I’m not really afraid of the dark. Nor am I necessarily afraid of the deep woods. Though both hold an energy that is wild unlike any felt in the warmth of the sunshine. It makes your hair raise up, covers your body in goosebumps, and sends bone-chilling lightning down your spine. If you are conscious enough to talk yourself out of the fright, it could be over after the initial “boo!” This energy can awaken and heighten your senses, run adrenaline through your instinctual veins, and cause your wolf pack nature to howl. It can be quite an exhilarating rush and beneficial, that is, if you are conscious enough to return to homeostasis.
I was fortunate enough to feel Pan’s presence during my first year as an Earth Apprentice in 2009. I was studying with sweet Basil, the Aromatic Prince, and felt a dark energy around me. It was unclear whether this energy was from the plant or the old house I lived in or another form. At the time, I knew it was provoked by my workings with Basil, and that it reflected the dark energy the plant also contains. (By dark I mean full of substance, as opposed to being a light energy, which would be purifying and unoccupied.) I did not feel threatened, so I continued meditations with the plant, and learned to see the dark energy in a new light.
Years later I began reading and experiencing and slowly learning all that Pan is. This post is inspired because of the recent presence I felt while seeding in the greenhouse. I said aloud, “please enter,” as the energy had been at the door for a few days. It’s that corner-of-your-eye glimpse of a person or thing, that upon looking in its direction is not actually “there”. Come to think of it, this past summer I had an energy with me at a friend’s family farm and kept asking them, “Which deceased relative of yours is following me around out there?” Maybe it was Pan…
Okay – I know – this sounds cooky. Believe me, I like to explore these mythical and spiritual realms while keeping two feet firmly planted on the Earth. I do not attend a Church service or the like on a regular basis, though I do agree with being spiritual and accepting a greater energy/power/life force around us.
I offer you this ancient Greek character and the lessons this manifested vision of energy teaches us. According to Princeton.edu, “Pan (Greek Πάν, genitive Πανός), in Greek religion and mythology, is the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of the nymphs. His name originates within the Greek language, from the word paein (Πάειν), meaning “to pasture.” He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.”
He is the trickster. He is the sexy beast whose barnyard scent offends and intrigues. He is Nature before it splits off into civilization. I read in several places that Pan just wants to be recognized. He is the wild bad boy who keeps you on your toes by turning your ego on its flip side to reveal its utter complacency. He warns us of the danger we may be headed for when walking with our head in the clouds (or up who knows where) by bringing us back to Earth with the real, the muddy, the sticky, the in your face raw. Yes, shit stinks. But it is a necessary part of life. This is the case with all of the other “stinky” parts of life. And Pan is the king of stank. Nature has its own dark side – with plants actually sending poison into the soil to ward off other plants that may want to grow near by. If two trees are growing closely together in the forest, one will surely win out and get the better light advantage with towering branches. Animals eat other animals, and do it as pure instinct, without the moral issues that we as humans are fortunate (?) enough to ponder.
I have been attempting to see the stinky parts of life as opportunities for challenge and strength building. Opportunities to be “emo” and really feel the full rainbow of emotions. This is very un-Buddhist of me, and I could practice not feeling at all, but rather accepting and letting my body act as a vessel that energy is never held, always constant. This is a good practice actually. It helps the ups and downs be less extreme. Though I have not mastered it, so in the mean time I am feeling. I am experiencing emotion and turmoil and uncontrollable happiness and hormonal sadness and body melting love. As a favorite band of mine sings, “a roller coaster’s gotta slide to the bottom before it can climb to the top again.” I am practicing making these hills and valleys less steep. To recognize in moments of frustration it won’t last forever and in moments of bliss that it too shall pass. To look around and see what could go wrong, and at the same time saying to yourself, “If anything can go well, it will”.
Pema Chödrön’s spiritual teachings on shenpa shuffled on to my ipod tonight, and I listened instead of skipping to the next upbeat tune. To briefly explain shenpa, it is the action we take when we are flustered and being provoked by deeply set feelings that have not been healed properly. It triggers emotion and action which are often times unexplained, or the root of the matter is not a conscious thought anymore. In the Buddhist manner of living as an ever-changing energy soup flowing freely in our body temples, shenpa can be calmed by practicing shenluk, which roughly means to turn it on its head. Flip the context and its emotion upside-down to see it from a different angle, and help figure out why your reactions are as such. I feel Pan does this in a similar manner. He is rooted in instinct and the sludge of emotion that our bodies have internally let ferment to an unrecognizable point. However, he does not let it spoil the fun – he shows us how good it can be to live in harmony with our stank. Peaceful existence with the many pieces (both fragrant and putrid) that make our greater whole. Cabbage ain’t kimchi without time and stank.
Two of my favorite authors have seduced me with Pan. Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins, is my favorite novel of his. Pan is unable to be seen by humans because of their disbelief in his existence, and it is only his head-turning aroma that allows the main characters to locate him in the end. Another one of Robbins’ novels, Village Incognito, involves a badger deity from Japan. The Tanuki is, in my opinion, their version of Pan. They are both entertaining and wildly inspiring reads.
In a different section of the book store you would find R. Ogilvie Crombie’s Meeting Fairies. Roc, as he is referred to, writes about his experience in several gardens in Europe where he was able to see and speak with Pan and garden sprites directly! He shares the very words spoken between himself and Pan. It is a very fascinating read, coming from Findhorn Press, which was formed at the plant spirit gardens of Findhorn in Scotland.
Both of these novels focus on the importance of recognizing and appreciating Pan’s existence. He represents the energy that is found in the wildest parts of Nature. Pan is the guardian of the woodland, meadow and garden, where the nymphs and fairies and gnomes and elves and all these mystical creatures reside. If we are to forget Pan, we would be forgetting Nature and its spirit. It is up to us “Pan-believers” to share the goat-god’s message in order to ensure the health of the Earth and her mythical (yet still in existence) garden energies. This idea that Pan himself is having or had a down time, a challenge, a need to call upon the dark days – it holds true to this mythical fame. Even the sexiest, stinkiest deity of them all has a few bad days (or decades). Chin up! Tomorrow is a new day to reignite the magic & passion. It still exists in the Earth’s wild [private] parts. There’s still a bit left inside of us, too. (cue more raunchy sexual puns)
Mother Nature flows with every color of the rainbow, every emotion, and every phase of the moon/planets/zodiac. So it is our duty as humans to appreciate all of the above, and a blessing for us to see inspiration in each moment/day/circumstance. We don’t have to believe every scenario is positive, only know that everything needs it’s opposite to exist.
The paintings featured in this post are from Arnold Böcklin, the Swiss symbolist painter, who also had a fascination with Pan. Each form Pan takes on is quite different. You can choose which hairy beast suites you best. What an adaptable lover, that Pan!
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Happy Spring Equinox, Happy Beltane
& best of luck for the rest of the Spring Season