Pan, the God of Nature
What is a pandemic? An investigation of the word “pandemic” reveals symbolic psycho-spiritual remedies for the current collective trauma of the mankind - and opportunities for individual expansion.
Etymologically, the word pandemic is composed of two Greek words: pan (πᾶν) - meaning “all” or “nature” and demos (δῆμος) - meaning “people”. So the immediate meaning of “pandemic” is something that all the people share, or something affecting all people. Historically, the word has been used with negative connotations, deeply connected to "panic" (another word rooted in "pan"), in the context of facing an exterior threat to life that is invading private and collective spaces, oppressing and taking over all levels of life: bodies, minds, private spaces, collective modus operandi. This paradigm, enthusiastically embraced in the current media hyped pandemic, resulted is a freeze point for most societies and systems, “to stop the spread”, as a result of panic. Freeze, fight or flight are all human reactions to panic, and this is what we have these days.
But is that all there is to a Pandemic? Deeper meanings and possibilities of expanding this paradigm come from exploring the archetype of Pan, the God of Nature, in Greek mythology, who symbolically presides the theatre of all pandemics. He is usually depicted as a half human and half goat creature. Pan rules over the wild nature - forests, flocks and shepherds and is associated with the fertility of fields, of woodlands and of humans in the spring time, and with music, as he is always holding his pan flute in a hand, leading the herds. You might have heard about “herd immunity”, “mass actions”, “orchestrated efforts” these days - these are all Pan’s influence. You might have heard of Planet Saturn - Capricorn’s dominant planet (Capricorn is Pan) visible on the sky at the end of March, during the peak of the pan-european and North American phase of the pandemic, to become visible again on the sky in July and in November, in conjunction with Jupiter, the symbol of law and power - this is again Pan’s symbolic influence.
Who is Pan as an archetype and what is his message for the humanity? Any time an archetype visits man’s realm is to bring messages from beyond, in a language that can be decoded at different levels of understanding. We can find clues of these messages by exploring the Homeric and Orphic hymns to Pan, written by the Greek Homer and the Thracian Orpheus some time before 1,000 BC.
Before we proceed to exploring those, we have to emphasize one important dimension of Hellenism, as a holographic system, in which the man strives to mirror the movements of the Cosmos to tune in with the flow of forces, similar to ancient Egypt’s hermeticism or China’s Daoism. This means that the human being is a reflection of the movements of the universe, and the ability of the human being to sustain life depends upon his ability to decrypt and follow the movements of the Cosmos. As such, these texts were to be applied, by those who understand them, as restoring archetypes for real life circumstances. This is the reason why most of the Orphic Hymns are actually invocations of communing with a certain aspect of a Cosmic force.
A fragment from Porphyry, the ancient philosopher, summarizes the symbol of Pan as follows: ”They (the Greek) made Pan the symbol of the universe, and gave him his horns as symbols of sun and moon, and the fawn skin as emblem of the stars in heaven, or of the variety of the universe." (Porphyry On Images, Fragment 8, excerpt, translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford). So Pan is the symbol of the Universe, embodying the celestial aspect of the Cosmos expressed as “variety” within the human realm. The message for us here is: “do not limit yourself”, do as the sun, moon, stars do, you have the “variety of universe” to solve your (human) problem. Apply a multi-facet approach - to the planetary problem, and individually, to your own problems, without denying your fear, but acknowledge that you can raise above it symbolically embracing the sun, the moon and the stars within.
According to the Orphic Hymn to Pan, the domain of Pan extends over all creation:
I call upon Pan, the pastoral god, and upon the universe,
That is, upon sky and sea and land, queen of all,
And the immortal fires; all these are Pan's realm.
Come, O blessed, frolicsome and restless companion of the seasons!
Goat-limbed, reveling, lover of frenzy, star-haunting,
You weave your playful song into cosmic harmony,
And you induce the phantasies of dread into the mind or mortals.
Your delight is at Springs, among goatherds and oxherds,
And you dance with the nymphs, you keen-eyed hunter and lover of Echo.
Present in all growth, begetter of all, many-named divinity,
Lord of the cosmos, light-bringing and fructifying Paian,
Cave-loving and wrathful, a veritable Zeus with horns!
The earth's endless plain is supported by you,
And to you yield the deep-flowing water of the untiring sea,
And Okeanos who girds the earth with his eddying stream,
And the air we breathe, which kindles all life,
And, above us, the sublime eye of weightless fire.
At your behest, all these things are kept wide apart.
Your providence alters the natures of all,
And on the boundless earth you offer nourishment to mankind.
Come, frenzy-loving and gamboling god;
Come to these sacred libations, bring my life to a good conclusion,
And send Pan's madness to the ends of the earth.
It is obvious that this is an invocation to the all encompassing aspects of the universe, with all the elements (air, sea, earth, fire). This invocation is meant to realign the outer and the inner realms. Orpheus’s hymn is an invitation for some of us, people living about 3,000 years after this hymn was composed, to see beyond the all pervasive instinctual nature aspect - half animal Pan, that symbolically alludes to our deepest fears, to Panic. In the Homeric Hymn to Pan, when Pan’s mother and nurse see the baby’s goat features, they run away and scream, while the father, God Hermes, is delighted by the baby and takes him to Olympos, where all the Gods delight in the baby, and Dionysos most of all. This is why, symbolically, in the last line of the poem Orpheus calls for Pan’s madness (the panic) to be sent “to the ends of the earth” - this is what needs to happen before we open up to embracing the higher possibilities within us as human beings.
Hermes, Pan's father, The Messanger God who can navigate between three realms: Underworld, Earth and Olympos- Gods' realm
Pan’s presence is an invitation to confront our deepest fears and our own shadow. The more or less visible war against child trafficking happening these days is not a coincidence, and neither are the recent events at the Federal Reserve Bank. There is a planetary effort to bring things to light, and this is the “starry aspect” of Pan - visible only to the awakened/ awakening people on the Planet. For the rest - Pan’s flute call to raise above the fear that puts them in “panic mode” (freeze, flight or flight) remains simply inaudible.
Seeing beyond the “goat legs” in your own nature (goat legs = run = panic = hyper alarm mode = activation of the hypothalamus - pituitary - adrenal axis = increased cortisol concentration = inflammatory effect = cytokine storm) is a call to embrace the totality of your being: after all, “Pan” means “all”, “whole”. Some things you might want to consider in embracing Pan's symbolism as soul remedy:
*Ask yourself what are your “sky and sea and land, queen of all, and the immortal fires; all these are Pan's realm” - as highest aspects of your being, encompassing the power of all the cosmic elements. What attributes and abilities would those confer you?
**How do you tune up with these elements (air, water, earth, fire)? What could "weaving your playful song into cosmic harmony" mean to you? What is your contribution to the cosmic harmony?
*** What cleansing and renewing aspects is Pan/ Hades (one aspect of "a veritable Zeus with horns") offering you? Always remember the regenerative force behind Hades, Hades means “riches”.
**** Face your Shadow, by asking yourself: What am I afraid of? Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that you are afraid of. Face your dissatisfactions. Admit that disappointments, disillusions of people, friends or institutions that we thought to bring us assurance, support and truth, are inevitable these days, but we still have to trust Pan's renewal powers. Yes, we do experience falling apart, but maybe this is the only way that will propel us into an authentic renewal. This is a pivotal moment of redefining our values.
***** What would happen if you would start embracing all the aspects of your being?
Pan’s symbolism is an invitation for you to remove the limit of the fear based instinctual aspect and to start drawing force from the totality of your being, and especially from the “star haunting” aspect depicted by Pan's symbolic horns. Allow Pan's flute to play you his wild song: what do you hear?