Pan is one of the oldest gods in Greek mythology. For the Ancient Greeks, Pan was a theoi nomioi – a rustic god of the countryside, the pastures and wild forests, who lived in the mountains and forests of Arcadia, Greece.
Like many Greek gods and goddesses, Pan’s origin story is a little convoluted. Depending on the myth, Pan’s dad was either Hermes, Zeus, or Dionysus, and his mom a wood nymph, an unnamed mortal woman, or Penelope (the badass bitch who waited for Odysseus for a really long time).
Regardless of who Pan’s parents were, the myths are clear on one thing: Pan’s parents were freaked the f*ck out when he was born.
The short version? Baby Pan was a bit, well, unconventional looking.
The long version? PAn was born with horns, a beard (and we’re talking a no-shave-November style beard), a pug nose, tail, and goat legs.
Basically, the kid came out half-goat, half-human. We can’t really blame Mama(s) Pan for freaking out a bit at this.
Luckily for Pan, the gods on Mount Olympus were used to seeing and creating weird beings and they loved the little bugger.1 Some say the gods named the strange-looking baby “Pan”, which literally means “All” because they all adored him.2 Aww!
Besides his unconventional looks, Pan had a decent number of skills. No matter the myth, he was at least 50% god, after all. Here are some of the features commonly attributed to Pan:
- He had god-like (lol) strength.
- He could run for long periods of time without getting tired (those goat legs came in handy).
- He was impervious to injury.
- He could transform objects into different forms.
- He could teleport himself from Earth to Mount Olympus and back.3
Most depictions of Pan have him playing his signature musical pipes. The story of how he got them?
Well, it’s pretty f***ed up!
Our story begins when Pan fell in love with a nymph named Syrinx.
In the mountains and forests of Arcadia, the God of the Wild, Pan, roamed freely, causing mischief and protecting shepherds and their flocks.
One day while romping through the forest, Pan saw Syrinx, a beautiful maiden of the forest and daughter of the River God, Ladon.
Pan was immediately overcome with desire and became determined to have the beautiful nymph for himself.
Syrinx, for her part, was used to being pursued. Her undeniable beauty made her a frequent victim of unwanted attention from both gods and men.
Knowing how obnoxious men could be, Syrinx took a vow of chastity. As both a skilled huntress and quick-footed forest maiden, Syrinx had had little trouble eluding her pursuers in the past.
Unfortunately for Syrinx, this time was different.
Unlike the other men, Pan was skilled at moving through the forests and mountains and able to run for considerable periods of time without tiring. He chased Syrinx for days through the valleys, hills, and forests of Arcadia.
Exhausted and unable to escape Pan’s grasp any longer, Syrinx ran to the edge of the river where she fell into her father’s arms and begged her sisters to help her escape.
Moments before Pan’s arms enclosed around Syrinx’s body, she vanished and turned into wild marsh reeds.
Enraged, Pan smashed the marsh reeds into pieces.
As he sat at the river bank distraught over his lost “love”, the wind picked up and blew through the broken reeds. It made a magical sound, which sounded to Pan like the sweet melody of Syrinx’s voice.
Desperate to hear her voice again, Pan gathered nine different sizes of broken marsh reeds, tied them together in a line from smallest to largest, and named the instrument Syrinx in honor of his reluctant love.
And in the end, creepy Pan got what he wanted – he never spent a day without his dearly beloved.
Syrinx, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky.
- Theoi Project. (Accessed May 24, 2018). Pan. Retrieved from http://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/Pan.html
- Stewart, Michael. (Accessed May 24, 2018). Pan, The Goat-God. Retrieved from https://www.mythagora.com/bios/pan.html
- GreekGodsAndGoddesses.net. (February 7, 2017). Pan: Greek Gods & Goddesses. Retrieved from https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/pan/