Last month I gave you, dear reader, a glimpse into my personal spiritual practice. I thought this month I’d do it again but in a roundabout way. Hold on while I take us through 3,000 years of history very quickly.
I’ve been feeling the myth of Pan lately. For those in the know, Pan is the ancient Greek God of the wilderness, shepherds, and pastures. He is described as looking much like a satyr, having the torso and face of a man and the legs of a goat. Of course he also sported a nice pair of horns too. Many ancient Greek depictions show him with a horse’s tail and longer ears. Only later in Roman art is he represented as more of a goat or satyr.
While he was probably known throughout the ancient Greek world, his worship and reverence was central only to the Arcadians. Arcadia was not a very fertile place, so crops like wheat or other cereal grains did not grow well. The land is rocky and full of forests so agriculture wasn’t the focus of their society. The Athenians called the Arcadian’s “acorn eaters”, for the made their bread from the processed nuts of the Oak tree rather than the wheat of their more advanced society. Arcadians were shepherds, so it was no wonder their main god was half goat, half man, and little on the wild side. Their main goddess was Artemis. There again is a wild and unrestrained personality.
The myths of Pan are peppered throughout the ancient literature. Pan was said to be nursed alongside the infant Zeus. Later, when Zeus was captured by Thypon, it was Pan and Hermes who helped restore his strength. He is responsible for the Astrological Sign Capricorn and the musical instrument: the reed/pan-pipes. He is a highly erotic god and the stories of him chasing after nymphs, young shepherds, and goats are plentiful. Wild, untamed, and sexual are just a few words to describe to this highly charged deity.
Much of western society focused its attention on the gods of culture, even after the polytheists of Europe became “unfashionable.” References to Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and Hades travel through Western art, literature, and government. Gods of the wilderness, of chaos, of revelry and desire, were left in the past for a multitude of reasons: mostly because society valued progress, rationality, war, and monotheism.
It wasn’t until the height of the industrial revolution in Great Britain did the Great God Pan rear his head again. I could go into all the poetry, statuary, literature, and worship that began to flow back to Pan at this time but that would be best left to the professional historians. Professor Ronald Hutton does just this in his talk History of the Pagan Horned God*. You can listen to it on the Druidcast podcast in the link below. It’s a long talk but so worth it.
Spring has come back to Minnesota. The cool winter days are behind us and when the sun is out, I can walk in jeans and short sleeves and feel happy again. I went for a run the other day in shorts and felt the sun on my face. I took off my shirt, grabbed my hoola-hoop out of the garage and swung that around for a while. I have plans on getting out onto the hiking trails on my next day off. Come rain or shine, I’ll be out there. I’m going dancing this Friday night. These are my offerings to Pan.
I’m rather cultured individual so it might be strange to see me as reverent to the goat-footed-god. I work on my computer a lot. I wear button down shirts. I try to comb my hair every day and keep it in a neat braid. I try to keep myself contained, to be well mannered, and to speak clearly. While I honor and respect these aspects of society, I’m creature of nature, of the wilderness, of the swamps and mud. I love the feeling of my heart beating in my chest when I run. I love the ecstatic flow of dance music when I’m in the club. I love wine, and dancing, and bodies, and all the things the wild goat God Pan stands for. Spring fever is real and it’s a pandemic. I say embrace it.
Further reading on Pan, and other horned gods:
Horns of Honor: Regaining the Spirit of the Pagan Horned God by Frederick Thomas Elworthy, Raven Grimassi
-Markus K Ironwood