Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day, Pan, and Precession

There is some indication that the modern holiday of Valentine's Day occupies the place in the calendar which once belonged to the Lupercalia, an ancient festival that took place from February 13th through February 15th. In fact, the name of the month of February descends from a festival called "Februa" that took place on the same dates, a spring festival associated with purging.

Lupercalia clearly contains the Roman word for "wolf," lupus. It appears to be associated with a still more-ancient festival known as the Lykaia, an Arcadian festival held on Mount Lykaios and associated with "Wolf Games." In Hamlet's Mill, authors Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend explain that this ancient festival was associated with the god Pan (as was Lupercalia) because Pan was said to have been born at this Mount Lykaios. The connection between Pan and a mountain associated with wolves stems from a tale in which Zeus turned a disobedient human into a werewolf in that location.

In a chapter entirely devoted to the discussion of this important ancient mythological figure, entitled "The Great Pan is Dead," de Santillana and von Dechend explain:
Pan is said to have been born here, and here he had a sanctuary. Here also Zeus tilted a "table" -- whence the place had the name Trapezous -- because Lykaon had served him a dish of human meat consisting of his own son. Zeus turned Lykaon into a werewolf, and in tilting the "table" caused the Flood of Deukalion, the "table," of course, being the earth-plane through the ecliptic. This is the significant event of the tale, and the whole is so long no sensible person would try to summarize it. 278 - 279.
This association of the tilting of the axis (the tilting of the table by Zeus, which de Santillana and von Dechend argue with some justification is a mythical metaphor for the division of the ecliptic and the celestial equator, which is caused by the obliquity of earth's axial tilt from the orbital plane of the ecliptic) with the Flood of Deukalion is significant. The hydroplate theory of Walt Brown argues that the events of the global flood would have caused a major roll of the earth, resulting in a major disruption of the celestial axis to observers on earth. The Mathisen Corollary book explores evidence in ancient myth that the "chopping down" of the celestial axis was associated with a worldwide flood.

Interestingly enough, de Santillana and von Dechend present evidence in their chapter on Pan for the identification of Pan (at least, the Pan whose death was announced in many ancient tales as signifying the end of an age) with Tammuz, and with Janbushad or Jamshyd. They then go on to explain:
It has been seen already (p. 146) that Jamshyd is in Avestic Yima xsaeta, the name from which came Latin Saturnus. There is no question then, this is about Saturn/Kronos, the God of the beginning, Yima (Indian Yama), the lord of the Golden Age. 283.
We have discussed the importance of Yima (or Yama) and the Golden Age in previous posts, such as this one and this one.

Thus the festival of Lupercalia (connected by a very roundabout path to modern Valentine's Day) points again to the importance of precession (which itself is caused by the fact that earth's axis is "unhinged") in ancient mythology.

For readers who are disconcerted by the fact that Pan seems to be a very different god from Saturn, it might be helpful to read this previous post entitled "The real actors on the stage of the universe are very few," which explains that one celestial actor (such as the planet Saturn) can take on many different roles -- in fact, Saturn appears to be associated not only with Kronos but also with Prometheus, Hephaestus, and Phaethon, and now we see that he is associated with Pan as well (in fact, de Santillana and von Dechend tell us that, while Pan is considered a very "young" god in Greek mythology, he was considered one of the most ancient by the Egyptians -- just as Saturn / Kronos was considered an "ancient" god by the Greeks).

He is also associated with the figure of Orion or Osiris, who in some accounts was a civilizing figure who came to dwell among mankind and taught them to grow grains and to cease from cannibalism -- an interesting connection to the story of Lykaon and the birthplace of Pan in the Greek myth described above.

To finish up on a slightly different aspect of Pan, we can see that in the mosaic above, Pan is chasing the nymph or dryad Pitys, who is turning into a tree to escape his clutches (much to Pan's dismay). The ancients believed that dryads protected trees, and that causing damage to a tree would cause damage or harm to the dryad who was associated with that particular tree. Unfortunately, as we have seen in this recent post on the Methuselah tree, some moderns appear to be all to willing to deface and destroy the trees of the forest.