Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Birth of Pan

The parentage of Pan is unclear; in some myths he is the son of Zeus, though generally he is the son of Hermes or Dionysus, with whom his mother is said to be a nymph, sometimes Dryope or, in Nonnus, Dionysiaca (14.92), Penelope of Mantineia in Arcadia. This nymph at some point in the tradition became conflated with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. Pausanias 8.12.5 records the story that Penelope had in fact been unfaithful to her husband, who banished her to Mantineia upon his return. Other sources (Duris of Samos; the Vergilian commentator Servius) report that Penelope slept with all 108 suitors in Odysseus' absence, and gave birth to Pan as a result. This myth reflects the folk etymology that equates Pan's name (Πάν) with the Greek word for "all" (πᾶν). It is more likely to be cognate with paein, "to pasture", and to share an origin with the modern English word "pasture". In 1924, Hermann Collitz suggested that Greek Pan and Indic Pushan might have a common Indo-European origin. In the Mystery cults of the highly syncretic Hellenistic era Pan is made cognate with Phanes/Protogonos, Zeus, Dionysus and Eros.

The Roman Faunus, a god of Indo-European origin, was equated with Pan. However, accounts of Pan's genealogy are so varied that it must lie buried deep in mythic time. Like other nature spirits, Pan appears to be older than the Olympians, if it is true that he gave Artemis her hunting dogs and taught the secret of prophecy to Apollo. Pan might be multiplied as the Panes or the Paniskoi. Kerenyi notes from scholia that Aeschylus in Rhesus distinguished between two Pans, one the son of Zeus and twin of Arcas, and one a son of Cronus. "In the retinue of Dionysos, or in depictions of wild landscapes, there appeared not only a great Pan, but also little Pans, Paniskoi, who played the same part as the Satyrs".

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