Monday, June 14, 2010

Reflections on the goat-legged divine

When Guillermo del Toro was creating his creature for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, he decided he would use a faun instead of the movie’s namesake being, Pan. He said that having Pan on screen would’ve been too dark and dangerous from what he wanted the character to be. The moment I saw the trailer for the film I was ecstatic. When the Faun appeared on screen I was mesmerized – he was so beautiful, haunting and strong. When I was a child and the figure of Darkness appeared on screen from the film Legend, I was also mesmerized. His legs! His horns! “He is beautiful and misunderstood” I thought long through my teens. I thought to myself “Clearly, you’re a weirdo.” However as I grew up I understood where the image of Darkness had come from, and how it had been distorted. Perhaps I thought, deep down it had struck an instinctual chord for that reason. Fauns, satyrs and Pan himself have always had some attraction for me, stirring sometimes some weird sexual energy I’ve had trouble explaining, or even bringing up. I used to be perplexed by this – they have animal features – along with the usual cultural indoctrination of the Christian idea of the personification of Evil, as shown in the movie Legend with the characterization of the Light vs. Darkness. What is the allure?

Pan is known as a god of the wild. His nature so intrinsic in his divinity, appearance he is half-human. His name is the root for the word panic. Satyrs are extremely sexual creatures who cannot be satiated, unless of course he is taken by nymphets, as the multiple paintings throughout the century have depicted them.

In Rome, fauns are spirits of place (genius) and were considered the Greek counterpart of the hyper-sexualized satyrs. However the Greek Satyr is much more sexualized, and did not have goat legs – only later did the mixing of the two happened since they became to be regarded as one and the same. Guillermo del Toro does well to distinguish them in the movie. The game company White Wolf also used the hyper-sexualization of the satyr into their game characters for the role-playing Changeling: the Dreaming; the satyrs being the lovers, the sensual and sexual creatures of the Fae-folk.

Pan is the wild, the uninhibited. The idea of being alone in the forest, in the dark and being stricken with fear and panic. Of the wild rushing up at you, enveloping you in raging emotions, ecstatic fear - even wanton abandon. It is his domain after all. Perhaps it is no surprise that this divine force has been trans-mutated into the evil that brings out the worst, particularly in women, making them frolic naked in the dark woods while leaving all cares behind in want of the phallic wild divinity. Satyrs were smaller manifestations of this and were followers of Dionysus, known for his festivities in which imbibing on his gift of wine to rejoice in freedom would unshackled our inhibitions: social, mental, emotional and sexual. Perhaps this whole amalgamation of what satyrs and Pan is, has been muddled in my head and their attraction is more than an emotional or even physical level - but an instinctual one. Curious of course, that Pan being a god of the rustic, of hunting and the wild is perceived as half-animal, something that is rare in the Greek pantheon. While there are deities that have their animal equivalents as representations they inevitably are shown to us humans as best as we interpret them: like ourselves.

The images of a Horned God, phallic and fertile that brings forth life with aid of his Goddess in Wicca seems the same, sometimes attributed as Cernnunos. Horns are known in nature as a sign of virility – the larger and more intricate, the stronger the offspring and the chances of survival not only reproductively but in safety and longevity of the species, and in the aspect of the God, it is the same.

Pan is also the only god that was proclaimed by Plutarch to be dead. In our modern age and with our technology it is rare that people venture out to the wild alone, in the dark. Few places are left, that haven’t been paved over and lit with harsh bright lights. I live in a city that the few places of nature are man-made and have been rigorously planned out. Even the bodies of water are man-made, with no soul. In my city at least, Plutarch’s words stands as true.



Hermes, draw near, and to my pray'r incline, angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine; Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind. Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow'rful arts could watchful Argus kill: With winged feet, 'tis thine thro' air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse: Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine: With pow'r endu'd all language to explain, of

care the loos'ner, and the source of gain. Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Kerukeion, blessed, profitable God; Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind: Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear; Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory's increase.

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