Two weeks ago, my last blog post discussed a phenomenon I have been following with a great deal of interest, the obsession of pop culture with the personality of Satan. This post digs further into the main character representing the Satan. The mythological creature identified in Elizabeth Barrett Browning famous poem, the “Great God Pan”. Most of the representations of Satan today in movies, literature, music and other media appear as some variation of Pan, the goat-headed god of nature.
Pan is supposed to be the son of the messenger god Hermes (Roman Mercury). His Roman name is Faunus (faun). In some accounts he is the son of Zeus himself. The story goes that when his mother saw him for the first time, she ran in horror for her child had the head of a goat complete with horns, the torso of a man and the lower body of goat with hairy thighs, legs and goat’s feet. His Father took him to Olympus where he amused the gods who named him Pan. The name means “all.” The name is a prefix in a number of English words, Pandora, “all gifts,” Pantheon, “all the gods,” panacea “cure all,” and Pantheism “all is god.” He carried a flute that he himself fashioned out of a reed. It was actually a nymph who ran from him and transformed herself into a reed on the riverbank to escape him. As a result, he became associated with that musical instrument. You have heard of the “pan pipes” which is now the “pipe organ.”
Although Pan started out as a minor god of the hills, mountains, forests and animals, in time he came to be considered the representative of all the other gods and of paganism. The famous English poet John Milton labeled him the “Universal Pan.”
Pan was often portrayed as a mischievous and playful god, but in time he took on an ominous and fearful demeanor whose presence could strike such fear that his name became the root of another familiar word, panic. The sensation you would feel walking in the forest at night where Pan ruled. According Manley Hall, “The Egyptians were initiated into the Mysteries of Pan, …. Pan represented the impregnating power of the sun and was the chief of a horde of rustic deities, and satyrs. He also signified the controlling spirit of the lower worlds who possessed prophetic powers.
Several cities were devoted to the worship of Pan and feasts were held in honor of him. Eusebius notes that in Egypt the city of Mendes, the Egyptian word for goat, was devoted to his worship. In this city women were said to have sexual intercourse with goats. Pan himself is portrayed in popular images as having sex with a goat. A simple internet search will turn up the repulsive image of the god copulating with a goat. In ancient Greece, Arcadia and Athens, were cities with devotees of pan. In Palestine in the time of Christ, the city of Caesarea-Philippi where Peter confessed that Jesus is Lord, was formerly named Paneas because pan was worshipped there.
Alexander Hislop notes that the ancient Roman name for Pan was Faunus (Faun) was derived from Enos or Innus and identified him as the pagan substitute for Adam. As Lord of the fauns and satyrs, he was “the first of the hidden ones” pointing to Adam who hid himself from God after he had sinned. Thus Pan seeks to become the second Adam whom the New Testament identifies as the Christ.
In my opinion the modern resurrection of Pan as the representative of Satan began in the 19th century when poems and works of literature emerged eulogizing great Pan. Pan came to be seen as the representative of a time when society was more in tune with its intuitive side as opposed to the focus on the scientific bent evident in the industrial revolution. He was also a symbol of the power of paganism. In 1856 Eliphaz Levi, a French occultist writer, produced an image known as the “Sabbatic Goat” that is basically a reproduction of Pan. The image came to be associated the name Baphomet and has been adopted by the Satanic Temple in Salem. While the origin of the name Baphomet is still uncertain there is no denying that the creature who carries the name today is a reproduction of Pan. Just as Socrates taught about Pan millennia ago, Baphomet is supposed represent good and evil, light and darkness. Baphomet is now a featured as a main character in several major video games including the now infamous Dungeons and Dragons in his true character as quintessentially evil. He can also be found on the cover of many heavy metal bands.
In 1897 the original goat pentagram appeared in a published work. In the image the head of a goat is drawn such that the two horns, the two ears and the pointed chin are the five points of a pentagram. A symbol commonly used to represent Satan. “The Great God Pan” published in 1894 while initially rejected came to be recognized as the prototype of the classic horror story as subsequently played out in movies, books and video games. Peter Pan appeared in 1902 as a flute blowing mischievous character who never grew up and who led a group of boys in Neverland. many aspects of this story show unmistakable reference to Pan as the leader of Fauns and Satyrs. Here the attempt is to portray Pan in favorable light as seen in the movies that portray him based on that character. In The Chronicles of Narnia, Pan is portrayed as allied with the forces of good against the white witch. He is the fawn who is released by Aslan and fights on his side. He is even featured in the coronation of the Kings and Queens of Narnia.
Over time, what was previously shunned and marginalized has rapidly become mainstream entertainment and in many cases worship. Pan now rules the silver screen, the tv screen, the computer and other smart devices. What is more many recognize this is happening but dismiss it as innocent fun. Some writers even quote the Pauline passage in the New Testament that prophecies the coming of the lawless one as much ado about nothing.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul warns of the unmasking of a lawless one who opposes everything about God and sets himself up as God. Paul is adamant that the coming of this lawless one will be accompanied by all kinds of signs. miracles and amazing wonders. But ultimately, he will be unmasked and destroyed. The greatest irony for me in all this is that those who make fun of the belief expend the greatest effort focusing on Satan. The latest example is Good Omens that seeks to portray Satan as the good guy. As usual those involved attempt to portray it as all lighthearted fun. Greedy entertainment executives have apparently concluded that Satan sells, and they are cashing in. They do not realize they are merely pawns in much larger scheme and some probably don’t care.
Tradition has it that when the birth of Jesus was announced by the angels, a groan and mourning was heard through the forests and haunts and wild places of the earth declaring Pan is dead. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem declares that as Jesus died on the cross the sound was heard Pan is dead. Pan is now resurrected. Is he the lawless one Paul writes of? Are all of these manifestations precursors of something greater coming? Do we even care?