In symbolism, the griffin combines the symbolic qualities of two solar creatures, the lion and the eagle. It is the king of birds and lord of the air united with the king of beasts and lord of the earth. Griffins are a symbol of the sun, wisdom, vengeance, strength, and salvation.
The griffin's ability to soar like an eagle made him an emblem of poetic and spiritual inspiration. The griffin was also an embodiment of Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and retribution, and turned her wheel of fortune.
The griffin's dual nature led it to be associated with Jesus Christ, God and man, king of heaven and earth. The eagle half of the griffin signified Christ's divinity and the lion half represented his humanity. During the Middle Ages, griffins were symbols of Christ's resurrection. The strength of the lion and the wisdom of the eagle combined in the griffin symbolized the strength and wisdom of God.
Nevertheless, the ambivalence of his nature, led some people to see in the griffin the perversion of the strengths of both animals. Gevaert theorized that the combination of lion and eagle parts would more or less cripple the griffin, depriving him of the ability to fly unencumbered like the eagle or walk nobly like the lion. It was associated with those who used their powers to persecute the Christians, evil personified, the Antichrist, and the Devil. There was even an imaginary creature called the griffin-dragon who had the tail of a dragon or a snake. This one always represented evil.
The creature appeared as frequently in the applied arts (tapestries, the work of goldsmiths) as in heraldry. In the latter domain, Boeckler (1688) offered the following interpretation: "Griffins are protrayed with a lion's body, an eagle's head, long ears, and an eagle's claws, to indicate that one must combine intelligence and strength."