Tales Of The Woods



PanOf all the personalities brought to life in the stories of Greek mythology, I would have to say that Pan is my favorite. Because of my love for his carefree attitude and the aura of wild abandonment that surrounds him, I have compiled a collection of stories involving Pan and other woodland deities. Pan was a satyr who was known to live among the rocky hills of Arcadia. It was there that he guarded the flocks and beehives, and spent time dancing with the mountain nymphs. He was an easy going fellow who loved nothing more than taking an afternoon nap. Pity be to anyone unfortunate enough to rouse him from his midday slumber, for he would let out a shout shrill enough to make any intruder's hair stand on end! It is from this frightening encounter that the word panic was derived.

Pan also used this scream to help aid the gods in their war against the Titans. His lineage is somewhat a mystery, as there have been numerous stories naming a variety of people as his parents.

PanSome say that Hermes fathered him with the nymph Dryope, but others say that it was with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, whom he visited in the shape of a ram. Another version tells us that Hermes joined with the goat nymph Amaltheia, which would explain Pan's half goat, half man appearance. Still others say that he was the son of Cronus and Rhea or maybe even Zeus and Hybris. Whoever his true mother was, the stories tell us that she took one look at baby Pan and ran away in terror. He had horns and a beard and also sported a tail and the legs of a goat.

Thinking that the other Olympians would find great amusement in the little fellow, Hermes carried him off to the palace of the gods. He was eventually adopted into the official pantheon, but the free spirited satyr greatly preferred the wild hills of Arcadia over the golden halls of Mount Olympus.



SyrinxPan is usually associated with playing a pipe made of reeds called the Syrinx or Pan Pipe. This story tells how the creation of this instrument came about. Pan was hunting near Nonacris when he first saw a beautiful nymph by the name of Syrinx. Sadly for him, she had proclaimed herself a virgin for life and immediately fled at the first signs of his lustful advances. When Syrinx reached the Ladon River, the desperate nymph realized that she would not be able to cross on her own. She began to pray frantically to the water spirits in hopes they would save her from the arms of her approaching suitor. The deities heard her pleas, and in an instant Syrinx's body was transformed and hidden among the plants growing on the side of the flowing water. When Pan arrived at the river's edge he found only a group of marsh reeds murmuring sadly in the breeze.

Knowing these were his once lovely Syrinx, the grief-stricken god plucked a handful, cut them into different lengths and fastened them together with wax. He brought the instrument to his lips and played a tune on his new pipe, which he promptly named a Syrinx in honor of his lost love.

Despite his unsavory appearance, Pan was no stranger to the ladies. He was said to have seduced the nymph Echo, of who we will learn more about later in the story of Narcissus. The randy god also boasted of having had his way with all of female followers of Dionysus.

Pan and SyrinxPan tried to pursue the nymph Pitys, but like Syrinx she too had pledged herself to a life of virtue. Pitys was turned into a fir tree which is why Pan was so often seen wearing a fir branch as a garland. He also was said to have seduced Selene by luring her into the woods and promising her a beautiful white fleece as a gift. In appreciation for his help at Marathon, the Athenians built a shrine to the god underneath the Acropolis. It was here that he was regularly honored with sacrifices and torch races. Pan was a constant companion of Gaia, the Earth Mother and of the three Graces.

He enjoyed combining his lusty exploits along with the pleasures of the vine, and was known throughout Arcadia as the patron god of shepherds.

Whistling FaunAccording to some accounts, Silenus (who is often associated with Dionysus) was thought to be either the son or brother of the god Pan. He was a jovial, fat, old man, who because of his drunkeness was usually seen riding around on the back of an ass. Silenus had a group of followers called the Seileni, who resembled satyrs but were were a bit older and wiser and known to drink a bit more. Like the satyrs, the Seileni were also very musical beings and were gifted at the art of prophecy.

To read more about the adventures of Silenus please follow these links to the pages on Dionysus and Hermes. According to mythologist Robert Graves, Pan was the only one of the Greek gods to die in our time.

A sailor on his way to Italy heard a divine voice shout to him from across the sea. Upon reaching Palodes, he was instructed to spread the news that the great god Pan was dead. For me, I like to believe that he is still with us, and along with his merry followers can still be found romping freely through the hilly paths of Arcadia.


Echo and Narcissus

EchoThis is the sorrowful tale of the nymph Echo and the undying love she felt for a young man called Narcissus. Narcissus radiated such beauty that he was desired by every woman who made his acquaintance. Though he was blessed with visable charms, Narcissus possessed a cold heart and chose to ignore any signs of their true affection. He took great pleasure in attracting female attention, but would soon reject his prospective lovers, leaving them heartbroken and alone. Such was true with the lovely nymph Echo. Echo was a favorite of the goddess Artemis and was thought by many to be the fairest of all the woodland nymphs. One day when Zeus was found to be missing from Mount Olympus, Hera decided to look into the situation. Suspecting that her husband's roving eye was once again the cause for his absence, the goddess descended to earth to put an end to the matter.

As she looked about, her attention was diverted by the sounds of Echo's lively chatter. As Hera stood listening with amusement, the other nymphs slipped away before she had a chance to determine which one was her newest rival.

Echo and NarcissusFurious that her plans were ruined, the angry goddess turned against Echo and severely punished her for the trouble caused by her hapless ramblings. Hera cursed the nymph and took away her gift of speech. Never again would Echo be able to engage freely in conversation, for now the nymph was only able to repeat back the words of others. This proved to be especially hard for Echo, as she found herself joining the lot of maidens who were falling hopelessly in love with Narcissus.

Because of Hera's spell, the most Echo could do was follow quietly behind the fellow that had so captured her heart. Try as she may, the silent nymph could do nothing to persuade the arrogant young man to acknowledge her presence.

Echo leaving NarcissusOne day it appeared to Echo that perhaps her luck was changing. Narcissus stood in the woods and called to his companions "Is anyone here?" Echo, who was hidden amongst the trees called back "Here, here!" Narcissus replied "Come!" to which a joyful Echo answered "Come!" With outstretched arms she darted from her hiding place eager to embrace her lover. Instead of returning Echo's affections, Narcissus turned his back in disgust and said "I will die before I give you power over me." Echo repeated "I give you power over me", but it was too late, Narcissus was gone.

Unable to find comfort in anything, Echo sadly hid herself away in a cave. Though her body has since wasted away, her voice remains to this day and can still be heard repeating the words of others from the surounding darkness.

NarcissusNarcissus continued his cruel ways until a lovelorn maiden was finally avenged by the goddess Nemesis. As the haughty youth bent over a stream to take a drink, Nemesis caused him to fall in love with his own image. Unable to embrace the reflection that he so truly desired, Narcissus chose to remain at the water's edge, forever gazing at himself until he too wasted away and died. It is said that when Charon's ferry was crossing the River Styx to the land of the dead, Narcissus looked over the side in hopes of catching one last glimpse of himself in the water. After his death, the nymphs who were seeking his body for burial found in its place a beautiful bloom bending over the edge of the stream. To honor their beloved, they called this flower by his name, Narcissus.



Endymion and SeleneOur final tale concerns a youth named Endymion. Endymion was the son of Zeus and the nymph Calyce. Like Narcissus, he was blessed with beauty worthy of the divine. It was this beauty that brought about the death of the young shepherd. One night as Endymion slept on Mount Latmus, Selene caught sight of him as she drove her silvery moon chariot across the dark sky. She was at once captivated by the splendor of his charms, and kneeling down by his side she softly placed kisses upon his closed eyes.

As he lay motionless, the moon goddess gazed upon his handsome youth, contented to sit just quietly and watch him sleep. But it was in this dreamless state that Endymion was destined to remain.

To this day he lies on the mountain, never aging and never waking. Every night the Moon hovers over, caressing him with her soft beams of light and covering his face with kisses. Some say that Endymion chose his own fate, desiring to sleep forever without the fear of growing old.

Others say that these doings belonged solely to Selene. According to this version of the story, Selene became romantically involved with Endymion and bore him fifty daughters.

The exhausted goddess decided her partner was overly fertile, and not wanting to give him up she decided to cast a spell that would cause him to remain asleep for eternity. This would allow him to stay young and beautiful, and more importantly always be available for the goddess to embrace without the fear of conceiving any more children.


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