God Pan

The god Pan could often be seen in the midst of Dionysus‘ entourage. When the great Pan was born, his mother, the nymph Driopa, looked at her son, terrified, and fled. He was born with goat’s legs and horns and a long beard. But his father, Hermes, rejoiced that a son had been born to him, took him in his arms, and carried him to the bright Olympus and the gods. All the gods rejoiced loudly at the birth of Pan and laughed as they watched him.

God Pan did not live with the gods of Olympus. He retired to the shady forests of the mountains. There he grazes the herds, playing the sound of the flute instrument – syrinx. As soon as the nymphs hear the wonderful sounds of Pan’s syrinx, they rush to it in crowds, surround it, and soon a merry dance swings through the secluded green valley to the sounds of Pan’s music. Pan himself likes to take part in nymph dances. When Pan cheered, a merry noise echoed through the woods on the mountain slopes. The nymphs and satyrs play merrily with the restless goat-legged Pan. And when the hot noon comes, Pan retreats to the largest thicket of the forest or to a hungry cave and rests there. It is dangerous for Pan to be disturbed then; he is hot-tempered and can send a heavy, depressing sleep in his anger; it may, when it appears unexpectedly, frighten the passenger who has disturbed it. Finally, he may instill panic fear. Such a horror that a person throws himself to run through his head, without choosing a path, through forests, through mountains, on the edge of precipices and without noticing that running threatens him with death at any moment. It happened that Pan instilled such fear in an entire army and that it ran uncontrollably to flee. Pan should not be annoyed – when he is angry, he is scary. But if Pan is not angry, he is merciful and good-natured. He sends many blessings to the shepherds. The great Pan, the merry participant in the dances of the raging menads, the frequent companion of the god of wine Dionysus, guards and looks after the flocks of the Greeks.

God Pan, Peter Paul Rubens. possible time of painting 1610.

Pan and Syrinx

And the great Pan was not spared by the arrows of Eros. He fell in love with the nymph Syrinx. She was proud and rejected everyone’s love. For both Latona’s daughter, the great Artemis, and Syrinx, hunting was a favorite pastime. Even Syrinx was often recognized as Artemis, so beautiful was the young nymph in her short dress, with an archer over her shoulder and a bow in her hands. Like two drops of water, they then resembled Artemis, except that her bow was made of horn, not gold, as was the bow of the great goddess.

Once Pan saw Syrinx and wanted to approach her. The nymph looked at him and ran away in horror. Pan could barely run after her, wanting to catch up with her. But here is a river that crossed the path of the nymph. Where to run? Syrinx reached for the river and began to beg the river god to save her. The god of the river listened to the nymph’s pleas and turned her into a reed. The running Pan wanted to hug Syrinx now, but he hugged only the lithe, quietly rustling reed. Pan stood sad, sighed, and heard in the gentle noise of the reeds the greeting of the beautiful Syrinx. He cut several stems and made a sweet-sounding whistle by waxing tubes of different lengths. In memory of the nymph, Pan called this whistle the syrinx. Since then, the great Pan has loved to play the syrinx on the whistle, alone in the woods, announcing the surrounding mountains with its gentle sounds.

The magic of Pan’s flute, John Reinhard Weguelin (1905)

Pan’s competition with Apollo

Pan was proud of his playing the syrinx. He once called Apollo himself to a competition. This happened on the slopes of Mount Tmol. The judge was the god of this mountain. Apollo appeared at the race in a purple cloak, with a golden lyre in his hands and a laurel wreath on his head. The competition began with Pan playing. The simple sounds of his shepherd’s whistle spread gently on the slopes of Tmol. Pan graduated. When the echoes of his whistle subsided, Apollo struck the golden strings of his lyre. The majestic sounds of divine music resounded. Everyone around stood listening to Apollo’s music as if enchanted. The golden strings of the lyre sounded solemn, the whole of nature sank into deep silence, and in the midst of the silence a melody full of marvelous beauty spread in wide waves. Graduated from Apollo; the last sounds of his lyre died. The god of the mountain Tmol awarded a victory to Apollo. Everyone praised the great god of his guitar. Only Midas did not admire Apollo’s playing, but praised Pan’s simple playing. Apollo became angry, grabbed Midas by the ears and stretched them. Since then, Midas has donkey ears, which he carefully hides under a large turban. And the sad Pan, defeated by Apollo, retreated even deeper into the thicket; the tender, sad sounds of his syrinx are often heard from there, and the young nymphs listen with love.

According to the interpretation of A. Kun