Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mountain God

We've gone over quite a few of the gods and goddesses, god of the oceans, god of love, god of fire, and the list goes on, but one god that we didn't really touch on was the god of the wilderness. I have this immense love for the mountains and have spent much of my short life trying to get to the tops of many of them, from Alaska to Peru I have climbed my fair share of mountains and spent a fair bit of my time in the wilderness. So, naturally I wanted to know what god I should thank for all the splendors of nature. I came across a few names but the one that stuck out in particular was Pan.

Pan's parentage is unclear from what I could gather, some say that he was the son of Zeus and some say that he was the son of Hermes. His mother was most likely a nymph but again which one is unclear. I think that it would make most sense for his father to be Hermes for a couple of reasons, first Hermes was a herder, and therefore spent most of his time in the pastures with his flocks, and the name PAN comes from the Greek word 'paein' which means "to pasture". So that connection just makes sense. Second, some accounts of Pan say that he was sometimes called the god of "rustic music" which would have ties to Hermes because Hermes invented the first Lyre, and according to Dr. Sexton was the real inventor of music. So, for his song to become the god of rustic music makes sense. So that's my theory on Pan's father.

His birth was said to be the birth of irrational terrors or panic, like being afraid of the dark, because when he popped out of his mother all the nurse saw was a little bearded face and a little boy with hooves for feet, so she ran away screaming, when really he was a gentle little boy who just got mixed up with some weird genes.

It is said that Pan spent most of his life simply wandering the hills and the mountain tops slaying beasts that got in his way and staying out of most everybodys way, which is perhaps why not too much is written on him. He wasn't the kind of god that wanted to be in the middle of things, unlike most the other gods. It is said that he was the Creator of beautiful music that he made with his flute. Some accounts say that when the sun started to set he would play his flute and sing sweet songs so the animals would fall asleep.

The story of how Pan came to have his flute of reeds is an interesting one that was actually another poem in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The story goes that Pan fell in love with the nymph Syrinx, but because he was neither fully man nor goat she disdained him, but he pursued her regardless. Finally she came to the rive Ladon and asked it to transform her into something else so she could get away from Pan. The river granted her wish and turned her into reeds. Instead of leaving her there, Pan picked the reeds, dried them out, and held them close to his mouth like he was going to kiss them, but when he blew out air he discovered that noise came from them, so he cut them at different lengths and hence invented the instrument which he named in his loves honor the syrinx.

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