Did you know that the Roman god Pan was declared dead during the life of Christ? What GK Chersterton teaches us on the topic is important as we engage the growing neo-Pagan movement in the West…
My twin daughters are studying Greek and Roman myth at their Catholic school Faustina Academy.
Now I understand that some Christians are concerned that teaching about the Greek gods will undermine the faith of Catholic kids. I once asked Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds pastor of the flagship parochial school at Saint Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas his thoughts about parents concerned over teaching Greek gods in Catholic schools.
“Here at Saint Theresa’s we have a 100% success rate. So far, not one of our students have abandoned their Catholic Faith for the worship of Zeus or any of the Olympians.”
That’s both cheeky and true.
I’ve read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. I even took a Greco-Roman Mythology course at Texas A&M. So I feel like I know a little something about the old-school gods and goddesses. However, I’m learning more through my daughters. While having a daddy date with them at a coffee shop, I learned more about Pan and the Death of Pan. Remember? Pan is the god with goat legs who plays the pipes.
He is the god of nature, and according to the Roman pagans, he “died” during the life of Christ.
This fascinated me and so I did a little research.
According to the historian Plutarch (De defectu oraculorum) during the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death was announced from the skies to a sailor named Thamus on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi.
A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Thamus obeyed the voice and spread the news around Italy. Eusebius of Caesarea states that the Emperor Tiberius asked for a personal interview with the sailor Thamus to discern the meaning of this oracle (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 5)
Eusebius notes that our Lord Jesus Christ rid the world of most the devils during His ministry and at His death. Since the “gods of the nations are demons” (Ps 96:5), it would seem that the demon representing Pan was banished from the earth.
Death of Pan according to GK Chesterton
G.K. Chesterton once wrote:
“It is said truly in a sense that Pan died because Christ was born. It is almost as true in another sense that men knew that Christ was born because Pan was already dead. A void was made by the vanishing world of the whole mythology of mankind, which would have asphyxiated like a vacuum if it had not been filled with theology.” (G.K. Chesterton, “The End of the World”, The Everlasting Man).
Pan was the god or demon of nature. Paganism, at its root is the worship of nature. Each of the gods in any pantheon (Hindu, Greek, Roman, Nordic, African) are personified elements of nature, such as rain, food growth, animal life, childbirth, or death. Although the god Pan was not the highest in the pantheon, he was nonetheless pan, the Greek word meaning “everything.” He represented the entire scope of nature.
It’s also worth noting here that the “look” of Pan is the “look” of the Devil. Satan is traditionally depicted as Pan. A horned head, goat legs, a tail, and cloven feet. Satan’s connection to music is further suggested by Pan’s ubiquitous use of the panpipes.
We should not be surprised, then, that the Neo-Pagan movement of our time (primarily in the form of Wicca) chiefly worships a male deity called the “Horned God” who is the consort of the female deity “Mother Goddess.” The Horned God is non-other than Pan of old or the horned Baphomet of Freemasonry. He is the god of all nature.
In the new age or neo-pagan worldview, the natural universe is god. Everything is God. Nature is god. The environment is god. We are god. This is the doctrine of pantheism. The Neo-Pagan movement seeks to overcome the Christian era and the reign of Christ the King and return the place of Pan. I suspect that in the next 100 years, the battle will not be between theists and atheists, it will be between Christians and pantheists.