The piper at the gates of dawn: the historic and symbolic pan

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The piper at the gates of dawn: the historic and symbolic pan

A presentation by Maxwell Ketels

Thursday, October 2, 2014 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: The Quaker House, 10 Hampson St, Kelvin Grove
Admission: Members & Concession: $10 • Non-members: $15

The ancient classical Pan was a fertility figure associated with small herding, beehives etc. Like Chiron, Pan is a composite mythic animal, with an earthy, goaty lower half and a refined, human upper half.

Pan is decidedly related to the ecstatic, free-flowing, Dionysian side of the ‘Apollonic-Dionysian axis’. For a non-member of the Greek pantheon, Pan had a remarkably durable “career” as symbol: his rustic pan-pipes came to signify the harmony of the celestial spheres, at a time when he came to symbolize the creative force of the Whole of Nature. ” His freaky image and early sensual reputation as a fertility figure was largely responsible for the construction of the medieval Devil image. Pan’s horns are still made today as a hand-sign in the Mediterranean region, to ward off the “evil eye”.

Fluting, dancing and singing Pan, as creative muse, was most prolific in the ethos and art of Romanticism, from the 18th into the 20th centuries. One Australian example in the Brisbane Art Gallery is the art nouveau Spirit of the Plains by Sidney Long, one of a series painted in the western New South Welsh plains. For DH Lawrence, Pan signified “the deep emotional self”. He was also there for children in JM Barrie’s Peter Pan (1911) and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Still frighteningly awesome, yet now largely benign and rehabilitated, Pan made a major appearance in the award-winning magico-realist Mexican-produced film, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).

James Hillman is the Jungian writer who has written most comprehensively about the Pan archetype. For a figure who was long thought to be behind fearful and ‘pan’-icky emotional states, Hillman in his Pan and the Nightmare (1971) is surprised that more is not made of Pan.

Maxwell Ketels was born and is at present living in Melbourne. After a spell teaching history, social science, English and geography, he lived in London where he worked as a child counsellor. He has also worked as a trainer, as a Commonwealth servant of the public, as well as a practitioner and teacher of massage modalities for over 35 years. Maxwell is Secretary and Librarian of the Carl Jung Society of Melbourne, and sings tenor in Melbourne symphonic choirs. As a flautist, he first became interested in the Greek Pan, resulting in two decades of research and writing of a work-in-progress book. He has recently returned from another visit to Greece.