The Greek God Pan is hard to pin down; not an Olympian and definitely not a ruler of any city-state, what is known and elevated about the so-called “goat food god” must be gleaned from a few hymns and mythological hints as to the nature of this deity. Certainly wanton, was Pan a rapist run amok amongst the mountains, or a misunderstood progenitor and protector of life in a region where survival was incredibly difficult? How do more modern interpretations of him, such as those by Dion Fortune and Tom Robbins, apply?
Author Diotima condenses all the dry academics about a far-from-biblical god, Pan, and somehow condenses it into this short but dense collection of notes about the historic, religious and psychological significance of panic-stirring, woman-loving, life-loving god himself. Riddled with references and footnotes, no one can level any accusation of scholarly neglect: it would, however, be worth suggesting that in this day and age, the lovely and fascinating footnotes dotting nearly ever page are each quite worthy of a blog-post, the type and quality of which the pagan blogosphere desperately needs. It’s clear that Diotima is expert at dealing with the devious deity and seeing her share this information in a more immediate medium would be a blessing.
Diotima takes on more than just the hymns and myths of Pan. She looks carefully at the circumstances of the people who were first known to worship Pan, and how they expressed that worship. But because Pan has worshippers in this day and age, she also takes on the tough questions that 21st century worshippers must consider: who is Pan now? How does a mountain and decidedly rural god fit into a much more urbanized society? How can a modern feminist worship a god who carries the reviled brand of rapist?
Like any text where the academics cross with the divine, The Goat Food God raises more questions than it answers. Diotima is quite generous in sharing a detailed bibliography so that someone else with questions about Pan might retract her steps and even come to a few different conclusions. Whether you are concerned with who Pan is or what Pan is, you’ll be led further down the path of the who and the what in this book. Definitely add this to your library if you’re serious about study of any of the ancient Greeks.
~review by Diana Rajchel