Pipe Playing Man-Goats
The Satyr is another invention of Greek Mythology, that became part of the Roman pantheon as well. This half man, half goat is associated with the Greek god Dionysus and the mischievous Pan. The Satyr is normally seen playing some type of flute or a set of reed pipes and often is seen seducing women. Much like the centaur, the satyr is meant to show the wilder parts of human nature.
Pan, sometimes seen as a faun or satyr himself , is the Greek god of the wild, shepherds flocks, nature, hunting and the mountain wilds. He is also the companion of the nymphs. Due to Pans connection with the Spring of the year he is also tied to the idea of fertility. It is through these connections that the satyr gets the lusty, and lascivious side of their nature. In the beginning, the satyr was seen as old and ugly. Their faces even had the semblance of a goats (beard and all) through time, the satyr and Pan himself took on a more young feel. They took on a younger aspect. They became a more sinister deity and consort. Soon after the more chaotic satyr became the norm, the was the popular invention of the young child like satyr. With cherub faces, these denizens of the forest were baby faced and spritely. They flitted about the forest playing their flutes and dancing throughout the forests.
Shakespeare though I think captures the truest nature of the satyr in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?
To Shakespeare and CS Lewis, that is where my mind goes when I think of the satyr. Mr Tumnus from the Lion the Withc and the Wardrobe was always one of my favorite characters from that particular series and of course from that book. Of the satyr, Mr Tumnus, CS Lewis says:
“strange but pleasant little face,” a long tail, and being, “only a little taller than Lucy herself.”
And though Tumnus wasn’t entirely evil, he certainly caused the children trouble when he turned them over to the queen. Tumnus was delightful and timid and a wee bit pretentious and it is only through the torture that he faced that he turned the children over.
Keep those in mind as you think of the satyr, the Pan-follower, Puck, Robin Goodfellow or Mr Tumnus. I have seen them cosplayed at the Ren Faires before and they are always a delight.