Pan - The Horned One and The Devil

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Horned One and The Devil

O goat-foot god of Arcady!

The modern world hath need of thee!

(Oscar Wilde)

Pan is the most famous of the horned male spirits. Some suggest that other horned spirits, such as Faunus, Krampus or Virbius, are all derivatives, aspects or versions of Pan.

Pan’s parentage is unclear: he may be the son of Zeus and Callisto, a bear spirit, who may or may not be a manifestation of Artemis. Or Pan may be the son of Hermes and Dryope, or Hermes and various other nymphs. If his parentage is mysterious, one thing is commonly acknowledged: Pan was born in Arcadia, a remote, mountainous region of Greece, as was Hermes.

Pan is half-man and half-goat. His lower half is goat-like; his upper half is human except for his goat’s horns and ears. He’s furry and shaggy. Sometimes he cavorts naked; sometimes he dresses in a deerskin. He carries a shepherd’s crook and the Panpipes he invented. Pan offers his devotees music lessons. He often wears a pine bough wreath indicating his alliance with Dionysus and Kybele: the pine is sacred to both of them.

Pan dances, plays music, and has sex as frequently as possible—he is sexually vigorous and tireless. He is also omni-sexual, pursuing both women and men and perhaps goats as well.

Pan brings joy, panic, and fear. He is associated with overwhelmingly ecstatic emotions. He himself is described as moody and may perhaps be considered the deity of manic depression or bi-polar disorder. When Pan feels blue, he goes off by himself to a cave. Should he be disturbed, he emits a bone-chilling scream that causes “panic”—the emotion named in his honor.

On moonlit nights, Pan is usually in a happy mood. He likes to frolic in remote, wild places with nymphs and satyrs. He is the master of the satyrs, who physically resemble him. Pan dances with Maenads, too. He likes fun and sensual pleasures. Pan enjoys surprising and scaring unwary travelers in the forest who react with panic, much to his delight. Although often described as grotesque, many surviving images of Pan, particularly those from Pompeii, are graceful and beautiful.

Pan’s name may derive from a word for “herdsman,” although the more popular explanation is that Pan means “all,” indicating that he is Lord of All Nature.

Pan is the protector of the forest and flocks. He is the patron of hunters, fishermen, and shepherds and all those who, one way or another, depend upon animals for survival. Pan negotiates the balance between the lives and needs of animals and people.

Pan was no obscure deity but among the most widely worshipped divinities in ancient Greece, although he was never part of the Olympian pantheon. Eventually his cult extended over the Middle East and throughout southern Italy. The city of Panopolis, at the source of the Jordan River, was named in his honor, as was another city in Egypt (also known as Akhmim).

The Greek historian Plutarch (c.45—c.120 CE), a priest of Apollo at Delphi, wrote that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14—37 CE), an Egyptian sailor named Thamus, on his way to Italy, heard a spectral voice demanding, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.

Pan, however, was not dead: reports from a century after Plutarch’s death indicate that Pan was actively worshipped in shrines found in mountain caves and grottoes.

Nevertheless, Thamus seems to have spread the news: this story was very popular among early Christians who suggested that it coincided with the day Christ was crucified. Allegedly, according to the story, all Pagan oracles ceased from that day forth, although that clearly isn’t true, as Christians themselves forcibly closed many of these oracles centuries later. The story was interpreted as a parable of the death of Paganism in response to the resurrection of Christ.

Robert Graves, author of The Greek Myths, doesn’t dispute the truth of the story but suggested that Thamus misunderstood Thamus Pan-megas Tethnece or “the all-great Tammuz is dead”—a reference to Tammuz, Ishtar’s consort, a dying god, who died annually only to be reborn each year.

During the later Hellenic period, Pan developed something of a disreputable aura. He was identified with rustic, county religion. Classical Greeks, with their emphasis on human beauty and perfection, considered gods who combined human and animal anatomy like those of the Egyptians to be vulgar.

Pan became more identified as a woodland creature than as a god. However, by the Victorian era, Pan returned to the forefront: he was believed to epitomize the vibrant, Earthy, authentic flavor of Paganism, hence Oscar Wilde’s poem at the beginning of this section. Pan became extremely popular during the early Pagan renaissance and is the inspiration for Dion Fortune’s 1936 novel, The Goat Foot God. He remains an extremely significant and beloved deity among Neo-Pagans.

See also Satyrs; CREATIVE ARTS: Literature: The Secrets of Dr Taverner, Music: Flute; DICTIONARY: Pagan; DIVINE WITCH: Dionysus, Hecate, Hermes; HALL OF FAME: Dion Fortune.