A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Ziz is a giant bird found in Hebrew cosmogony and a creature that belongs to the celestial sphere. Its head touches the sky and its feet rest on the floor of the ocean.
A giant bird from Hebrew myths.
According to old accounts, the bird was made by the Creator of fire, light, and water mixed with mud, and it was given a similar appearance between a dragon and an eagle. It was sometimes depicted with the face like a rooster.
A griffin-like gigantic bird from Jewish mythology is known as Ziz. It is a powerful mythological creature, which is part eagle and part lion. When the wings of Ziz are spread, they can easily obscure the Sun.
Howard Schwartz, an author of "Tree of Souls" calls Ziz the embodiment of fate, and according to the Jewish apocalyptic, Ziz will be killed by the Messiah and, like Leviathan and Behemoth, the creatures served to the righteous at the great feast at the End of the World.
The most famous appearance of Ziz is when the gigantic bird is part of the feast. In the Messianic Banquet, Ziz, along with Leviathan and Behemoth are represented metaphorically. Ziz is the primordial creature that rules the sky, while Leviathan, the water monster, is the primordial ruler of the seas, and Behemoth, the terrestrial beast has power over the Earth.
In this way, the three of them symbolize the entire living environment: land, water, and air.
Clockwise from left: Behemoth (on earth), Ziz (in sky), and Leviathan (under sea). Source
The monstrous Ziz is sometimes compared by scholars to the Sumerian Anzu and the ancient Greek Phoenix.
Ziz is known in many mythologies but first of all, it has its prominent place in Jewish beliefs. For many, Ziz symbolizes good omens and hope, but in some cultures, it is related to disease, bad omens, and death.
The size of the creature is comparable to the Leviathan, sometimes compared to Vrtra (a Vedic serpent or dragon in Hinduism, heroically killed by the god Indra, or Jörmungandr defeated by Thor in Norse mythology. According to another tale, the egg of Ziz, which fell to the ground, swamped sixteen cities and destroyed three hundred huge cedar trees. However, usually, the Ziz protects his eggs by placing them carefully in the nest, in order not to harm the man.
There is an ancient Hebrew story of how on one occasion during a sailing trip, a group of travelers saw a bird standing in the water, which covered only its feet, its head his head touched the sky.
Looking at the bird, they thought the water wasn't deep and they wanted to bathe, but were warned by a voice coming from the sky, saying of deep water in the area.
They also learned that this bird is Ziz, and its gigantic wings protect the Earth from the storms of the south, and only thanks to them, is the Earth able to resist the blowing winds.
In "Hebrew Myths" by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, we read that
"the Ziz is so named because his flesh has many different flavours: tasting like this (zeh) and like this (zeh). He is a clean bird, fit for food, and capable of teaching mankind the greatness of God. All birds, including the Ziz, their King, were created on the Fifth Day from marsh, and thus rank between land and sea-beasts.
See also: More Myths And Legends
But if God had not given the weaker birds a merciful dispensation, they could never have held their own against eagle, hawk and other birds of prey; for in the month of Tishri, He commands the Ziz to lift his head, flap his wings, crow aloud, and fill birds of prey with such terror that they spare the lesser breeds…”
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer
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Expand for references
Drewer, Lois. "Leviathan, Behemoth and Ziz: A Christian Adaptation." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 44 (1981): 148-56.
Nosson Slifkin, Sacred Monsters: Mysterious and Mythical Creatures of Scripture, Talmud, and Midrash. (2007)