The Great God Pan
The Call of Pan
I want you to forget right and wrong; to be as happy as the beasts, as careless as the flowers and the birds. To live to the depths of your nature as well as to the heights. Truly there are stars in the heights and they will be a garland for your forehead. But the depths are equal to the heights.Wondrous deep are the depths, very fertile is the lowest deep. There are stars there also, brighter than the stars on high. The name of the heights is Wisdom and the name of the depths is Love. How shall they come together and be fruitful if you do not plunge deeply and fearlessly? Wisdom is the spirit and the wings of the spirit, Love is the shaggy beast that goes down. Gallantly he dives, below thought, beyond Wisdom, to rise again as high above these as he had first descended. Wisdom is righteous and clean, but Love is unclean and holy. The Crown of Life is not lodged in the sun: the wise gods have buried it deeply where the thoughtful will not find it, nor the good: but the Gay Ones, the Adventurous Ones, the Careless Plungers, they will bring it to the wise and astonish them. All things are seen in the light—How shall we value that which is easy to see? But the precious things which are hidden, they will be more precious for our search: they will be beautiful with our sorrow: they will be noble because of our desire for them. Come away with me, Shepherd Girl, through the fields, and we will be careless and happy, and we will leave thought to find us when it can, for that is the duty of thought, and it is more anxious to discover us than we are to be found.”
- From The Crock of Gold by James Stephens, 1912
Pan is the spirit of wild, irrepressible life essence. He is a Great God of tremendous power, the Lord of fertility, wild nature, ecstatic music, wild goats, shepherds, flocks and hunters. He bestows musical skill. Pan’s nature of one of paradox. He was an uncivilized god in a civilized world. Much like the goat, which could never truly be domesticated, Pan always retained a bit of his feral nature. Though he lived wild and free in the mountains of Arcadia, he also liked the comforts of civilization such as wine, women, and song. Maybe the reason that Pan was often referred to as “The God heard, but not seen” is because of His love for wildness and freedom and his longing for civilization and its benefits. Pan is most often heard through his pan pipe than actually seen.
Pan’s parentage is unclear, he is said to be the son of Hermes or Dionysus and a Nymph or possibly the son of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. The legend is that while Odysseus was away, Penelope slept 108 suitors, and became pregnant with Pan. That idea would certainly explain Pan’s prodigious eroticism. Pan may be much older than the Olympians, for He is said to have given Artemis her hunting dogs and taught Apollo the art of prophesy.
Worship of Pan began in Arcadia, thought the ancient Greeks to be a magickal place that existed ”before the Moon”. In most of the ancient world, Pan was worshipped in natural settings such as grottos and caves along with whichever local nymph was prominent in the area. Grottos and caves were often used by shepherds for shelter and were hiding places for outcasts. The dual nature of Pan (half God, half goat) would have made Him an outcast in Greek society.. On the acropolis in Athens He wasn’t given a temple, it was said he resided in a crack on the side of the plateau that housed the acropolis. The only known temple to Pan was in his native Arcadia, the ruins of which survive to this day.
The work panic derives from Pan. When Pan shouts panic ensues, there is no need for Him to have weapons, his voice is sufficient. Most of the time Pan unleashed panic upon people he was angry at, but he also liked to unleash panic on armies that dared to enter his domain. In wartime Pan was known to throw invading armies into a blind panic and He was said to have helped the Athenians defeat the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in exchange for their worship of Him. Pan creates panic by making so much noise that an army thinks they are being attacked, and in that moment of terror they end up killing each other without realizing it. Panic was said to spread like wildfire among armies, and that it only took a few frightened individuals to throw everyone else into a panic state.
Though Pan could help defeat invading armies, He was never a God of war. He was a peaceful God who is shown on pottery with his back turned away from battle scenes. He may have punished armies with panic simply because he disliked them.
At parties Pan panic was said to descend upon a crowd when Pan began to lead the dance. The party would get into full swing and the crowd leap and dance in a more uncivilized way. This ecstatic dancing within a large group allowed people to commune with the God Pan while retaining a sense of self.
One of the famous myths of Pan involves the origin of his pan flute, fashioned from lengths of hollow reed. Syrinx was a lovely water-nymph of Arcadia, daughter of Landon, the river-god. As she was returning from the hunt one day, Pan met her. To escape from his sexual advances, the fair nymph ran away and didn't stop to hear his compliments. He pursued her until she came to her sisters who immediately changed her into a reed. When the air blew through the reeds, it produced a plaintive melody. Pan, still infatuated, took some of the reeds, because he could not identify which reed she became, and cut seven pieces (or according to some versions, nine), joined them side by side in gradually decreasing lengths, and formed the musical instrument bearing the name of his beloved Syrinx. Afterwards Pan was seldom seen without it.
The music of the syrinx was known to make people dance and lower their inhibitions. It was said that when Pan played his syrinx he could drive people mad with its music. The sound of the syrinx filled people with the lustful nature of Pan, and as a result, they often lost control.
Pan is a sexual God. He is often depicted with an erect phallus chasing a nymph and is associated with “panic sex” or lustful sex used solely for physical satisfaction. Pan is not a God to petition for love, He is a God of lust. Pan has as many lovers as often as possible. There were were never any long-term girlfriends for Him. Greek Gods were never really monogamous, and had lovers on the side, but they invariably had long term relationships or marriages.
Pan’s erotic advances were often met with distain or outright terror. Echo was a nymph who was a great singer and dancer and scorned the love of any man. This angered Pan, and he instructed his followers to kill her. Echo was torn to pieces and spread all over earth. Gaia, the Goddess of the Earth, received the pieces of Echo, whose voice remains repeating the last words of others. Pan also loved a nymph named Pitys, who was turned into a pine tree to escape him.
Pan's greatest conquest was that of the Moon Goddess Selene. He accomplished this by wrapping himself in a sheepskin to hide his hairy black goat form. He drew her down from the sky into the forest where he seduced her.
Pan challenged Apollo, the God of the lyre, to a trial of musical skill. Tmolus was chosen to umpire. Pan blew on his pipes and his rustic melody was extremely pleasing to himself and to his faithful follower, Midas, who happened to be present. Then Apollo struck the strings of his lyre. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to Apollo, and all but Midas agreed with the judgment. Midas dissented and questioned the justice of the award. Apollo would not suffer such a depraved pair of ears any longer and turned Midas' ears into those of a donkey.
In another version of the myth, the first round of the contest was a tie, so the competitors were forced to hold a second round. In this round, Apollo demanded that they play their instruments upside-down. Apollo, playing the lyre, was unaffected. However, Pan's pipe could not be played while upside down, so Apollo won the contest.
Ancient Greek hunters offered Pan trophies of their success but if their hunting trips were unsuccessful they would scourge Pan’s image demanding better luck next time.
Pan did not have set feast dates so people worshipped him whenever the need arose. Pan worship was usually done in groups and was an exercise in endurance beginning at mid-afternoon and ending at sunrise the next day. Groups approached Pan’s sacred places making as much noise as possible so that they didn’t startle Pan. An offering was given, and if it was to be a sacrifice then a male goat would be killed, boiled and eaten by the worshippers. Then taunting and teasing between the sexes would begin, becoming more and more sexual in nature. An all night vigil would be held to await the appearance of Pan, ending when a sign of Pan’s presence was confirmed. Once Pan was at the party, then the serious eating, drinking and coupling would begin. The whole rite, from beginning to end was accompanied by the playing of pan pipes. At the climax of the ritual the women would make a sound called a “krauge” a loud frightening noise that could cause fear and panic. At this time worshippers are often visited with visions of the God or He would descend into their bodies. The revelry went on until past dawn. It was considered an insult to Pan not to party throughout the night.
According to the Greek historian Pan is the only Greek god (other than Asclepius) who actually dies. During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan's death came to a sailor named Thamus. A divine voice said, "Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead." Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore with groans and laments. The news of Pans death was repeated so often by Christians, that by the 18th century it was considered a historical fact. The cry "Great Pan is dead" has appealed to poets, such as John Milton,
In the 18th Century, when the modern world believed that Pan was dead, interest in Pan revived. In the English town of Painswick in Gloucestershire, a group of 18th century gentry organised an annual procession dedicated to Pan, during which a statue of the deity was held aloft. John Keats’s poem depicts a scene where shepherds gather around an Altar and pray to Pan.
By the 19th Century Pan began to appear often in literature and art. Pan can be found in poetry, novels and children’s books. Peter Pan is His namesake and in The Wind in the Willows Pan is disguised as a powerful but secretive nature-god, protector of animals, who casts a spell of forgetfulness on all those he helps. He makes a brief appearance to help the Rat and Mole recover the Otter's lost son Portly.
In 1933 Margaret Murray wrote of Pan in her book The God of the Witches in which she theorized that Pan was one form of the ancient Horned God who was worshipped by the Witch Cult throughout Europe. Her book influenced the Neopagan notion of the Horned God, as an archetype of male virility and sexuality. In Wicca, the archetype of the Horned God is highly important, as represented by such deities as the Celtic Cernunnos, and the Great God Pan.
FAVORED PEOPLE: Shepherds, hunters, free spirits.
WORSHIP: Approach Pan with a lot of noise, pipes, clapping, singing, chanting, He doesn’t like to be startled.
OFFERINGS: Wine for Pan, honey cakes for his nymphs
MANIFESTATION: Pan has a man’s head and upper torso and shaggy goat’s horns, legs, and hindquarters
ICONOGRAPHY: Images of Pan served as the prototype for the Christian devil.
ATTRIBUTE: Pan pipes
SPIRIT ALLIES: Hermes, Dionysus, Nymphs
COLORS: Purple, brown, green
PLACE: Fields, groves, caves, and forested mountains
TIME: Pan may visit your dreams at naptime and bring blessings, good fortune and healing. Twilight or the evening hours are also the best times to contact Him
DATE: October’s Full Moon is called Pan’s Moon and is the night when one’s true love is revealed in dreams
SACRED SITE: Pan had an Altar beside Demeter and Despoena’s Arcadian Shrine.
Sources: Encyclopedia of Spirits – Judika Illes
Pan: The God of All -February 19, 2013 By Jason Mankey