Climbing Olympus: Pan

September 1, 2011


Identity: God of the nature kingdoms.

Description: Goat-man.

Symbol: Syrinx or Pan Pipes.

The Greek Myth

It is generally agreed that Hermes was the father of Pan, but his mother is sometimes mentioned as being Dryope, or the nymph Deneis, or Penelope wife of Odysseus, or even Rhea. The more convincing story, however, is that this benign and gifted deity was the product of a union between Hermes and Goat Amaltheia.

The Olympians exploited Pan (just as we exploit the Earth today). Apollo wheedled the art of prophecy from him, and Hermes copied a pipe he had let fall, claimed it as his own invention, and promptly sold it to Apollo. Although he was considered divine, the story spread around that Pan had died. It was told by an Egyptian sailor named Thamus, who claimed to have heard a spirit voice which told him to announce, upon reaching Palodes, that the great god Pan was dead! What Thamus probably heard was the ceremonial lament ‘The all-great god Tammuz is dead!’ This was ritually chanted at certain times of the year. During Plutarch’s time in the latter half of the First Century AD, Pan was very much ‘alive’ with shrines, altars and caves dedicated to him being regularly frequented. To the ancient Greeks, Pan was not so much a half-man, half-goat as an individuated or personalized nature force to which they could easily relate. But he was never a vicious or sinister deity; quite the reverse, in fact, being a god of song, dance and merriment.

During the early days of Christianity, in an effort to suppress nature worship, the adherents to the Christian cult adopted the Pan figure to epitomize their concept of evil. This produced some unfortunate repercussions in the ensuing centuries, when many innocent people were persecuted as devil worshippers simply because they possessed knowledge of herbs, healing and husbandry.

Upright Meanings

The growth element. Lessons to be learned relating to ecology and the complex web of life that exists on this planet, of which humankind is an integral part. The instinctive rather than the logical or intuitive aspect of human psychology.

Reversed Meanings

Ecological desecration. Spreading scurrilous rumours. Plagiarism. Insensitivity.  Inability to respond with respect to, or cooperate with, the many other life-forms on this planet. Spending too much time inside eating Greek salad with feta cheese and surfing the net.

Excerpt from Olympus: an experience in self-discovery, Murry Hope, The Aquarian Press 1991

A Scurrilous Rumour: The Goatman of Maryland

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