By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student
The Titan Age was the birth of many terrible things, but panic was not one of them. To understand the birth of panic, we must understand the family of death first. Born from Nyx was Thanatos, god of death. Before his birth, not a thing or spirit died, not even when the Titans took power from the old gods, did any of them die. Siblings of death, more gods and goddesses brought into the world with the Titans, were a familiar group of seven, deadly sisters.
His sisters included Geras, goddess of old age. She inflicted natural lifespans on the nereids and nymphs of the worlds, every animal and critter now had a limit to their time above. His second sister was Oizys, goddess of suffering. She brought the world to its knees, and gave the tools that Titan Kronos used to rule the earth with an iron hand. His third sister was Moros, goddess of doom. She brought the prophecies of the end to the world, and instilled the seed of fear into the animals. Later she would share a son with Ares, who would bring fear into battle as well.
His next sister was Apate, deception. Unlike her sisters, she shares a key trait with her brother, death. Both of them eventually grow, and use their divine powers to bring good into the world. Thanatos will work tirelessly in the future to bring death to only those who deserve it. Apate, in the future, will lead heroes through endless strife, letting them rise above with tricky schemes. With the help of Hermes she will lead heroes like Odyesseus and Achilles through thick and thin.
But Apate was the only sister to do good with her godley powers, as his next sister was Momus, goddess of blame. One can assume the many things she inflicted on the world. His sixth sister is a familiar character, Eris, goddess of discord and strife. Eris frequently works with Momus to bring suffering to the world. His last sister was Nemesis, goddess of revenge. While she helps people, like Thantos and Apate, she does not give them gifts, she gives them retributions, ends worthy of nightmares.
But while these seven sisters of death, born of the Age of Titans, are important and influential deities, I did start this story by pointing out that panic was not born from the Age of Titans. The next siblings of death were three brothers.
Born from Nyx as well were the brothers Hypnos and Charon. Hypnos was the god of sleep and dreams, a not-so-terrible thing, luckily. And Charon was the boatman of the river Styx, known primarily for his greed. But it is the third brother who is most important, as he was born, or rather created at the end of the Titan Age, and did not grow up in the world of suffering that his siblings did. He was created by both Nyx and Cybele, a goddess of mountains, to run as fast he could, to send messages during the war.
To do this the goddess gave him the legs of goats, so he would not stumble over any fault in his path. They gave him horns, so he could be distinguished from the Titans. Cybele gave him dominion over the wild, his divine domain. This was so that when he ran and traveled, his world was on his side. Nyx gave him the ability to surprise any he came upon, so that Titans would stumble before they could catch him.
But, not ten days after his birth the war ended, and the Olympian Age began. The third brother lived more freely than any of his siblings, who preferred to shelter him as opposed to teaching him of life before the war. Cybele took care of him as he grew, and took him to be raised in Boeotia.
The siblings collectively agreed on a name. They called him Pan, a prefix meaning “all.” This was to show that he escapes all, every drop of suffering and horror, he has escaped just by way of birth. And so Pan, god of the wild, grew up running the forests with wild abandon.
If you remember, I started this story with telling how panic was not born by the Titans. That is because panic was created by Pan. And that is the story I will weave and cut for you today, for I am Atropos, Morta, the inevitable, the dead one, third sister of the Moirai, I am the goddess of fate and destiny.
The day panic was created was like many days in Boeotia, sun streaming through crowded trees, wind blowing between crowded trunks, and a Boeotian citizen walking idly through the forest. She was a kind girl, young, only ten years old. She’s looking for wildflowers, a gift for her mother no doubt.
But unbeknownst to her, there’s a wild god plaguing the forest. Pan, young and naive and looking for a spot of fun, spots the young girl meandering by and comes up with a horrible idea. He remembers the gift his second mother gave him, the gift of surprise. He sneaks up behind the young girl, and yells as loud as he can.
The girl is suddenly stricken with fear, so overpowering that she doesn’t scream, nor move at all. She stands still, deadly still. And does not move until Pan, bored by her muted reaction, leaves her alone. The moment Pan has left, the young girl runs as fast as she can back to her village, crying her young voice until her throat bleeds.
Later that night, Hypnos finds it odd that a young girl’s dreams are filled with disembodied voices screaming at her from every angle, while all she does is stand still. He replaces her nightmare with good dreams, and brushes the event off as a child’s wild imagination.
But while Hypnos might have brushed off the event, seeing it as an outsider, Pan saw it as an insider. He is disappointed, as he thought that the young girl would have had a greater reaction than just standing still. He thought his wild cry and gift of surprise would have been more entertaining. Pan resigns himself to only trying again once, as he assumes that Prometheus made humans just as boring as him.
The next victim of Pan is a merchant, moving heavy clay pots by pulling a wagon. Pan sneaks up, and sits himself in the wagon. He waits until the merchant turns to look at him, wondering why his wagon suddenly became so much harder to pull. Then Pan lets out his wild cry, and the merchant jumps backwards with shock, falling down and injuring his arm.
Pan runs away, cackling with delight. But later, he is surprisingly visited by his sister, Nemesis. She tells him that a poor merchant wished a curse upon him, and invoked her name for a means of revenge. But, as Pan is her brother, she does not wish to harm him, and lets him off with a small warning.
But this does not deter Pan, no, it provokes him. His wild cry has moved a human to invoke a god’s divine ability. What else can his wild cry do? Pan continues to surprise any human who dares enter the forest of Boeotia, and he inflicts them with his madness and mania. He lets his wild cry loose at night, whether or not people have entered his domain, just to relish in the distant sounds of windows and doors slamming shut, a now instinctual reaction to his wild cry.
But this is not for the best, as now Pan has a new name, the god of surprise. This comes as a reckoning when one day, his wild cry surprises an elderly woman so much that she drops dead from shock. Pan is frozen, stricken by his own mania, when he sees the dead woman. And even more so when the winged silhouette of his eldest brother looms before the departing soul, carefully picking them up.
Pan contemplates what would be worse, his brother condemning him with words or silence. He decides on the latter when Thanatos disappears without so much a single syllable. Pan learns the truth later that night, when he returns to Cybele without letting out his wild cry.
Cybele tells him that he has not been worshipped as the god of surprise, as he had thought. Each of Pan’s siblings had come to Cybele to tell them that people across the earth had begun to worship Pan in their place. People thought that he brought unnatural lifespans, suffering, doom, discord, deception, blame, and even revenge.
Cybele told him that he must leave Boeotia, as his damage has been done. He must travel to Arcadia, and never use his surprise again. And so Pan does. He moves to Arcadia, but he can’t restrain his wild cry. At night, he lets it out in his lonely forest. And any who hear, know exactly which god invoked it.
Pan, god of the rustic wild, and most importantly of all, Panic.
By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student