The Great God Pan is Dead….or not.


Over the past several days I have been confronted with multiple references to Pan.  Yesterday I was confronted with direct references to him three times in less than 18 hours!  I took this as a sign that I should make a post on the subject.

According to Greek mythology, he is the son of Hermes the Messenger who is one of the ruling Gods of medicine.  I say this via his function of conducting the living into the realm of the dead; his staff with two snakes coiled around it is the caduceus of modern medicine.  Regardless of his later notation of parentage, Pan is most likely one of the earliest Gods of human civilization.  He rules over the mountainsides, pastures, sheep and goats.  As a God of the wilds, it can be expected that he embodies revelry, fruitfulness, open sexuality, health, and fun.  In Roman times he was identified with Dionysus, God of wine and revelry.

Pan, like all ancient Gods, has a darker side.  In his kinder mode he plays reed pipes known as syrinx, or panpipes.  In his darker aspect he embodies Panic and Pandemonium and plays, not pipes, but a conch.  These are two sides of the same coin; revelry can degrade into debauchery, madness, and chaos.  The mountainside in spring is beautiful and holds the promise of the summer’s fruit.  Winter storms hold death.  Sexuality holds both the promise of birth and the certainty of death.

Pan represents the eternal lust for life, and serendipity of fate.  Which nymph will mate with him this time?  Who will chance his anger by waking him from his nap?  It seems fitting that a spinner should post about the ovine, caprine limbed God of goats and sheep.

Lord Byron wrote an ode to Pan, titled Aristomenes.  Ostensibly, it was about the hero of the Spartan war; in reality it seems to be about the loss of innocence and love of simple pleasures that the death of Pan entailed.  He wrote it in 1823, but it was not published until 1903, I would guess because of the infamous nature of the author.  He and his works, like Oscar Wilde and his, were not particularly appreciated until many years after his death.

I present to you Lord Byron’s lament for Pan:

The Gods of old are silent on their shore

Since the great Pan expired, and through the roar

Of the Ionian waters broke a dread

Voice which proclaimed “the mighty Pan is dead,”

How much died with him! false or true–the dream

Was beautiful which peopled every stream

With more than finny tenants, and adorned

The woods and waters with coy nymphs that scorned

Pursuing Deities, or in the embrace

Of gods brought forth the high heroic race

Whose names are on the hills and o’er the seas.

I too mourn the loss of the certainty of spirits in the waters and the woods.  I too share Oscar Wilde’s plea for Pan to return and his assertion that He is desperately needed in these times:

                       I

O goat-foot God of Arcady!
This modern world is grey and old,
And what remains to us of thee?

No more the shepherd lads in glee
Throw apples at thy wattled fold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!

Nor through the laurels can one see
Thy soft brown limbs, thy beard of gold,
And what remains to us of thee?

And dull and dead our Thames would be,
For here the winds are chill and cold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!

Then keep the tomb of Helice,
Thine olive-woods, thy vine-clad wold,
And what remains to us of thee?

Though many an unsung elegy
Sleeps in the reeds our rivers hold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!
Ah, what remains to us of thee?

                         II

Ah, leave the hills of Arcady,
Thy satyrs and their wanton play,
This modern world hath need of thee.

No nymph or Faun indeed have we,
For Faun and nymph are old and grey,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!

This is the land where liberty
Lit grave-browed Milton on his way,
This modern world hath need of thee!

A land of ancient chivalry
Where gentle Sidney saw the day,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!

This fierce sea-lion of the sea,
This England lacks some stronger lay,
This modern world hath need of thee!

Then blow some trumpet loud and free,
And give thine oaten pipe away,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!
This modern world hath need of thee!

Oh, for the loss of innocence of simpler times.  Oh, for the loss of connection to the land, its spirits and its stories.  Yes, Great God Pan, this modern world hath need of thee!

*”Pan” copied from Victorian Web dot Org, other material from my own personal library.

 

Prayer in motion.


If you have been a reader of this blog for a long while you will know that I am a Pagan.  I used to do yoga and should still, but life is a lot busier than it used to be and after my meltdown of a couple years ago it’s hard to go back to.  I remember lots of things I’d rather not when I get into certain formerly favorite poses, and until I get past that point in my yoga practice, it will remain much less a practice than an occasional stretch.

I also meditated in somewhat a Buddhist method:  I would meditate on having compassion for all beings, especially those that really *pissed* me off.  It helped.  I have restarted that practice in recent months; there are things going on in my life with family members that require I consciously develop compassion toward them.  And perhaps myself as well, since I am certainly one of those who is *pissing* myself off lately.  My entire life is a reflection of my spirituality:  growing my own vegetables, raising chickens, making my own soap, using a clothes line, recycling, weaving, spinning, knitting, etc….it is all a reflection of the reverence I feel for the planet I share with billions of other beings, the awareness of the fact that what I do has an impact on untold numbers of other beings.  I am not perfectly consistent, but I try to live my values.

I think that my last post arose from the hurt I felt at my husband and me being basically the only significant family members not to be present at this rite.  I am used to feeling like an outsider among my own family members but this was rather more than a simple lack of consideration, it felt like a very large slap in the face toward everything I tried to do in raising my children.  I tried to raise them to have strong ethics (secular), values (personal) and to think critically and independently so as not to be brainwashed into a way of life that forces one to condemn others based on sexual or religious preference.

I have failed in that job.  Completely, miserably, utterly.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I meditate and pray best when I am in motion; even holding a yoga pose requires active participation.  As a result, I often make activities or housework a prayer or a time for meditation.

The fiber I prepped and spun into yarn was part of a meditation and a prayer for the person, the couple, and the relationship it was celebrating.  While the rite is over, as far as I am concerned at least, the relationship will continue.  For me not to complete the prayer by not completing the shrug simply does not seem right to me.  The meditative and prayerful act of choosing, cleaning, carding, spinning the fibers, and then knitting with them, consciously imparting my hopes and prayers for a happy life for them at each step, is not dependent on their actions.  Nor does my hurt and disappointment change my hopes and prayers for a long happy and fruitful relationship for them.

What it comes down to is that my faith is only as good as my discipline.  If I cannot have compassion on all beings when they and I need it most, then I’m not engaging in any sort of meaningful spirituality, only in fooling myself.  And so, I will complete the shrug.  I bought some very nice silver lined beads, and have some that were given to me by a generous friend, with which to complete it.  The yarn was wet finished first thing after chores this morning, before coffee even, and is hanging to dry.  I will complete this prayer; not to do so is to deny compassion, for them or myself.

I will not be driving to Idaho in November though.  The logistics of an 8 hour drive in winter for an event that was supposed to take place on the same day as my final (and has now already taken place) can’t be reconciled.  I simply can’t leave if I can’t take the final, it presents too many problems and the instructor still has not agreed to let me take it early.  Many things happen for reasons we don’t necessarily understand; perhaps this is one of them.