Apollon vs Pan — strengths and weaknesses of their devotees.

Their relationship is… Complicated.

Lucy the Oracle
9 min readDec 8, 2023
Photo by Samuel Rios on Unsplash

(Next up will be Dionysus vs Hades, stay tuned).

As you may have noticed if you follow me, I have a bit of a special interest in Greek mythology. Two gods, in particular, stand out to me the most: Apollon and Dionysus. They’re the gods I am most familiar with and I’ve feel drawn to them both ever since I remember. I have already written about how they can be opposites, and will soon write about their similarities. But before I jump to that, I’d like to make a bit of a series studying each of them in comparison to other gods, particularly those who appear in the same myths. Starting with Apollon, let’s talk about him in contrast to Pan. Let’s take a look at how these two forces of nature relate to each other. Some lessons can only be learned by contrast — that’s why I’m writing this article.

To make it fun, though, I’ll add a sprinkle of my own experience with devotees of these two gods throughout the article. I do strongly believe that the gods we look up to can reveal a lot about ourselves, how we live, what we value, and why.

Extreme optimism vs extreme pessimism.

Let me just open up the analysis with that.

One of the devotees is chronically optimistic; the other seems to always look for the misfortune in every scenario. Can you guess which is which? Well… In my own experience, at least, there is a pattern: if you worship Apollon, you tend towards optimism. In your bad days, you’ll tend to blame yourself for what went wrong; if you worship Pan, you tend towards pessimism; And in your bad days, you’ll tend to blame others for what went wrong. I’m not just saying that as a “woo woo” statement, there is actually some psychology behind it. The myths that stay with you and inspire you (and consequently, the gods in these myths) can reveal your tendency towards one or the other — optimism or pessimism — because of the themes, lessons, and overall message you find in them.

An optimist, for example, isn’t very likely to enjoy the whole metaphor of Pan’s death and what it symbolises (usually, things like sadness and melancholy at being a bit of an outcast); that’s best-suited for the pessimists who revel in the idea of martyrdom and victimhood. On the other hand, a pessimist won’t like to read that Apollon is Zeus’ favourite child. I mean, how dare he? No doubt he’s full of himself. And why stop at a Greek god for that matter? How dare anyone ever feel accomplished and happy! That’s unfair with everybody else who keeps suffering (I strongly disagree with this sentiment, but it is what I suppose would go through the chronic pessimist’s head, even if subconsciously — which makes some of them, a minority perhaps, prone to envy).

I’M NOT SAYING that it’s bad to be pessimistic (in before anyone complains here…), so keep calm. In fact, there are many instances where optimism won’t serve you very well because it can make you prone to seeing the world in a rose-tinted filter, nurture too many expectations, or be too naive. Conversely, pessimism can often be helpful because it will aid you in anticipating and preventing problems, accidents, conflicts, etc. And last but not least: most people aren’t an extreme. Maybe you’ll tend towards optimism most days… But, ya know, you’re still human and still have complexity. That’s fine. It does not invalidate my point though: we all tend towards one or the other. There’s no right or wrong (just, probably, my own bias writing this article, much as I try to suppress it and be impartial). It’s a matter of personality.

Photo by Victor Serban on Unsplash

What was your reaction when you first looked at a harp? Can you remember?

“Ugh, how pretentious *eyeroll* [or insert here other comment about how unapologetically big, complex and “inconvenient” harps — or even lyres — can be]”


“Whoa so pretty! And pretty sounds! I want one!” [forgets to research how doable that really would be].

The reactions above are just for rhetoric value. In reality, I used to know a Pan worshipper who plays the piano — arguably an even more inconvenient and “pretentious” instrument (not my words. I personally love it).

This is not about big harps, or unassuming flutes. It’s about something else if you read between the lines. I’m just trying my hardest not to ruffle any feathers here by using the most neutral example I can think of while still keeping on theme with these 2 gods’ symbols — musical instruments. My point is: one kind of person will always look for the bright side first, and only AFTER think of the possible problems in a situation. The other kind of person will always be sceptical and devalue first, and admire later (if at all).

Speaking from experience — don’t take it as an absolute truth — Pan devotees are much more interested in gossip and “bitching” than Apollon’s. This tends to be because, when you’re overall pessimistic, you’ll see people’s dark side first. It could be super accurate and valid — but it’s still pessimism. It’s still fixating on what annoys you, instead of the small things you appreciate. Some go further and catastrophise, making a mountain out of a molehill. That’s because, when you’re so used to expecting the worst, you start projecting that onto others too. This is how innocent constructive feedback delivered with a sweet tone of voice turns into “HATEFUL NAGGING! HOW DARE YOU” in pessimistic heads.

Both kinds of worshipper can be delusional, to be quite honest. It’s not just Pan’s people (I’m just a bit traumatised with them, there, I said it. But that’s my experience, yours could be better). In fact, a big problem I see in the cultus of Apollon these days is people giving too many chances to absolute arseholes in their lives. Seriously. (Self-roast, by the way). Sometimes it takes a chronic pessimist — a Pan’s worshipper for example — to open my eyes a bit and help me see how much sooner I should have let someone go. These problems wouldn’t have happened if things were more balanced, and Apollon devotees embraced pessimism a bit more. Another problem I see in Apollon’s crowd is the tendency to become control freaks. More on that very soon (scroll down).

Striving for balance — that’s a goal everybody should focus on. Speaking of that, stay tuned for the next article, where I will focus on Dionysus more, and explain why he bridges the communication between Pan and Apollon so well (spoiler alert: it has to do with narrowing the gap between the extremes of optimism and pessimism).

Music, fertility, prophecy… Are these two gods always competing?

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

If you’re into Greek myths, you might have heard of the music competition where Pan challenges Apollon, but loses. There is a lot to unpack in that myth, but one obvious theme is the fact both gods are “gods of music”.

If you’re well-versed in Greek myths, you might have also heard of the somewhat lesser-known fact both gods have sacred places in Delphi and have prophetic powers.

If you’re an absolute nerd in Greek myths and probably speak the dead language (or have friends who do, lol), it is likely that you’ve heard of the fact, not explicitly mentioned but always inferred, that Apollon is basically sunlight and Pan is more like fertiliser. Either way, they help things grow and reproduce — which might also explain why they’re both, uh, a bit promiscuous with a complicated love life (to say the least).

Right. Let’s unpack this dumpster fire.

(And while I do so, I’m thinking to myself “god fucking damn it, why can’t people consider the bright side of things once in a while. It doesn’t hurt, ya know?”)

So… You could look at the above similarities with a pessimistic mindset and go like “oh, they’re always competing indeed. How unfortunate! I wonder who is the most legitimate god for each of these domains. And I wonder how fair was the judge in their music contest. That bitch”.


You could look at them with an optimistic mind: “they both rule over these three domains? How cool is that! I wonder if the difference is in their approaches. Or even… If they’re complimentary! Like a flute jamming with a lyre. Whoa that’s awesome”.


Apollon is approachable to all; Pan hides from most.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

Again: rays of light vs fertiliser. Is every surface fertile? No. You have to go to very specific places (take this as metaphorically as you will) to “talk” to Pan. Apollon, on the other hand, is everywhere you see light (not just the sun). Does it excuse itself? Does it ask for permission? No. It simply illuminates everything on its way. (Insert here big rant I don’t have the energy for right now, about how the fact the Ancient Greek used rape as a metaphor of that does NOT invalidate the whole entire deity that is Apollon. That’s people being misogynistic and choosing the wrong allegories. Let’s all just chill and stop taking myths literally. Just because a bad teacher taught you a lesson using the worst possible examples, this does not invalidate the central message of the lesson. Goddammit).

Perhaps a more useful metaphor of how Pan is less approachable than Apollon, for the modern days, could be in the simple difference between introversion and extroversion: extroverts will not be all shy, uncertain and apologetic in social situations. They don’t ask for permission to speak, or wait for the unsaid (but implied) permission. No. They often talk over other people without realising. This can be good — as in, it allows them to network more seamlessly — or bad — as in, some introverts might get annoyed. Apollon is “extroverted”. He goes everywhere. He’s unafraid to approach whoever it is he meets — even if it’s the President.

Pan, on the other hand, is a lot more reserved. It isn’t that he’s “more appropriate” than Apollon (although some people might think so), he’s just concerned with different goals. Instead of going after everyone and anyone, he will focus his attention on one specific group at a time and get really really deep/intimate in the conversation (a thing that some extroverts find creepy or “too little too soon”, by the way). He might even end up networking extensively! But it takes longer (hence why on the surface he always looks like he’s “falling behind” or “losing”). It’s one person or group at a time.

As liberal as he is with permission to manifest himself (within reason, of course. And as always, the usual “rule” does not apply to niche mysteries), Apollon is also the god of bow and arrow. He strives for being right on target every single time, and so do his devotees. This is where the control freak tendency comes from. Pan’s people, on the other hand, being more “introverted” (in this metaphoric sense only — not assuming anything literally), seem to have a better knack for staying chill because they’re always among old acquaintances anyway.

Or, again, going back to their instruments — none is necessarily “better” than the other (that’ll only depend on the musician’s talent. Or perceived talent). The key difference for the sake of this myth, though, is the fact flutes get heard more easily (just like Pan screams, and this brings us panic. Now you know the origin of the word), but harps get seen more easily (hence Apollon being a god of light and other visual stuff. Ever played harp in an orchestra? Frustrating. It gets drowned out). Sure, simplistic thinkers will conclude “oh, Apollon is superficial; oh, Pan is crazy” but I trust most of my readers can read far deeper into it than that.

I hope the metaphor makes sense. Replace your chosen problematic myths for both gods with it. Have fun. And feel free to complain and bitch about me anyway, especially if you’re one of the followers of Pan I already had the misfortune of crossing paths with. If there is one thing Pan devotees hate (probably?) more than criticism, is when the “annoying” and “loud” Apollonian crowd dares shedding light (light! The audacity!) on the obscure god they worshipped “before it was cool”. Whatever, folks. My blog, my rules.

Before things get too heated, I’m concluding this article here. I hope it was interesting, feel free to share your thoughts.



Lucy the Oracle

Oracle learner / spirit worker based in Ireland. Buddhist/polytheist. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.