Monday, August 01, 2005


Pan: God of shepherds and flocks, son of Hermes and a nymph. Pan was born with the legs and horns of a goat, which caused his own mother to spurn him. Nor was the adult god more popular with the nymphs. One ran away from him and was transformed into a reed, which inspired Pan to invent the shepherd's pipe of bound reeds of varying lengths. Pan was considered to be the cause of the sudden fear that sometimes comes for no reason, especially in lonely places. That's why it's called "panic".

Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,
Can ye listen in your silence?
Can your mystic voices tell us
Where ye hide? In floating islands,
With a wind that evermore
Keeps you out of sight of shore?
Pan, Pan is dead.
. . . .
[Elizabeth Barret Browning, 1806-61, The Dead Pan]

Pan is supposed to be one of the few Greek gods that actually died. This is an anomaly because one of the perks of being a god is that you are supposed to be immortal. But in the First Century AD, Plutarch (a priest at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and a Greek historian) wrote about an Egyptian ship pilot name Thamus being hailed by a voice while passing the island of Paxi. The voice said, "When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead...and oh, could you pick up some dry cleaning for me while you are there."

I made up the part about the dry cleaning. The part of the story about Pan being dead was supposed have been true, though.

But that story planted the seeds that the great god of shepards and legendary lecher was dead. Someone got his goat, so to speak.

Despite his death, I always kind of liked Pan. For one reason, Tom Robbins resurrected him in his book, Jitterbug Perfume. And I really liked that book.

I am fascinated by the fact that Pan is supposedly responsible for that sudden fear we get in lonely places. I never knew that until I started writing this blog entry and looked Pan up on the Web. But it makes sense. Because Pan has always symbolized to me a certain animal side of ourselves that we deny because we've become civilized.

I have a statue of Pan that currently occupies my backyard and sits on one of the stumps of the trees that have been the source of inspiration for many of my blog entries. He sits there off from the patio surrounded by the invading ivy and plays his reed flute. And in a couple of weeks, the movers will pack Pan up and move him to our new backyard where I'll put him under a tree.

Because I don't believe that Pan is dead.

And I think he may show up in a story of a killer bunny....cavorting.

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