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Gargoyles And Grotesques

Updated on March 2, 2016
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat is a practicing witch who loves to write about Wicca and many of the Gods and Goddesses she’s had the pleasure to encounter.

Collecting Gargoyles and care tips

As you walk around the city you rarely look up. And that's a pity because there are hundreds of unseen eyes watching you. The watchers crouch silently, forever frozen in stone. Watching, waiting. Waiting for the time when...

Maybe a fantasy like that started you on the road to collecting gargoyles, maybe you just like the protective statues, or as a pagan you are looking for a new friend or home for one. More on that later.

Here I'll cover the basics of collecting, storage, display, types of gargoyles and more. We'll cover uses and what gargoyles are not. As in, no, they are not demons, and they don't come alive at night and run around causing mayhem.

And since I'm pagan, spoiler alert, we can cover magic and healing with your new friend as well.

Last but not least, I've included tons of links to history, gargoyle fiction and other sites. So let's get started.

The awesome intro image is my very own Leona. Oh, all writing and photos are my original works.

Gargoyles, gargoyles, gargoyles! - A Wiccan View

Gargoyles are NOT and DO NOT

You really should read this first.

Gargoyles do not come to life at night and attack people. I don't know where this idea started, but trust me, in all my years of collecting, not a single gargoyle has come to physical life.

Gargoyles are not evil. There is no historical evidence to suggest that the Church or carvers had any evil intent in creating these figures.

Gargoyles are not a form of demon or evil entity. Why would you put demons on a church?

Gargoyles are not worshiped by witches, pagans, or any other folk.

Oh, look, one of my little ones mugged for the camera.

Gargoyles or Grotesques

I blush to admit

Although I myself will call the critters on this page gargoyles, they are not. A real gargoyle is a functioning gargoyle in the classical sense. He or she spews water and rubbish on people, most often from high above.

All the small statues we collect are really grotesques. Again, that is in the classical sense. This meant any statue resembling a gargoyle, but not having a real working function.

However, since most of us hold these statues to be protectors they do have a function. Also gargoyles today do work in a way. They are lamps, night lights, fountains and more. Considering the real gargoyles of old would destroy most modern building with their weight I feel calling these collectibles gargoyles is just fine.

That's another of my lovelies to your right.

Why were gargoyles made? - Why Not?

God Bless The Gargoyles

god bless the gargoyles
god bless the gargoyles

A beautiful and touching book, God Bless the Gargoyles offers an interesting theory on both gargoyles and angels. Here the gargoyles are brave and loyal guardians of the buildings they are attached to. At first the humans love and admire them.

But as the centuries pass, people forget the gargoyles are our gaurdians and begin to hate them as demons. Luckily God's angels come down to comfort the gargoyles and all other disenfranchised folks. Like homeless people, the old, or the lonely.

The book is lovely for all ages, as it is really an illustrated poem. Adults will love the twist on a famous diner painting. Younger children should love all the different gargoyles, including one cuddly guy who just wants to scratch his itchy jaw when he comes alive.

 

Ancient Gargoyle Ancestors

These functioning downspouts and decorations are thought to have protected churches from evil. The practice of using such gaurds on buildings dates back at least to ancient Egypt, where downspouts were often lions.

The practice may have reached Europe along with other religious practices centuries ago.

Another theory states that gargoyles were originally prey or enemy heads collected by the Celts, who saw luck-bringing and protective powers in them. Many gargoyles are part game animals, some are human as well. Perhaps seeing stone versions satisfied the Celts and made the transition to the new religion easier.

I like the theory in Dav Pilkey's God Bless The Gargoyles the best. "...they crafted stone creatures and set them on perches to guard and protect and watch over perches."

The cute fella here is one of his own creations.

What basic types are out there

The easiest gargoyles to find

There are several basic types that are fairly easy to find in stores or online.

Cement: Fairly common. These can range from the dollar store small gargoyles, to giant garden sculptures. Well cast items will have a smooth finish with no holes or marks. These can range from dollar store or used store finds, to professional level sculptures.

Fabric: Call them stuffed toys if you like. There are some cute gargoyles out there.

Foam: Useful for Halloween. These are also prone to breakage, but have the most variety. You can find ones that spew smoke, water, or have lighted eyes.

Latex: These are foam-filled or fabric stuffed shells. They may have fabric bottoms, so watch out for wet areas. Cloth rots, hon.

Metal: Often used as burners for mystical folk.

Plastic or plastic-based cast material: These gargoyles all look the same, but are among the cheapest. Small ones can be found in dollar stores around Halloween or as garden accents. They are the least durable, being easily broken or cracked by winter weather.

Tip: Not all plastic is cheap. Depending on what it was blended with, some small cast gargoyles can be very expensive. These items usually have more details or are done by a known artist.

Semi-pro: These often don't move, but only a collector or small haunted house may want them. Materials vary wildy. They tend to be too pricey for something to put out once a year and can anchor a haunted house room. Yes, they do look cool hanging around the house.

Professional props: If you have the money, you can get gargoyles that move, jump, spew blood, or even talk. These are meant for haunted house attractions, so you might not have the right voltage in your house. Check with the dealer before you burn the neighborhood down. These beauties will be latex covered or fiberglass. Remember that these are delicate electronic props, no rough housing.

Real gargoyles: There are real, functioning gargoyles you can add to your home. These stone carved beauties will last just about forever, but need very heavy supports.

That little lady above is my oldest gargoyle. She's several decades old at this point.

Make friends with your gargoyle

Or how to activate your magical friend

You don't have to hold any particular beliefs to work with a gargoyle. Most people just collect them, but savvy people can ask these little wonders to guard property, people, and more.

Now you will be speaking to the spirit you feel in the gargoyle. It is this spirit that protects you, not the gargoyle you can see and feel.

Simply hold the gargoyle in your lap and let your mind connect to his. He will be ready to guard, or do something useful in most cases. Let him know you appreciate his help and offer him a special resting place just for him.

You'll find that you might see movement out of the corner of your eye. This is normal, and just the feisty little guy making himself visible as he does his rounds.

Not all gargoyles want to help people. Never ever try to force a gargoyle into anything. Not only will they leave, but word will get around on the astral plane that you are not to be trusted.

Some gargoyles have had a bad experience with humans. Just like with a person, give this fellow some space and time to heal.

There are lady 'goyles too. They like all things female and bring a softness and beauty into your life. They are still ready to rumble, so don't underestimate them in the guardianship department.

Aww, aren't they cute together?

Urban Legends and popular gargoyle stories - Gargoyle tales from all around

OK urban legends are stories that sound true, but aren't. They even end up on the TV news, so a lot of people believe them. Here are a few on gargoyles.

The gargoyle that guards a grave. In this legend people who try to defile the grave are found dead the next morning, often torn to pieces or strangled. Popular offshoots are angel statues, or black cat statues.

The living gargoyle. This legend features a real living gargoyle. People have seen it fly, run across the road, or attack cars. Often popular on campuses that feature gargoyles.

The wise gargoyle. May have come from an earlier legend. This gargoyle comes to life either at midnight or every 100 years and can answer any question.

Gargoyle mates with human. Even found its way into an adult film. I'd love to see the children.


Spike!

My baby being photogenic.
My baby being photogenic.

Storing Gargoyles

Whatever the reason, from time to time gargoyles have to be stored. Think spring cleaning seasonal decorating, or moving. Though it can vary depending on the type of material used to cast the gargoyle, here are some common tips.

Clean: Clean that critter before storage. Use a dry dust rag, feather duster or soap and water. If heavy mold is present use Clorox. Miracle Gro also does a fine job of killing moss and mold.

Repair: More on this later, but try to fix your gargoyle before storage if needed.

Packing Material: Use newspaper, foam, those tiny air bags or bubble wrap. Just make sure the gargoyles have protection if the container breaks or is dropped.

Dry & Safe Storage: Store the box in a safe dry place. You may label it to find your gargoyles later.

Large cement gargoyles may be stored in garages or left outside. Unfortunately, you won't know if the gargoyle can stand up to extreme temps or ice until after it busts.


Some Simple Tips

Don't store gargoyles under heavy objects. Sounds simple, but a lot of haunted house decorators and collectors have found beheaded, smashed, or wingless gargoyles that were stored carelessly.

If you do break something try either Elmer's glue or liquid nails. Elmer's is the safest as liquid nails can melt some items like foam. Some prop sellers carry glue make for foam props. Ask for it.

Mold is not your friend. It eats paint which exposes the cement to ice, wind and water. You can nix mold with clorox or anther bleach.


He's Got His Grump On

Cameras. Hmmph. The indwelling spirit, oddly enough, usually smiles.
Cameras. Hmmph. The indwelling spirit, oddly enough, usually smiles.

Healing With Gargoyles- And For Them, Too

Coming from a spiritual level, gargoyles can help in healing work. Each has his or her own ideas on how to boost healing spells and rituals, so try to meet in the middle if possible.

You can also heal the spirit of a gargoyle. While it is doubtful that they can die, they can be wounded in defense of your home. So, take the statue you feel harm has come to and do a basic healing. You can do this by holding your hands over the statue and willing health and energy to the gargoyle spirit inside.

Gargoyles tend to take pride in harm to the physical statue, so they might not like you repairing things.


Aww.

Terminal cuteness. Who'd be scared of this cuddly little one? Seriously?
Terminal cuteness. Who'd be scared of this cuddly little one? Seriously?

A Reverend's Ideas...

Yeesh

"The word "Gargoyle" shares a common root with the word "gargle," which comes from the French gargouille, "throat." A true gargoyle is a waterspout. The word is also derived from the Latin "gurgulio" and is therefore onomatopoetic, meaning "throat" and sounding like the water which gurgles as it passes through the throat. A gargoyle makes a gurgling sound as water passes through the waterspout.

Legend has it that a fierce dragon named La Gargouille with a long neck and membranous wings lived in a cave near the river Seine. The dragon caused much fear and destruction with its fiery breath, spouting water and devouring ships and men. Each year, the residents of Rouen would placate Gargouille with an offering of a victim, usually a criminal, though it was said the dragon preferred maidens. Around 600, the village was saved by St. Romanus, who promised to deal with the dragon if the townspeople agreed to be baptized and to build a church. Romanus, armed with only a crucifix, subdued the dragon by making the sign of the cross, and then led the now docile beast back to town on a leash made from his priest's robe. La Gargouille was then burned at the stake, it is said that his head and neck were so well tempered by the heat of his fiery breath, that they would not burn. These remnants were then mounted on the town wall and became the model for gargoyles for centuries to come.

Now this is a legend, of course. No one knows for sure just what is the exact history or rationale for gargoyles. But the grain of truth in this legend is that it carries with it the Christus Victor theme. That is, a demon's head is placed on a stake, in token of his demise. No wonder those who embellished churches saw fit to place them high on the roofs. "

I'd love to see him explain away the many full-bodied gargoyles or ones that seemed very much alive. Name a lewd or offensive behavior and gargoyles did it. Of course his view supports the "do this and you're going to Hell" theory quite nicely.

Want proof he is wrong? Look at the famous and much beloved gargoyles of Notre Dame. These critters are happy to peer down in protection of the sacred place.

My Oddest Gargoyle Experience

I have come into a room and seen a gargoyle has moved. Now this could be from traffic in the area or the building settling, but nothing else is moved. Honestly, I think it is one of the resident ghosts vying for attention. The weird part is that you can glance up and see a gargoyle in a different place while in the room. Again, could be something weird with the building. Things tend to jump off the walls even when wired down. Electrical fields? Collapsing mines? Your guess is as good as mine. I do not however believe that the gargoyle is moving itself.

Sacred statues also tend to do this, but no other objects move in this manner. The move is never vary far, but the gargoyle will be facing in another direction. To make things more fun, some objects like those wired or nailed to walls have to be moved upward then out before moving. I've thought perhaps the wood in the area has contracted or expanded, thus forcing out nails or letting them loose, but the nails are always a good five or six inches from the wall.

I know the building does slant, but not every object moves. It would be logical to assume that a slant great enough to let a gargoyle slide into a new position would also slide other objects. Since objects on the edge of a surface do not fall when a gargoyle moves, nor do other items on the surface shift, it seems impossible. Also to my shame, I'm sometimes lazy enough to see that no dust has been disturbed by anything else moving.

I've even thought of air pressure, storms, or even underground gas eruptions undected by people, but again, more than one object should move if the force is that strong.

Any researchers willing to spend millions to see if I move them myself in a dissociative state are more then welcome to.

Yes, I've also thought it could be a mild psi activity (my mind is using a yet undefined power to move an object) coming from my own mind, but why just certain objects? Also most people with these powers are well aware of them and can control them. I can stare at a pencil forever, and trust me, it won't spin.

Retiring a Guardian Gargoyle - Leona, the lioness gargoyle

Gargoyles, as any pagan who has ever worked with them will tell you, are proud. When the statue they dwell in is ruined, it may take you being fierce yourself to get them to agree to come in. Above you can see my very special and beloved Leona.

She's a lioness gargoyle, and the statue is very beautiful. Unfortunately water somehow worked inside her protective latex pain one year and did horrific damage when it froze. There was no choice but to bring the statue in, no matter how fearsome Leona was when she roared in protest, she had a unprotected area to guard!

I did lovely healing ceremony, thanked her for her hard work, and blessed the statue. She also got a lovely necklace as a reward for her loyal service. That's hers, no backsies! Even when carefully cradled in my arms the statue still crumbled further in this photo shoot, poor Leona!

She's free to go wherever she wants of course, and isn't stuck in the statue. She's rather proud that she now guards a private altar.

Update: Leona has now moved back outside to a more sheltered area. I respect her need to be useful outside, and just because the statue is gone some day does not mean she will be.


Gargoyle Links - Read on, brave surfer!

Links for all your gargoyle needs. I have tried to include the views of all groups. So some of these folks love gargoyles, and some would smash them with a hammer. Personally, I'd love to smash the latter group with a hammer, but included them for folks doing research on all views.

To help here's a key to the content.

C = Christian

P = pagan

UL = Urban legends

F= fiction

H= Historical


Hit me with any good urban legends/storeis you have read or head about gargoyles. Feel free to add any info you think I've missed.

Gargoyle Stories? - Got any good urban legends/stories on gargoyles?

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    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @Colin323: Those gargoyles sound wonderful, Colin323! Here we have some in major cities but many are being removed due to age, etc. I think in the end the only ones left will be the steel gargoyles on the Chrysler building in NYC. Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • profile image

      Colin323 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens. We have some great examples of medieval gargoyles on churches in Britain, particularly in East Anglia, where I lived, and on the sides of cathedrals close to my present home in Yorkshire (York Minster; Lincoln Cathedral, e.g. the 'Lincoln Imp')

    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Awww, thank you so very much Tipi. Good to see you again, as always! Hugs! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You are simply a wealth of information. I'm glad to learn for sure that you have dispelled the myth that the statues come to life and do harm people. I guess we need to keep looking up to assure of not getting spewed on by functioning gargoyles. Your section on healing was interesting, gargoyles are much more complex than I ever would have imagined. You have created a masterpiece once again, remarkable! :)

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Thanks so very much, bloomingrose, hugs! :)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      What a great lens. I saw a gargoyle or two when I visited Paris, I know so much more about them now. Pinned and out by digg.

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @cmadden: Why, thank you cmadden! Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      Fascinating treatise on gargoyles! With very cool pictures!

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      @VspaBotanicals: I'm so happy to hear that, VspaBotanicals. So many people fear them, and they are just the cutest things ever. Thanks for the visit, hugs! :)

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      I love everything about Gargoyles, and always acknowledge their beauty.

    • CharlotteSnow LM profile image

      CharlotteSnow LM 5 years ago

      Love this lens. Something about gargoyles has always fascinated me. Thanks for sharing all this!

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 5 years ago

      Thank you so much, jptanabe. I do have a few tiny desktop ones in my basement office, but they are plastic and up off the cement. You can get very tiny ones sometimes, no bigger that a quarter in sets. I saw teeny tiny lampwork ones once sold as beads but I think they could still stand up on their own. Thanks for visiting! :)

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Fascinating! I'd love to collect gargoyles, but I think they'd find my house too small (and I wouldn't want to banish them to the basement). Angel blessed

    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 5 years ago

      Thanks Oneshotvariety! :)

    • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 5 years ago

      Gargoyles are pretty cool! Great lens! :]

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 5 years ago

      Hi, tembrooke! Most people are afraid of them. As time passed I guess folks forgot they were there to protect us. I mean think of it. Why put bad things on a church? I've seen people so frigtened of gargoyles they won't go near them. Gkad the lens helped and thanks for visiting! :)

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 5 years ago from US/TN

      Interesting! For years, I wanted to collect gargoyles -- I saw many in Europe and thought they were fascinating. I never bought any, though, because I wasn't sure what I would do with one (other than put it on a shelf to collect dust). I never knew they could be protectors or healers! I thought they represented dark spirits. I'm glad you corrected my misconception.

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 5 years ago

      Hi Brushy! I know some artist make a new sculpture over an old one. But were these object inside a hollow gargoyle? If they were he sounds like he was made to be a magical protector. The objects must have meant something to the person who made him. Thanks for sharing and visiting!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I bought a gargoyle at a goodwill store for a dollar and my son dripped it and a piece of the head broke off exsposing asmall angel figurine along with a headless baby and lips with teeth showing. Does anyone know the signifigance of this.

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

      LouiseKirkpatrick 7 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      I have a grotesque - his name is Gerald and he's green...We've known each other for many years, he's moved house with me several times and he's currently sitting on my bookcase watching me as I work :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      As a young boy of 15 I dreamt as I slept that a Gargoyle had his claws in to my chest. i fought my way to consciousness waking and as I woke and opened my eyes a green Gargoyle was on my chest. I yelled and he fled just vanished from on top of me. It was real. I found a plaster cast of the same Gargoyle. he lives in my bedroom.

      bb lokigui