but I see many more layers of meaning beyond the simple “beauty and the beast” aspect of this card. I believe her strength actually comes from the lion itself, not in opposition to it, as the card might suggest. Spiritual clarity, represented by the maiden, coupled with the might and physical endurance of the Lion indicates true strength; the unification of inner and outer resolve.
Gryphon is a symbol that incorporates both aspects of the traditional Strength card: the hybrid union of the eagle (spiritual power, grace, wisdom) and the lion (brute strength, prowess, valor). Mythologically, the Gryphon is a powerful and majestic creature, thought to represent strength, courage, boldness, protection and intelligence. It is also a symbol of heavenly power on earth, and was thought to be a guardian of divine knowledge and unseen treasures. As opposed to many other fantastical creatures of ancient mythology, the Gryphon was frequently an ally to humanity, an icon of strength and leadership that was adopted as heraldry by king and country alike. Like many of its raptor cousins, Gryphons were also thought to mate for life, and thus were emblems of loyalty and faithfulness. In the Christian mythos, the Gryphon was associated with Jesus, being of both heaven (the eagle) and earth (the lion).
In many ways, Gryphon is a parallel of Chimæra (the Devil in traditional decks); a symbol of spiritual fortitude in opposition to that of vice and temptation. Chimæra represents the potential agonies of life on earth. Gryphon on the other hand, possesses the strength of the lion with the freedom of the eagle, giving it the power of transcendence. Gryphon is not trapped on this plane, but can travel freely between earth and heaven. His claws, unlike Chimæra’s, are not meant to rip and destroy, but to hold fast, to carry us securely as we rise above adversity and the pitfalls of our misfortunes.
Maybe I need to see another parallel here: Gryphon represents the choice to save a life and make a sacrifice…and Chimæra represents the lonely and dangerous journey of a lost animal on the streets. Kind of puts things in perspective when I get distracted by the doubt and worry. We took the leap, but now we need to hold onto that strength without knowing where the road is going to end. That’s where real faith happens.
If you distill it down, the eagle represents purity (spirit), and the lion, passion (body). Individually, each has its own path to growth and enlightenment. But when paired, passion and purity merge into a new force, an alchemical union of the body and spirit. This is the ultimate Strength.
READING GRYPHON: Gryphon is a signpost of transcendence. When we are overwhelmed with the grievances of day to day life, Gryphon gives us something to hold onto, an reminder of our own divinity and the strength that is available to us when we combine spiritual resolve with earthly action. He is our guardian and a beacon through times of adversity. In a reading, Gryphon is a reminder not to give up the struggle, nor at the same time give in to either extreme of coping: the physical (workaholism) or the spiritual (escapism). He embodies the qualities of endurance, balance, and fortitude. Gryphon also reminds us that we are creatures of spirit, and must not succumb to victimization of circumstance; we must not endure to the point of being trod upon. Hold yourself in strength and confidence, knowing that all earthly adversity is temporal.
To define Gryphon in a word: STEADFASTNESS.
REVERSED. Weakness of the spirit, giving up, pessimism. Falling victim to the outside forces of the world, feeling out of control and overwhelmed by circumstance. Giving in to vice.
***We are holding a fundraiser to offset Annapurrrna’s medical expenses! Please visit my Etsy shop to see the special kitty merchandise…beautiful art, jewelry and accessories (more coming this week) for a worthy cause! Or if you live in the SF bay area and are interested in adopting her, please email me directly at email@example.com.