Earth, Pan, Nymphs, and the Seasons
We are unsure who exactly Pan's parents were - there are several different traditions, all of which have equal authenticity and attestation in the mythography. It seems that the predominant tale that was accepted by later Greeks and Romans was that Hermes fathered the half-human half-goat child with a mortal woman, who upon seeing her child for the first time was so shocked by his hirsute appearance, she ran away in panic. This began the god's connection with the human emotional state of panic, which continued even into the middle ages when Pan was used in medieval imagery as the basis for the popular image of "Satan" or "the devil".
Pan's personality traits and physical characteristics are similar to other half-human, half-animal followers of Dionysus. Like most members of Dionysus' retinue, Pan prefers the wilderness and "wild" regions of Greece to the settled life of urban areas and cities; Pan is not completely human in either form or behaviour. The half-man, half-goat exterior is an allegory for the inner state of Pan.
The shocking appearance and wild nature of Pan led to his being rejected by multiple women - despite the fact that he was a highly sensual, amorous, and romantic God. Many ancient images of Pan with an erect phallus survive, and these show that not only was he associated with the fertility and fecundity of nature (human beings being a part of the natural world), but he was a God who was benevolent to those who sought to make love in natural areas.
In later Roman mythography and worship Pan was often identified with, and sometimes confused with, Silvanus and Faunus - even though all three are distinct individuals, with different patronages and duties.
Classical Text of the Day
Metamorphoses Bk I:689-721
Mercury tells the story of Syrinx
So the god explained ‘On Arcadia’s cold mountain slopes among the wood nymphs, the hamadryads, of Mount Nonacris, one was the most celebrated: the nymphs called her Syrinx. She had often escaped from the satyrs chasing her, and from others of the demi-gods that live in shadowy woods and fertile fields. But she followed the worship of the Ortygian goddess in staying virgin. Her dress caught up like Diana she deceives the eye, and could be mistaken for Leto’s daughter, except that her bow is of horn, and the other’s is of gold. Even so she is deceptive. Pan, whose head is crowned with a wreath of sharp pine shoots, saw her, coming from Mount Lycaeus, and spoke to her.’ Now Mercury still had to relate what Pan said, and how the nymph, despising his entreaties, ran through the wilds till she came to the calm waters of sandy Ladon; and how when the river stopped her flight she begged her sisters of the stream to change her; and how Pan, when he thought he now had Syrinx, found that instead of the nymph’s body he only held reeds from the marsh; and, while he sighed there, the wind in the reeds, moving, gave out a clear, plaintive sound. Charmed by this new art and its sweet tones the god said ‘This way of communing with you is still left to me’ So unequal lengths of reed, joined together with wax, preserved the girl’s name.
About to tell all this, Cyllenian Mercury saw that every eye had succumbed and their light was lost in sleep. Quickly he stops speaking and deepens their rest, caressing those drowsy eyes with touches of his magic wand. Then straightaway he strikes the nodding head, where it joins the neck, with his curved sword, and sends it bloody down the rocks, staining the steep cliff. Argus, you are overthrown, the light of your many eyes is extinguished, and one dark sleeps under so many eyelids.
Tum deus 'Arcadiae gelidis sub montibus' inquit
'inter hamadryadas celeberrima Nonacrinas
naias una fuit: nymphae Syringa vocabant.
non semel et satyros eluserat illa sequentes
et quoscumque deos umbrosaque silva feraxque
rus habet. Ortygiam studiis ipsaque colebat
virginitate deam; ritu quoque cincta Dianae
falleret et posset credi Latonia, si non
corneus huic arcus, si non foret aureus illi;
sic quoque fallebat.
Redeuntem colle Lycaeo
Pan videt hanc pinuque caput praecinctus acuta
talia verba refert -- restabat verba referre
et precibus spretis fugisse per avia nympham,
donec harenosi placidum Ladonis ad amnem
venerit; hic illam cursum inpedientibus undis
ut se mutarent liquidas orasse sorores,
Panaque cum prensam sibi iam Syringa putaret,
corpore pro nymphae calamos tenuisse palustres,
dumque ibi suspirat, motos in harundine ventos
effecisse sonum tenuem similemque querenti.
arte nova vocisque deum dulcedine captum
'hoc mihi colloquium tecum' dixisse 'manebit,'
atque ita disparibus calamis conpagine cerae
inter se iunctis nomen tenuisse puellae.