Imaginary hybrid creatures have two main functions: they bring together the symbolic strengths of different animals; and, in the case of hybrids formed of two species from different elements, they represent the fundamental unity of existence. To the minds that invented them, hybrids presented no inherent contradictions, because if all creation was interconnected, there was no reason why certain ingredients should not be permutated in new and different ways. There's a lot of evidence that the ancients did not separate imagination and reality in the way that is habitual to (most of) us.

In the great majority of cases, hybrid creatures carried a positive symbolic meaning. They inhabited a dimension that spanned this and other worlds, and therefore could serve not only to help mankind in the struggle against dark forces but also to act as messengers from the gods and as sources of wisdom in themselves. Many Egyptian gods were portrayed as part-animal, part-human, and throughout the ancient world there was a belief in the power of the gods to change their shape at will in orer to influence the world of humankind.

Some hybrid creatures include: