Posts Tagged ‘myths’

The Language of the Gods, part 2

February 8, 2010

Having a panic attack is one of the most unpleasant experiences in life and panic often causes irrational behaviour. Ancient Greek shepherds knew this first-hand as they would sometimes see their livestock suddenly run away for no apparent reason and they explained this by saying the legendary creature Pan was approaching, thus the word panic. Pan was an ugly bugger who later, with Christianity, became the personification of the Devil: he had horns, a grinning face, a furry body and goat legs. Pan was a deity of nature and roamed the forests accompanied by crazed women and wild animals, playing the instrument he had created known as a pan-flute. Amongst his followers were also the satyrs: equally ugly, goat-legged beings whose grotesque behaviour and constant mocking of everything pure gave us the art form of satire. Similar companions were the fauns, who have given us the word fauna.

Pan and his mates were always chasing the beautiful nymphs, lovely nature spirits, who did what they could to fend them off but sometimes complied with their desires. Their many lovers gave us the word nymphomaniac but we must remember, that nymphs were generally virtuous beings. One of them was called Pithys, with whom the north wind Boreas and Pan had fallen in love. In the end, Pithys chose Pan as her lover, which angered Boreas so much that he blew her off a cliff. Mother Earth, Gaia, turned the poor nymph into a pine tree before she fell into the sea, which is why we often see these trees growing in impossible locations such as high cliffs by the sea. Here, the nymph pines for Pan but is forever tormented by the harsh north winds.

Another unfortunate nymph was Echo. She loved walking and singing through the forests but one day happened to stumble across the king of the gods Zeus, having his way with one of her friends. Echo ran away from the spot as quickly as possible and in her panic, did not watch where she was going and ran straight into the arms of Zeus’ angry wife Hera. Suspecting her husband of yet another infidelity, Hera interrogated Echo about his whereabouts but the young nymph denied having seen him for fear of upsetting the God of Gods. Hera let her go but soon found her husband and realised Echo had lied to her. As a punishment, she cursed the nymph by making her unable to say anything on her own but only repeat what other people said, thus creating an echo. If you ever shout in a valley, for example, and hear your voice again and again, remember this is not you, but poor Echo trying to communicate.

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