Psyche and Pan: soul image

Gustav Klimt, Pan and Psyche, 1892, US Public Domain
Gustav Klimt, Pan and Psyche, 1892, US Public Domain

The Myth of psyche and pan reflects some wisdom. Psyche is despairing because she has lost the love of Cupid (Eros), and is considering giving up on life.

“[Psykhe (Psyche) despairing at having lost the love of Cupid (Eros) was about to cast herself into the river:] The rustic god Pan chanced to be sitting at that moment on the brow of the stream, holding the mountain deity Echo in his arms, and teaching her to repeat after him all kinds of songs. Close by the bank nanny-goats were sporting as they grazed and cropped the river-foliage here and there. The goat-shaped god was well aware of the calamity that had befallen Psyche.”

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The Relation between Pan and Panic

Young Pan, 20 c., L Bakst, US Public Domain
Young Pan, Léon Bakst, 1911, US Public Domain

Pan-like figures are found in cultures around the world. Carl Jung tells a story of the “nocturnal God” he heard of in Kenya. He says:

“The elders of the Elgonyi tribe in Kenya gave me exactly the same description of the nocturnal god whom they call the “maker of fear.” “He comes to you,” they said, “like a cold gust of wind, and you shudder, or he goes whistling round in the tall grass” -an African Pan who glides among the reeds in the haunted noontide hour, playing on his pipes and frightening the shepherds… Thus, in the dream, the breath of the pneuma frightened another pastor, a shepherd of the flock, who in the darkness of the night trod the reed-grown shore in the deep valley of the psyche.” (CW v. 9I, para.36)

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