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The Great God Pan

By Selene Silvermoon
(Written for Ecclasia)

 

Pan was born in Arcadia on Mt. Lycaeum to Hermes (the Roman god Mercury) the mesenger to the gods. His mother was the beautiful nymph Penelope and his gorm of half man and half goat was said to be because she was raped by Hermes in the form of a Billy Goat. When Pan was born with horns, pointed ears, a goatee beard and the hind legs of a goat, Penelope was so horrified that she freaked out and abandoned him. Hermes wrapped his son up in rabbit skins and took him to Mt. Olympus where he delighted the hearts of the gods with his laughter and playfullness. The gods named him Pan which means "all." He is the symbol of the universe, the personification of nature and was ultimately regarded as representing all Pagan gods.

An aspect of the Horned God, Pan is the Greek god of noise and confusion, forests, mountainsides, shepherds and their flocks and sometimes a minor god of the sea. His many qualities include healing, protector and carer of animals, bee keeping, music, prophecy, human nature and the ability to appear in dreams. He also assists hunters, lost travelers and sailors. Sacred to Pan are the Oak and Fir trees. His symbol is the phallus and he would be invoked with offerings of honey, roasted venison, red wine, and flowers for the fertility of flocks or a successful hunt.

Playful and energetic, Pan reveled in the dark forests at night and napped during the day. If by chance an unsuspecting traveler would disturb his sleep, he would let out a bone-chilling scream causing whoever heard it to run in fear and panic. Hence the word panic is derived from Pan.

A lustful leader of Satyrs, Pan chased nymphs and fell in love with many of them. One such nymph was Pitys (Greek for pine) who preferred Pan to Boreas (the North Wind). Boreas was so enraged with Pitys for her choice that he threw her against a huge rock, crushing her limbs. To put her out of her misery, Gaea turned her into a pine.

Echo, another nymph, tried to escape his advances, but Pan caused such a panic amongst the nearby shepherds that they tore her to pieces, leaving only her voice behind.

The lovely nymp Syrinx, devoted to Artemis, rejected the advances of woodland spirits but caught the eye of Pan who chased her until she begged her sisters, the river nymphs, to turn her into a bed of reeds in order to get away from him. The wind blowing through them made such a beautiful noise that Pan cut seven of them and fastened them together with beeswax to make the first panpipe, naming it after her.

Pan was successful in seducing Selene, the Moon goddess by disguising himself in the fleece of a brilliant white Ewe and leading her into the woods. When Selene became aware of what had just occurred, she became furious and hid behind the earth's shadow, causing the first lunar eclipse.

Pan represents the spirit of the wild things in all of us. His half goat, half man appearance to many confused Christians has come to represent the very image of the Devil. According to legend, the great god Pan is said to have died when Christ was born. I tend to disagree... for if we look around in this modern age, Pan is alive and well within each one of us.

 

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This page last updated March 10, 2004