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PAN
"The Goat Hooved God"

The Greek God Pan is perhaps the most familiar form of the Horned God/Wild Man archetype. The classical imagery of this country-dwelling deity is most anciently derived from the Homeric Hymn to Pan, whose verses celebrate the rustic God whose original home was in remote Peloponnesian Arcadia, surrounded by mountains. The poet evokes the God as He wanders through the woodland glades with dancing nymphs. The long-haired and shaggy deity whose haunts are the mountain peaks and rocky caves was a keen-eyed hunter as well as a shepherd. Pan played His pipes in the evening, vying with the bird songs. Occasionally joined by sweet-voiced Nymphs, their music goes echoing around the mountain tops, while the goat-footed God joins in the dancing. He pastures His flocks in a soft meadow where the crocus and the fragrant hyacinths are mingled with the tender grasses.

Pan is an ancient god indeed, harkening back to the old hunter/gatherer societies with their horned or antlered shamanic gods. But with the Neolithic revolution came agriculture and animal domestication, and Pan became the herdsman's god associated with goats which were the principal livestock of that part of Greece. His original worship was in Arcadia where Mount Maenalus and Mount Lycaeus was sacred to him.

There is argument about what His name means. The Homeric Hymn relates that when Hermes brought the infant Pan to Mount Olympus all the gods were delighted and they called Him Pan, which means literally 'all.' The ancient scholars of Alexandria believed that Pan personified the Natural Cosmos, and the word Pantheism is derived from this idea, that all Nature is God and that God is All Nature: not merely a manifestation of the material world but the Animus Mundi, the spirit of the natural world.

Modern liguistic scholars, however, tend to prefer to derive the name of Pan from a word which means 'pasturer.' The spread of Pan's worship beyond his home pastures of Arcadia was said to have arisen around the 5th Century BCE. Pan asked why the Athenians neglected him, and promised them victory over the Persians if they would worship him. At Marathon, the Persians were routed and fled in Panic; so, the Athenians built a temple for him on the Acropolis, and his worship soon extended to all Greece.

Pan is described in the Homeric Hymn as the son of Hermes by the Arcadian Nymph Dryope. He is "goatfooted, two-horned, noisy, and laughing..." But with the absorption of both into the Olympian system, Pan acquired a variety of parents. He was said to possibly be the son of Zeus by Thymbris or Callisto. Another named mother was Amalthea the Cretan goat-goddess who was nursemaid to both Zeus and Dionysus. In fact, Pan's form resembled that of the goat-satyrs who attended the god Dionysus, though often these satyrs are shown as little more than frisky young men wearing goat skins and having tails. This is one way that earlier images of the god Pan can be distinguished from the common satyr. However, in later times, the satyrs as the familiars of Pan wore hooves as well as horns. These attributes along with a prominent phallus merged together and this association, particularly, gave them their popular identification as the male symbols of sexuality.

The Romans identified Pan with their own god Faunus, and Priapus from Asia Minor, whose characteristics and physical appearances were similar. The phallic image of Pan is a celebration of the primal sexuality of Man in honor of his Animal self. Many ancient people had no shame around sex and considered it a vital sign of health and even of divine blessing. The recognition of humans as another kind of animal was a natural equation that placed man as a part of Nature rather than as something separate and alone.

Pan had many lovers, both female and male, quite apart from his constant pursuit of the anonymous nymphs of his woodlands. Even though portrayed as aggressively masculine, Pan's sexual nature was so profound that it transcended any boundaries; in this He resembled both Hermes and Dionysos. Two of Pan's better-known love affairs include the Moon Goddess Selene and his pursuit of the Nymph Syrinx, whose father was the river Ladon. Ladon rescued his daughter from Pan by turning her into a reed. Frustrated, Pan plucked some reeds and made His Pan-pipes to recall the sweet voice of His would-be love. These pipes are called the Syrinx.

Beyond His pastoral, hunting and musical nature Pan shared with his father, Hermes, the gifts of wisdom and prophecy. In this sense, He seems to personify the concept of wisdom through oneness with Nature. He had a positive side that was portrayed as the laughing, lusty lover and musician; this side of Pan was called 'pangenitor' the all-begetter.

But like all the Gods of Nature He had a shadow side as well. This was seen in Pan the Hunter and the Pursuer who was prone to violence and madness at times. In this form He is called 'panphage' the all-devourer and as such He was perceived as a dangerous protector of the Wilderness. The word 'panic' itself derives from Pan; for in this form He could cause sudden irrational wild fear in the noonday silence of a deserted mountainside. This dark side of Pan and also his rampant sexuality were looked on with such horror and disgust by the Medieval Christian Church that some of their images of the devil were given the horns, hooves and ithyphallic appearance of the familiar Greek God. Nevertheless, images of Pan in His European guise of Robin Goodfellow continued to be the focus of joyous rural celebrations well into the 16th century CE.


Many romantic poems were written in the 18th and 19th centuries,
recalling classical glory and a nostalgia for the Gods of Nature
in the so-called Age of Reason.


Shackled by the Iron Age
Lost the Woodland heritage
Heavy goes the heart of man
Parted from the light-foot Pan;
Wearily he wears the chain
Till the Goat-god comes again.

Dion Fortune


This nostalgia is nowhere as poignant as in the classic children's tale,
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame,
Chapter 7, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn:"

...While Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the panpipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the grassy sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in utter peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered. "Rat!" he found breath to whisper, shaking. "Are you afraid?" "Afraid?" murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. "Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet- and yet- O, Mole, I am afraid!" Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

This magnificent figure of the God Pan, created by Otter and Morning Glory Zell, is a triumphant tribute to the return of this God in an age when He is most needed to combat the heartless forces of Environmental destruction. Pan as protector represents a return to reverence for the mystery and divinity of Wild Nature. Like the gentle Piper at the Gates of Dawn, He is poised with His magic pipes in hand and a baby otter at His feet. Yet, He is also a proud celebration of the liberating power of male erotic energy in its purest and most beautiful form. At a time when the puritanical and prurient forces are working for the same goals, it is vital that we reclaim joyous, non-exploitative male sexuality from the morass of vilification and suppression. Pan Genitor is the Father, the Lover, the Son, the Brother and the Friend who is real, powerful and true. His message to us today is to trust your body and learn to revel in its erotic animal energy; to listen to the sweet seductive music in the wind. He tells us that we are part of the web of life that is connected to all of Nature and that we need to look for the spark of Pan in every Man.


Come where the round of the dance is trod,
Horn and hoof of the Goat-foot God.
Come, O Come to the heartbeats drum..

Doreen Valiente

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