Monday, May 27, 2024

The griffin as a guardian angel again

Cleaning out some folders this morning, I happened upon a copy of Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of His Role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion (1967) by the Dutch Egyptologist Herman te Velde. Looking him up now, I find that te Velde died on May 26, 2019, so I narrowly missed discovering his treatise on the anniversary of his death. (I found it at around 7:00 this morning, which is 1:00 a.m. in the Netherlands.)

Glancing through the opening pages, I was surprised to find quite a lot of references to griffins, of all things!

Osiris, Seth's victim, is sometimes called tštš. Allen translates this: "the dismembered one". . . . We shall see below that Egyptian representations show there was a close relationship between the Seth-animal and the griffin. The name of a griffin with an animal body, wings and a falcon's head, is tštš. Leibovitch has translated this name as: "celui qui déchire, qui met en pièces" [the one that tears in pieces] (p. 5).

I had actually thought of the unidentified "Seth-animal" a few days ago, while reading Adreinne Mayor's The First Fossil Hunters, wondering if it, like the griffin, might trace its origin to fossils. I figured the Seth-animal would be beyond the primarily Graeco-Roman scope of Mayor's book. but doing a word search now shows that it is in fact mentioned in a part of the book I haven't read yet, where she cites Herbert Wendt's theory that Seth's head "might have been based on the skull of the Libytherium (a large giraffid similar to Samotherium)."

Although I had recently thought of Seth while reading about griffins, I never knew until today that the Seth-animal was associated with actual griffins, or even that griffins appeared in Egyptian art at all.

Te Velde goes on to describe art from the tombs at Beni Hasan, where the Seth-animal is repeatedly depicted together with a griffin and a snake-headed creature.


Te Velde floats the hypothesis that these three fantastic beasts might represent different aspects of Fate:

Fate in the shape of the Seth-animal at Beni Hasan, however, does not seem to represent the good fortune, but the bad fortune of the hunter, accompanying his guardian angel, the falcon-headed griffin. The animal with the snake's head might stand for a synthesis of both aspects. Psais or Agathos Daimoon was afterwards represented in the form of a snake (pp. 23-24).

He means that the griffin represents good fortune, but the use of the phrase "guardian angel" is synchronistically interesting. Starting with my May 1 post "Armored vultures and cherubim," I have been identifying griffins with the Cherubim of the Bible (popularly thought of as "angels") and particularly with the Cherubim in their role as guardians of the Tree of Life. Vultures have also been identified with griffins, and the "armored vulture" of that post's title is a cartoon character whose sidekick is a snake, just as the griffin of Beni Hasan is accompanied by a snake-headed animal.

The vulture entered the sync stream in April 28, with my dream about "A vulture named Odessa Grigorievna, and Joseph Smith in a spider mask." William Wright recently referenced this in his May 25 post "Good and Evil, and a large bird named Gregor" -- referencing the movie The School for Good and Evil, with its large vulture-like bird whose name suggests my own vulture's patronymic. In the clip he posted, the vulture-like Gregor is interacting with a character named Agatha. This is the feminine form of the Greek word agathos, "good," the same word used in the te Velde quote above.

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