Considered to be one of the oldest Greek Gods, Pan is also one of the most often referenced gods in Greek mythology. But did you know he ruled over nature, pasturelands, and woodland. He is depicted as having the upper half of a man, but his lower half (and his horns!) is all goat. He ruled over shepherds, hunters and rustic music – which is why you won’t see grandiose temples devoted to him. Instead, his shrines are more likely to be found in caves or grottos – anywhere out in the wild really.
Now, unlike actual goats, Pan was often considered to be unattractive and is depicted as being more unattractive than his fellow gods – unusual because gods in Greek mythology are often depicted as inhumanly beautiful – they are gods, after all. There doesn’t seem to be much of an explanation for why this is, perhaps the other gods were jealous he got to hang out with cool animals all the time?
Like actual goats, Pan possessed a strength not expected of his stature, as well as high stamina and seemingly being immune to injury. He could transform objects and teleport himself from Earth to Mt Olympus, and back, unlike actual goats who are not known to have any teleporting or transforming abilities.
We owe the word panic to Pan as well. Supposedly, during a battle, Pan helps his friend survive an attack. He doesn’t do this, as you might have thought, by panicking, but simply letting out an impossibly loud and frightened (but fully in control) cry that scared the enemy off. Here is where we get the word panic, which means a sudden and uncontrollable fear that leads people to behave irrationally. Because screaming wildly at your enemies is not normal, Pan.
But Pan is much more than a half-human, half-goat God. He has also been popularised in modern works such as literature, films, and TV. If you had a childhood in the western world, you’ve probably heard of Disney, and you’ve probably heard of Peter Pan. Well, that Peter Pan is based on the half-goat himself – Pan. You’re probably thinking that Peter Pan was definitely a small boy and not a goat but hear us out.
Pan was known for playing the pipes to fairies and nymphs – and if you’ll remember, Peter had a gift for that instrument as well. If your memory is that good, you might even remember that Peter Pan rides a goat at one point (not something we’d recommend). Pan also shares similarities with the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth – not called Pan but the design was based on him.
He also makes an appearance in Netflix’s recent series ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’. He is the villain in the third season and his gaze causes one of the witches to go insane. It’s not documented that Pan ever did this, or even had the ability to, but it made for good TV.
*Disclaimer: goats also lack the ability to make people go insane, simply by looking at them.
That’s a brief overview of our friendly neighbourhood goat-God, Pan, who looked after nature, the same way goats do now!