Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pan & Ishtar, Baphomet & Babalon

As I think most of you know, I've done some work in the past with Ishtar & Pan as paired gods, both in heiros gamos, and in other ways as well.  Pan's role, to my way of thinking, is primarily as a god of wild places; rugged mountains, deep forest glades, hidden pastures.  A god of unknown places and unchecked wilds.  Like Hermes, Pan's cult arose  in Arcadia.  Hermes, in fact, is usually understood to be Pan's father.  This fact is rather odd, as Pan is also considered to be older than all the Olympians.  I understand it thus:  Hermes is not literally Pan's father.  Rather, Hermes is the one who introduced Pan to the world, who coaxed him from his wild, enticing him with to the sweetness of human offerings (and human women), teaching him the excitement of human-watching.  Likewise, Hermes taught us of Pan, his shaggy wild-eyed, storm-hearted friend.  Like Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Hermes and Pan as a pair represent the partnership of man's creation and nature's.  Like with Gilgamesh and Enkidu, it doesn't end well for nature.

There is an amazing fact about Pan that so many modern pagans do not know.  Pan, perhaps alone among the Greek pantheon, is dead.  His death was announced during the reign of Tiberius (10-40ish CE), and much lamented.  What occasioned this is not entirely understood, but may have been sparked by native Greek's misunderstanding of the cult of Tammuz(*), the great Grain god of the near east, who yearly dis and arises.  However, there is another sense in which Pan is dead.  There are now so few places in the world that are not controlled by humans, Pan no longer has much of a "natural habitat".  And so he retreated, but, like every dying god, he rises.  Pan, like all things he controls, and grown and moved and shifted, to become a god of creativity and sexuality, of creation and generation.  Nature always conquers, in the end.  The Wild cannot always be tamed.

In a new age, he is called Baphomet, the sabbatic goat.  The throbbing, humming power of the Old Powers of the Earth.  Baphomet, the double helix king.  Baphomet, the blind yearning, the lifeblood of the world that unites every living thing. Baphomet, the Evolver.

Similarly, Ishtar, the Light of the World, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the patron of Babylon, is a goddess all about conquering.  She, the Queen of the Earth, expands her control to the Heavens, and, in her most famous myth, descends into the underworld to attempt to conquer that as well. (This conquest is thwarted by her sister, Ereshkigal.  Even the greatest of creative power cannot overcome Death.)  Ishtar's cult, centered in Babylon, the Holy and Eternal City, the navel of the world, the City That Never Sleeps.  Just as Pan is a god of natural growth, Ishtar is the goddess of man-made growth of progress and innovation.  And yet, Babylon too fell, and Ishtar receded into history, but not before she too grew and changed.  Ishtar has become a goddess of luxury and decadence, of female-power and voluptuousness.  When people rail against this, when they lament the power of the City, and the decadent and sinful ways, they call her by her new name,  "Babalon", they say, "the queen of inequity, the temptress, the Whore!"

And so the old gods arise anew,  Baphomet and Babalon, the old gods made new.  Wild Growth and Human Growth, Evolution and Innovation.

(*) This connection is particular interesting in light of the connection between Pan and Ishtar I'm making.  Tammuz was the great love of Ishtar's life, and it is she that causes his death.

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