pan-psyche-landscape

Sketches of The Goat God in Albion

I. Snowdonia

To grasp Pan as nature we must first be grasped by nature, both ‘out there’ in an empty countryside which speaks in sounds not words, and ‘in here’ in a startle reaction.
— James Hillman

The balmy summer of 1995 found me hitching and camping around England and Wales. I enjoyed visiting many friends and small press collaborators; but mostly I was seeking some kind of ‘vision’ from bold exposure to nature.

Fuelled by a rather naive yearning for celestial revelations, and curious about the associations between UFOs, sacred sites, and angels, my target was Mynydd Carningli (‘Mountain of the Angels’), an extinct volcano in near the Pembrokeshire coast which is crowned by the ruins of an Iron Age hill fort. The meagre remains of this construction do form, from a certain angle, a rough likeness of a supine figure with wings; but the real angelic connection is the sixth-century Saint Brynach. It’s said that Brynach used the summit of this mount as a refuge where he communed with divine messengers. A particular rock there is known as Brynach’s Rock, and I’ve heard a tale that this is where the saint rested his head when he dreamed. Passing a compass past this rock sends the needle through a full 180-degree spin, so the legends correlate in a suggestive way here with geophysical anomalies.

In any case, my three nights of fasting and dreaming on Carningli were not to be. The first night found me completely unable to sleep thanks to heavy winds that battered my tent, and a quite overpowering sense of fear before the star-studded depths of the vast night sky. I meekly packed up the next day and headed north, feeling disconsolate and finding refuge among the moss and streams of the valleys near Betws-y-Coed (‘Prayer house in the wood’) in Snowdonia.

One calm, moonlit night after a long ramble, I was walking alone back to my tent along a deserted lane. Passing one field, a periodic violent knocking sound startled me. I kept walking, but squinted to try and penetrate the darkness… and eventually I saw the dim scene: a pair of goats facing off, occasionally lunging towards each other and cracking skulls. I felt suddenly removed from my human world, and watched with fascination even as I continued walking, feeling quietly glad that a solid fence stood between me and these clashing beasts.

When I eventually pulled my gaze back to the lane ahead, I instantly froze at the sight of the uncanny tableau before me. Lit from behind by the high, full moon, directly in front of me stood a very large, impassive billy goat, with large horns and dark fur. He was flanked by a couple of females. I was transfixed for a fraught, ponderous moment as we stared at each other and waited for the first move. Eventually I reigned in my tremulous shock just enough to hide it and calmly step to the side of the lane and walk—always watching the goats out the corner of my eye—onwards along the valley to the nook that sheltered my tent.

Many have contrasted the symbolism of mountain tops and valley bottoms, peaks and vales, by relating them to spirit and soul respectively. ‘Spirit is the land of high, white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers,’ wrote the fourteenth Dalai Lama. ‘Soul is at home in deep, shaded valleys. Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there.’ Spirit is rapture, transcendence, the ‘peak experience’; soul is worldly entanglement, reflection, melancholy insight. ‘Call the world, if you please, the vale of soul-making,’ wrote John Keats.

Pan, the renowned Greek goat-god of the Arcadian pastures, was of course associated with the mountains of that region, and the spry sure-footedness of the mountain goat; but he is also associated with grottoes and wooded dells, with the dank, too-close proximity of encroaching nature. Revealingly, in the tale of Cupid (desire) and Psyche (soul) told by Apulieus in the second century CE, Pan consoles Psyche when she attempts suicide after being abandoned by Cupid.

‘Pan and Psyche’ by Edward Burne-Jones (1874)
‘Pan and Psyche’ by Edward Burne-Jones (1874)

While teaching songs to the nymph Echo, Pan spots the desolate Psyche, and reveals a wise sensitivity that forms an interesting contrast to the god’s shaggy, rampaging aspect.

‘Pretty dear,’ he said soothingly. ‘ … Stop crying, try to be cheerful, and open your heart to Cupid, the greatest of us gods; he’s a thoroughly spoilt young fellow whom you must humour by praying to him only in the gentlest, sweetest language.’

James Hillman comments:

The soul disconsolate, its love gone, divine help denied, panics. Psyche throws herself away, into the river which refuses her. In that same moment of panic, Pan appears with his reflective other side, Echo, and brings home to the soul some natural truths. Pan is both destroyer and preserver, and the two aspects appear to the psyche in close approximation.

My singular encounter with the goats in the Welsh vale acted as the seed for a prodigiously fruitful period of research and writing, concerned with Dionysus and Earth goddesses as much as Pan himself. But more than that, it shocked my rather lost soul, dragging me away from escapist fantasies of mountain-top revelations, and enlivening it with a desire to engage more closely with this messy ‘vale of soul-making’.

II. Speaker’s Corner

Shortly after moving from Leeds to London in 1999, for a time I found myself contributing a column on sacred sites to AOL’s gated online community. Attempting to divine sites in less than obvious locations in the sprawl of the city, my interest in Pan and Dionysus drew me towards Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

I was guided in this by my memory of the violent climax of the protest against the Criminal Justice Bill on 9 October 1994. The march seemingly winding down into a carnival atmosphere, my friends and I were making our way to the coach that would take us back to Leeds, when it suddenly became obvious that the partying was starting to degenerate. Cops piled into Park Lane to prevent a couple of lorries carrying sound systems into the park, and soon the inevitable unwarranted squads of riot police manifested—soon confronted in turn by the inevitable sticks and bottles.

We had just made it onto our coach when the now-furious battle—protestors mainly in the park, cops along Park Lane—converged around us, our coach one of a few forming a barrier between the clashing forces of freedom and control. We were protected from the police, but exposed to the full spectacle of their brutalities—splitting heads and crushing distraught young people on their way to their coaches.

For my AOL column, I suggested that this corner of Hyde Park was a ‘young site of sacred power’. Of course, the park was traditionally the playground of the royals and the rich, with the executions at the notorious Tyburn gallows (near the modern Marble Arch) publicly demonstrating the violence that underwrote authority and its privileges. The park itself became the site of mass protest since at least 1855, but we might date the birth of its current significance to 1866, when a large mob, banned from protesting for universal male suffrage, overran Hyde Park in a furious uproar against their voices being silenced. The powers that be thereafter granted people permission to conduct meetings within forty yards of the notice board at the place we now know as Speaker’s Corner, and the area has became a traditional bastion of free—if customarily quirky and sometimes bizarre—speech.

Presiding over this nascent place of power (or place of resistance to Power) I imagined ‘some (as yet nameless) entity of freedom and healthy chaos—a modern descendant of Pan or Dionysus.’ Irrational waves of mass panic in ancient Greece (panikon deima, literally ‘panic fear’, fear associated with Pan), as well as being attributed to beasts of the field, were also seen among soldiers on the battlefield. And Dionysus, whose wild army of revellers comprised numerous goatish satyrs if not Pan himself, was certainly in evidence in 1994; the protest was predominantly revelrous, and the riot itself was ignited by a dispute over a sound system. Dionysus is frustrated, so Pan’s rampaging, uncontrolled aspect bursts forth…

What are we to make of this attempt to read political violence in mythical terms? Charles Baudelaire’s 1852 pamphlet L’Ecole païenne (‘The Pagan School’) opens thus:

At a banquet commemorating the February revolution, a toast was proposed to the god Pan …
‘But,’ I said to him, ‘what has the god Pan in common with the revolution?’
‘How can you ask?’ he replied; ‘it’s the god Pan who made the revolution, of course. He is the revolution.’
‘Besides, hasn’t he been dead for a long time?’
‘That’s a rumour that people spread around. Nasty gossip … He’s going to come back.’

The reference to Pan’s death is to the famed and much-debated passage in Plutarch’s De defectu oraculorum in which a sailor passing by a Mediterranean isle hears a voice cry, ‘The great god Pan is dead!’ The fact that this incident is dated to the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (i.e. between CE 14 and 37) has naturally led many to the conclusion that this death was in fact the death of the old pagan nature cults—quaking in the shadow of Bethlehem and Golgotha, soon to be crushed by the triumph of Christianity’s otherworldly cult.

The equation of Pan with revolutionary forces stumbles heavily here. Christianity’s utopian eschatology and potential for egalitarianism have, for better or worse, done more to foment political upheaval than any form of paganism. We can sympathise with Baudelaire’s cynicism about the somewhat misplaced honour granted to Pan in a toast to the revolution. However, he couldn’t have known how concern for the natural environment would come to interweave with political activism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—how Pan, as much as Christ, may return.

Baudelaire’s France may well have been seeing its share of the Romantic revival of interest in Pan—a suitably spirited emblem for disgust with the Industrial Revolution. Victorian England was witness to the rise of a literary cult of Pan as ‘the personification and guardian of the English countryside’ (albeit ‘the countryside as viewed by the city-dweller’, as Ronald Hutton observes). Later, in Howard’s End, E.M. Forster captured the Edwardian sense of the passing of this effort to resist (or ignore) the onslaught of urbanisation and mechanisation, and showed a little more awareness than Baudelaire of the cycles of history:

To speak against London is no longer fashionable. The Earth as an artistic cult has had its day, and the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town. One can understand the reaction. Of Pan and the elemental forces, the public has heard a little too much—they seem Victorian, while London is Georgian—and those who care for the earth with sincerity may wait long ere the pendulum swings back to her again.

For anyone who takes Pan as the embodiment of non-human nature, modern ecology gives us a ‘long view’ that makes it clear that Pan’s death has certainly been exaggerated. We may wound this biospheric Pan, but he will outlive all our civilizations. What seems to have suffered most is the human relationship to Pan, to nature. Even so, this relationship will surely persist as long as we do, even in radically new and apparently disfigured contexts like the politics of civilization. Pan is the nature within us as well as the nature around us, and the transpersonal force he embodies will erupt wherever we give it no vessel for expression. Such, surely, is the logic underlying generally fanciful attempts to hold Pan or Dionysus as revolutionary forces.

In L’Ecole païenne, Baudelaire lambasts nineteenth-century ‘neo-pagans’ and their ‘excessive taste for form’, for their literalist idolatry and slavish aping of classical traditions. Certainly much contemporary neo-paganism shows few signs of having shed this surface aestheticism. And I confess here that, for all the resonance I find in letting my imagination take Pan or Dionysus as representative of energies of popular resistance and carnivalesque protest, I have no idea how this imaginal perception might ‘serve’ struggles against overbearing authorities. There are certainly gifts of inspiration there; but also traps of aesthetic escapism. In the end, the idea of enlisting forces such as Pan and Dionysus for political ends may be part of the anthropocentrism that has banished so much of their power already. We might acknowledge their presence when they arise; but the overall shape of whatever new relationships we may be forming with them will always be partially occluded. Even within us, they are of necessity beyond us.

III. Avebury

On the night of summer solstice 2002, I was sat alone on Waden Hill in Avebury (Waden, from weoh-dun, ‘hill of the pagan temple’). After walking to this henge-encircled village along the ancient track called the Ridgeway over a period of a few days, I was surprised to find no familiar faces in the gathered throng, so I decided to avoid the crowds at the megalithic monuments and just meditate on this gentle hill nestled between the henge and Silbury Hill. The moon was nearly full, the air was still and cool. I settled down facing Silbury and the setting moon, back against a fence bordering a wheat field, and soaked everything in.

At one point I was thinking of an odd dream I had had a couple of nights before on the Ridgeway, of a small black goat with the face of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was reclining against a fence post. Suddenly, while thinking about lending my box-set of Buffy to friends I’d met that day, I was aware of something running towards me from further down the hill; I sat up and saw what seemed to be a little black goat approaching fast. Dumbstruck, I watched it arc away as it neared me, and disappear into the night.

An excited, awe-struck panic ran through me, my heart racing, my mind struggling. Was it a black dog that had strayed from its owners? I didn’t hear anyone nearby. I wisely refrained from too much thought, and settled back against the fence to wait out the rest of the night—albeit with a little more apprehension than before.

An hour or so later, I heard movement in the wheat field behind me. Something leaping in and out of the crop, it sounded like. I froze with fear. Soon it was close, and I heard the distinct sound of a ruminant chewing the grass just behind me. The notion of turning round to see what this creature was arose… briefly. I kept very, very still.

Naturally the next day saw its share of speculation.

I went back to Waden Hill to see if there were any farm animals being kept there—no.

I pondered the fact that the night before the solstice, camped in a field near Ogbourne St. George, I’d had a vivid nightmare experience. I thought I saw a young girl silhouetted through my tent fabric by a nearby street light. I closed my eyes and lay absolutely still, irrational fear inspiring me to think about reaching for my pen knife. I heard very precisely the sound of someone’s feet in the grass near the entrance to my tent, and I remained motionless. I waited and waited, and eventually… nothing was there. This kind of nightmare is well documented. Often sleep paralysis is rationalised as a ‘decision’ to stay still. Fear is felt, usually inspired by some presence nearby. Often there is a sense of weight on the chest. Almost always, these kind of liminal hypnagogic experiences stand apart from normal dreams in that they seem to be ‘real’ after the fact as well as while they happen. I wondered about my experience on Waden Hill of ‘deciding’ to keep still while this creature grazed behind me. Was I half-asleep, paralysed? And yet, when I first saw the goat, I was definitely awake, and certainly not paralysed—I sat up to see it run at me.

For once, though, these thoughts seemed flimsy and irrelevant during that hazy, bewildered 21 June. This had been an experience. An explanation may be of mild interest, nothing more.

Just a few weeks after, I had a dream of a healing ritual being performed for me involving some snakes and a small black goat. I recall picking the goat up in the dream and showing it to people, saying, ‘This is the goat I told you about from Waden Hill. See, it’s real!’ In the dream I even named it: ‘Little Black’. It cropped up a few times over the next few years in my dreams. Once, it was horribly injured and mangled; I collapsed next to it in excruciating sympathy, melting with it into a hot, messy, deep red space. A year later, a dream came in which I took the form of a goat, climbing with a fellow goat up a mountain, to some caves near the peak.

The concept of healing isn’t commonly associated with the goat-legged Arcadian piper who inspires fear and rapes nymphs. Pan was intimately associated in classical times with vivid nightmares, specifically those that mixed the boundaries between dream, vision, and waking life. But he also, like Asclepius, who presided over dream incubation temples, healed the sick through these startling experiences.

Was this Waden Hill creature Pan, though? The black goat was more a kid than anything else, spry and puckish. I’ve also never been able to confidently say ‘he’ or ‘she’, which goes back to it having the face of Buffy in the initial dream, and the sexual ambivalence of youth itself. Together with its torn and mutilated manifestation, I think of Dionysus: the man-woman, the divine youth, the Kid, his maenads tearing him apart as a goat.

Again we find these related but distinct gods overlapping in modern manifestation. In densely polytheistic cultures like ancient Greece, no god stood alone; all divinities interacted, related, shared stories and qualities. But these interactions carry more meaning when the gods are known well, and their relationships connect rather than blur. In our post-religious world, fragments of archaic psychology or theology tend to bubble up in a rather confused, gloopy liquid of half-learned myths and vague anthropologies.

I hear this creature leaping in and out of the rustling wheat behind me; later I learn that Prussia was thick with tales of goats as corn-spirits, leading people to say when corn stalks bend in the wind, ‘The goats are chasing each other’ (again, the vegetal Dionysian aspect). I dream of two goats ascending a mountain to a cave; was this Pan-related, an amalgam of his association with both high and low places? Or was the mother goddess Cybele implicated, through her association with caverns, mountains, wild animals, and the cult of Dionysus, whom Cybele is said to have cured and initiated?

I have no answers. But the questions—like the very presence of this imaginal goat in my life, radiating uncommon energies—keep me engaged, curious, and alert to possibilities.

History always has another trick up its sleeve. In September 2006 while visiting Avebury, I noticed something that had managed to totally elude my attention over my decade of exploring this landscape. Walking along the A4 between Silbury and West Kennet long barrow, while crossing over the River Kennet, I was stopped in my tracks when I caught sight of the plaque fixed to the north side of the little bridge. It read: ‘PAN BRIDGE’. And from where I stood, the horizon was formed by the gentle arc of Waden Hill; the bridge was actually in the direction that the solstice goat seemed to have come towards me from.

pan-bridge-avebury

The earliest reference to this bridge and its name in local records seems to date to 1871. Perhaps it was named then by some local official caught up in the Victorian passion for the goat-god; perhaps the name goes further back. Perhaps the name refers to cookware rather than a god; a quick web search reveals a number of Frying Pan Bridges. But then there is a Pans Lane in nearby Devizes, and it seems less odd for the lane there to belong to Pan than for it to be named after a collection of frying pans.

Obscure place names like this are notoriously difficult to pin down (and hence good fuel for speculation), but I’m a little intrigued by the date of the bridge’s current plaque, commemorating its rebuilding in 1932. This was around the time that Alexander Keiller, the heir to a marmalade fortune who invested much of his wealth in his passion for archaeology, was becoming heavily involved in excavating the monuments of Avebury. Today, the museum there is named after him, honouring his role in uncovering and preserving the region’s tremendous prehistoric significance.

Keiller had a long-standing interest in witchcraft, and while there’s not much evidence of practical involvement, there are glimpses. In her biography of Keiller, Lynda Murray writes:

In the 1930s, one Halloween night found him leading a small group of associates out into the garden of the Manor at Avebury. He carried before him a phallic symbol, and bowing three times before the statue of Pan, he chanted ‘witchlike’ incantations.

Curiously, while excavating Windmill Hill, a Neolithic site just a little northwest from Avebury, among the animal remains that Keiller’s team found in 1929 was the skeleton of a goat. He was clearly quite taken by this find, going as far as to name the creature ‘Duffine’, and to use a photograph of the goat’s remains on New Year’s greetings cards.

Keiller’s interest in Pan was obviously bound up with sexuality. Though there is no direct mention of Pan, it’s hard to not sense his presence in the fact that during the mid-1930s, Keiller

and a small group of like-minded gentlemen would meet for drinks at a club, following which they would adjourn to a flat in South London where a young lady waited for them. Each of them would take turns with the woman in what was a curiously formal and ritualistic act of sexual intercourse. Afterwards, when the men had gone their separate ways, they would later correspond with each other discussing intimately the parts of the ritual which excited them the most.

It seems that as far as they went, Keiller was sincerely engaged with these dabblings in magic and sexual exploration, but it may be a stretch to peg him as a committed occultist. Still, my own experience on Waden Hill compels me to ruminate upon Keiller’s private fantasies about the significance of the millennia-old excavated goat, and the existence of a Pan Bridge in Avebury. Did he have a hand in rebuilding it in 1932? We will never know the exact nature of Keiller’s associations between goatish divinity and this evocative place; but it appears that whatever fantasies he found himself in maintain some sort of autonomous life of their own—out there on the hills, in here in dreams, and especially betwixt and between.

IV. Crouch End

Mariners sailing close to the shores of Tuscany heard a voice cry out from the hills, the trees, and the sky: ‘The great god Pan is dead!’ Pan, god of panic. The sudden awareness that everything is alive and significant. The date was December 25, 1 AD.
But Pan lives on in the realm of imagination. In writing, painting, and music. Look at van Gogh’s Sunflowers, writhing with pretentious life. Listen to the Pipes of Pan in Joujouka. Now Pan is neutralized, framed in museums, entombed in books, and relegated to folklore. But art is spilling out of its frames into subway graffiti. Will it stop there?
— William S. Burroughs, ‘Apocalypse’

crouch-end-spriggan-graffiti

After a brief jaunt in Bristol, in 2007 London drew me back into its arms (or should that be tentacles?). I got a room in Stroud Green and, browsing the area on Google Maps, I was caught by a long, tree-lined path called Parkland Walk. Wikipedia told me this was the vestige of rail line that ran, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

Of course, discovering a long stretch of greenery in my new neighbourhood was thrilling. But my sense of mystery, primed by previous goatish encounters, got a particular buzz from the Wikipedia section on Parkland Walk’s urban legends. This snippet of modern lore was to plunge me into the densest tangle of ungraspable connections that my goat-related experiences had yet delivered.

Along the walk just before the disused platforms at Crouch End, a man sized green spriggan sculpture by Marilyn Collins had been placed in one of the alcoves of the wall on the right at the footbridge before the former Crouch End station. This was thought to be a tribute to a ghostly ‘goat-man’ who haunted that particular area in the mid 1980s. Local children playing out in the evenings would ‘dare’ each other to walk the Parkland Walk from the Crouch End Hill bridge to the Crouch Hill bridge in the darkness.

Parkland Walk sculpture by Marilyn Collins (photo by Karolina Urbaniak)
Parkland Walk sculpture by Marilyn Collins (photo by Karolina Urbaniak)

Thanks to Wikipedia’s revision history feature, I tracked down the source of the ‘goat-man’ tale—a guy called Patrick who grew up in the Crouch End area and recalls walking this haunted track in the dead of night as a twelve-year-old around 1986. This was a couple of years after the track, which had been completely abandoned since 1970, was officially opened as a linear walkway. Patrick recalled rumours of a curse placed on the rail line by gypsies evicted to make way for it near Alexandra Palace, and no doubt this fourteen-year period of dereliction was a fertile time for the sprouting of urban legends about this odd feature, for a time returned to wilderness.

I was also fortunate to find that just as I’d moved back to London, Marilyn Collins had moved back to the area after fifteen months in Crete, so I managed to get the story of the ‘spriggan’ sculpture directly. It seems that in 1991, a talk given in Crouch End by permaculture originator Bill Mollison inspired a lot of local eco-conscious activity, including the UK’s first permaculture course. In 1993 Marilyn was commissioned by Rob Grunsell from the Crouch Hill Community Centre to artistically mark the local passion for nature, which resulted in this idiosyncratic foliated youth who appears to burst out of the graffiti-covered brickwork arches.

The name ‘spriggan’ was chosen by Marilyn purely on aesthetic grounds from a book of folklore (traditionally it’s a term from Cornish fairy lore). The entity’s genesis, though, reaches back to the artist’s youthful experiments with consciousness-altering substances—specifically, cough syrup. She recalls seeing many small entities during these experiences, but they didn’t seem very interested in her. ‘But this big thing that I saw,’ she told me, referring to the inspiration for the sculpture, ‘seemed to be interested in me. It was looking at me. I don’t know whether to say “he” or “she” because I don’t think that it was a he or she… . My first feeling was that I was afraid, but then my mind came into the whole experience, and I started thinking this isn’t anything you need to be afraid of. And pretty soon after I thought that, I stopped seeing it… . It seemed as if it wanted to communicate something to me. I’ve no idea what.’

The creature’s androgyny is evident but hardly blatant in the sculpture; still, one little chap ‘got it’ straight away. On the day the piece was being installed, a family walked past, and their boy, on seeing it, shouted, ‘Hey, it’s a cunt! It’s a woodboy cunt!’ ‘Woodboy Cunt’ remains Marilyn’s pet name for her creation.

Patrick mentioned that he thought the ‘goat-man’ legends may have been inspired by the sculpture, but his childhood experiences pre-date its installation by nearly a decade. Before learning of Marilyn’s cough syrup encounter, I assumed she had been inspired by the urban legend; but as it turned out, she knew nothing of it. Wikipedia supplies us with another potential line of inspiration. Supposedly Stephen King once stayed at Peter Straub’s place in Crouch End, and was moved, after going for strolls along Parkland Walk and seeing the sculpture, to contribute ‘Crouch End’ to a collection of short stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Well, this collection was published in 1980; but it remains vaguely possible that King caught the spriggan just before publishing a slightly different version in 1993’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes. The story concerns something unspeakably monstrous snatching people through thin breaches between dimensions. Mention is made of a ‘Blind Piper’ taking people ‘beneath’, to the ‘Goat with a Thousand Young’ (one of Lovecraft’s Old Ones, Shub-Niggurath). Marilyn had no idea about the King story, making it possible that all these threads wove with total independence through the region.

Were urban legends of ruminants along Parkland Walk fuelled by the occasional appearance of muntjac, a small deer occasionally spotted here?1 Even this mundane grounding for myth is tinged with coincidental mystery by Ossian Road, which runs parallel to Parkland Walk near Crouch End. Ossian is an anglicisation of Oisín, the great poet in Irish myth; his name means ‘fawn’, as his mother had been turned into a deer by a druid.

Looking into the cough syrup connection, it seems probable that the active ingredient in the ‘60s mixture involved was Dextromethorphan, or DXM, a cough suppressant and—at the right dosage—a powerful dissociative hallucinogen often used recreationally. As with the somewhat similar drug ketamine, reports of encounters with entities are rife. It seemed like a real shot in the dark to search for ‘DXM goat’, but the web is very generous when it comes to odd connections. Some trickster at goatman.com (site now dead) seems to have these two phenomena welded firmly together in their imagination, with no apparent connection at all to Crouch End:

Centered around an anti-civilization, anarchist platform, goat-culture tends to attract the youth, particularly those youth who are especially frustrated and angry at the status-quo, but too lazy to do anything about it… . As such, there are no organized rituals within the cult—however, it seems clear that at least in our present culture, drug-induced malicious behavior is an essential facet of the goat-experience. There also appears to be a unholy regard for one particular drug, DXM, which members claim brings one spiritually closer to Goatman more effectively than any other substance.

Such random oddities aside, connections proliferated around my encounter with Marilyn. It turned out that she personally knows a therapist I once consulted in the Crouch End area, living on the same street a few minutes’ walk from the spriggan. It is far from lost on me that I started seeing this therapist regarding panic attacks, and that my experience in Avebury emerged precisely during this time.

Still more interesting to me was Marilyn’s tale of what she described as an ‘encounter with Pan’ during her recent time in Crete. She was walking along the south coast, on the way to Lissos (where there used to be an Asklepion, a dream incubation temple). Descending into a gorge, she became frightened by the sound of footsteps behind her. Every time she stopped, they stopped—leading her to dismiss them as echoes. But returning there with a friend, she found there was no echo at all in that location. ‘I don’t know whether that was Pan or whether it was an echo,’ she admitted.

Perhaps it wasn’t Pan or an echo, but rather Pan and Echo—one of the god’s favourite nymphs. James Hillman connects Pan strongly the the phenomenon of synchronicity, ‘since Pan like synchronicity connects nature “in here” with it “out there”’—a devilish shadow of our rational conceptions of time, space, and causality.

Perhaps all along, in the way in which the unfolding of this goat motif has resisted tidy explanations and cut-and-dried categories, the deft hand of the impish goat-god has been busily working away. Hillman has the last word:

In Longus’ tale of Daphnis and Chloe, Echo was torn apart by Pan’s herdsmen (for refusing him). Her singing members were flung in all directions. Let us say that Pan speaks in these echoing bits of information which present nature’s own awareness of itself in moments of spontaneity. Why they occur at this moment and not that, why they are so often fragmentary, trivial and even false—these questions would have to be explored through the mythology of the spontaneous rather than through either empirical or logical methods. We would have to penetrate further into the nature of Pan (and the nymphs) in order to fathom these manifestations that seem to want to remain renegade and wispy, half-pranks and half-truths …

 

Pan with a flute

 

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