The History and Mythology of Pan


PanPan, in Greek religion and mythology, is the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of the nymphs. His name originates within the Greek language, from the word paein, meaning "to pasture." He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.

In Roman religion and myth, Pan's counterpart was Faunus, a nature god who was the father of Bona Dea, sometimes identified as Fauna. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pan became a significant figure in the Romantic movement of western Europe, and also in the 20th-century Neopagan movement.

Erotic aspects

Pan is famous for his sexual powers, and is often depicted with a phallus. Diogenes of Sinope, speaking in jest, related a myth of Pan learning masturbation from his father, Hermes, and teaching the habit to shepherds.

Pan's greatest conquest was that of the moon goddess Selene. He accomplished this by wrapping himself in a sheepskin[17] to hide his hairy black goat form, and drew her down from the sky into the forest where he seduced her.

Pan and Music

In two late, Roman sources, Hyginus and Ovid, Pan is substituted for the satyr Marsyas in the theme of a musical competition (agon) and the punishment by flaying is omitted.

Once Pan had the audacity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and to challenge Apollo, the god of the lyre, to a trial of skill. Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen to umpire. Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to himself and 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. He 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 they were forced to go to a second round. In this round, Apollo demanded that they play their instruments upside-down. Apollo, playing on the lyre, was unaffected. However, Pan's pipe couldn't be played while upside down, so Apollo won the contest.


In 1933, the Egyptologist Margaret Murray published the book, The God of the Witches, in which she theorised that Pan was merely one form of a horned god who was worshipped across Europe by a witch-cult.[38] This theory 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, Indian Pashupati and Greek Pan.

A modern account of several purported meetings with Pan is given by Robert Ogilvie Crombie in The Findhorn Garden and The Magic Of Findhorn. Crombie claimed to have met Pan many times at various locations in Scotland, including Edinburgh, on the island of Iona and at the Findhorn Foundation.