An Introduction to Pan

Pan is a god of shepherds and hunters, wild places, mountains and woods; he was worshipped throughout Greece but always retained his rustic character. He is a particular friend of the nymphs, who were often worshipped with him.

He is known to cause “panic”–a sudden irrational terror that still bears his name.

Pan is also a musical god, associated with rustic, simple, country tunes.

He was not, as has sometimes been assumed from his name, any sort of universal deity.

Myths and Stories

Pan, the child of Hermes and the daughter of Dryops, was born with the horns and feet of a goat. Hermes was delighted, and brought his new son to Olympos to show him off, where all the gods thought he was splendid.

Pan was known for his love affairs, which sometimes ended badly, as with his passion for the nymph Echo, who fled him until she became, well, an echo.

One of these passions, with the nymph Syrinx, ended similarly with her transformation into water reeds; Pan then took the reeds to make a set of pan pipes, the instrument he became known for and is often depicted playing.

Names and Epithets

Pan Nomios (Pan of the Pastures). As a god of shepherds Pan was often referred to by this epithet.

Pan Agraeus (Pan of the Hunt). As a wilderness god Pan was associated with hunting and other country pursuits.

Festivals and Worship

Pan is a god very strongly associated with his place of origin, the Greek region of Arcadia. A rural area far away from much of the rest of Greece, Arcadia and its people had a reputation for being rustic, unsophisticated and wild.

Pan’s worship later spread through Greece, where he was often honored along with the nymphs, often in wild settings such as caves and grottoes.

Attributes and Symbols

Pan is probably most strongly symbolized by the pipes that bear his name. The goat and the pine tree are sacred to him.

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