The figures of Fauns and Satyrs and Ægipans danced before his eyes, the darkness of the thicket, the dance on the mountain-top, the scenes by lonely shores, in green vineyards, by rocks and desert places, passed before him: a world before which the human soul seemed to shrink back and shudder.
The Great God Pan
Pan teaching the shepherd Daphnis to play the pipes. Roman copy of Greek original (found at Pompeii, therefore dating to before 79 A.D.).|
Faun and nymph. Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.
Note: Caprinids are members of a division of Family Bovidae that includes goats and sheep.
In his biography of Sulla, Plutarch gives the following account of a satyr. Satyrs, which many Romans believed actually to exist, were supposed to be creatures half goat and half human.
The Nymphaeum near Apollonia was sacred to the god Pan and to the nymphs, the female nature entities of ancient myth, and the supposed frequent prey of lustful satyrs. In fable, they often accompany the higher divinities, in particular Apollo, and rustic gods such as Artemis, Dionysus, Pan, and Hermes (as the god of shepherds).
The Greeks used the word satyr to refer to a different sort of animal. Instead of goat-human hybrids, as the Romans imagined them, a Greek would have described a satyr as a cross between a human and a horse, more like a centaur. But by Roman times satyrs had morphed in the popular imagination into goat-human creatures and were generally conflated with fauns, which were also human above and goat below (see the paintings of fauns on this page). Generally speaking, however, satyrs were more lusty than fauns.
Classical literature is rife with accounts such as Plutarch’s, and the authors of these stories often represented them as real events. In Roman times it was widely accepted that humans could hybridize with non-human animals. For example, in his De Natura Animalium (VI, 42), the Roman author Aelian (c. 175 - c. 235 A.D.) relates the following:
|Satyr and nymphs. William-Adolphe Bouguereau.|
|Jordaens Jacob - Infant Zeus Fed by the Goat Amalthea|
|The Egyptian god Khnum, a sheep-human hybrid|
Indeed, in very ancient times such hybrids were not only accepted, but even viewed in a sacred light. Thus, Budge (Gods of the Egyptians, 1904, p. 353) writes: “At several places in the [Nile] Delta, e.g., Hermopolis, Lycopolis and Mendes the god Pan and a goat were worshipped. Strabo, quoting (xvii. 1, 19) Pindar, says that in these places goats had intercourse with women. Herodotus (ii. 46) instances a case which was said to have taken place in the open day.” The passage from Herodotus (excerpted from Macaulay 1890) reads as follows.
|Satyr as a Guest of the Peasant by Jan Cossiers|
But during the Dark Ages — when Christian jurists came widely to believe that Satan made a habit of seducing witches in animal form, often that of a goat — any seeming half-human birth came to be viewed as a manifestation of great evil. And up until about 1700, any woman who gave birth to such an infant ran a grave risk of being burnt at the stake. Indeed, Satan himself was often depicted as a goat-human hybrid, similar in aspect to the pagan god Pan.
Writing during the reign of Elizabeth I, Batman (1581) tells of a creature found in England that, from his account, he clearly believed to be a human-sheep hybrid. His comments are those of an individual, but their tone reflects the marked shift in attitude society had undergone since ancient times with respect to such matters. What to the pagan had been a mere foible, to the Christian had become a black sin against nature.
The Dutch surgeon Nicolaes Tulp (1593-1674) was the mayor of Amsterdam and is believed to be the first European scientist to publish a description of the chimpanzee. As did many other physicians of his day, he wrote up for the benefit of his colleagues a compilation of the more interesting cases he had seen in private practice. One such was that of “The Bleating Youth” (Juvenis balans), where Tulp describes a youth who grew up among wild sheep in Ireland and who had certain sheep-like characteristics. Tulp says the following of this unusual individual:
|Faun and nymph by Hans Makart.|
|Enkidu battling a lion (Akkadian cylinder seal impression, c. 2200 B.C.)|
Tulp’s account of the bleating youth shows interesting parallels to the descriptions of the Mesopotamian humano-bovine deity Enkidu, a half-man half-bovine demigod who is one of the main characters in the Epic of Gilgamesh. His body was similar to that of the Greek god Pan, or Christian Devil (human torso, hairy legs with cloven hooves, horns on head). The following account of Enkidu’s origin is from my own English reconstruction of the ancient epic:
A case of an alleged human-sheep hybrid appears in the March 13, 1852 issue of the Viennese newspaper Der Humorist, eine Zeitschrift für Scherz und Ernst, Kunst, Theater, Geselligkeit und Sitt:
The following account is from page 2 (column 9) of the March 21, 1874 issue of The Weekly Caucasian, a newspaper published in Lexington, Missouri (access original).
Lusus Naturae. A well known gentleman of reliability, and whose statement can be considered as strictly true, recently sent the following communication to the … Times from a so-called Sheep Camp: "I have the pleasure of recording a freak in nature which never met eyes before. I had a ewe that gave birth to a lamb of perfect form except the head, which was that of a babe. Its head was about … inches across and five inches long; its eyes about one inch apart, and about one inch below its eyes extended its nose in a raised form as that of a human being. Its mouth was hardly an inch from one corner to the other, its chin extended about one inch below the mouth; the cheeks are full and long, rather than … its ears lopped close down by the sides of the head, and its face covered with … wool, and the under and back part of … and neck, and the top of the head, with coarse hair. When I discovered it I showed it to G. H. Perry, who turned away and could not bear to look at it. Unfortunately, before I thought that it would be of any value, it was destroyed.
The following is from the front page (column 5) of the May 22, 1882 issue of the The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, a newspaper published in Wheeling, West Virginia (access original):
Newark, O., May 21.—A remarkable freak of nature has just happened in this township. It was a lamb, the head of which was exactly like that of a human being, and which was born on the farm of William Fresse, one mile north of Oberlin. Mr. Prince describes the curiosity as having the perfect body of a sheep, but without wool, the head and neck had the perfect shape and expression of a human being and with a slight appearance of wool on the part of the head.
A report of a human-goat hybrid appeared in the March 30, 1883 issue of the Austro-Hungarian newspaper Prager Tagblatt:
The following account is from the front page (column 3) of the December 18, 1886 issue of The Weekly Messenger, a newspaper published in St. Martinville, Louisiana (access original):
We were shown this week at the drug store of Messrs. A. Labb & Son, a curious freak of nature in the shape of a lamb with a well and perfectly developed human face. It has a round head standing exactly as a child, but has no ears, the tail is placed in the middle of the back and the body is somewhat deformed.
The following is from page 7 (column 3) of the March 9, 1888 issue of the Fort Worth Weekly Gazette, a newspaper published in Fort Worth, Texas (access original):
Lawrenceville, Ill., Feb. 26—A remarkable freak of nature was discovered last Wednesday afternoon on the farm of Mr. J. E. Roberts, a few miles from this place. It is a young lamb with a human head and body. Its weight is about seven pounds. Its skull and face are almost perfectly human except the ears and a little wool on the forehead. Its body is human and, although the feet are cloven, the formation and attachments of the shoulders and hips indicate that the most natural position of the animal would have been that of a biped. When found the monstrosity was dead, but there were signs that it had been born alive. Many physicians and eminent persons have examined it, and pronounce it as more human than animal. It is causing great excitement. Mr. Roberts has entrusted the curiosity to Mr. S. D. Dills, who has taken steps for its preservation.
This last report was apparently a wire story that appeared in many papers across the country, since it also appeared in a Montana paper.
The following report, about a lamb born with a human face on a farm in Ohio, ran in many U.S. newspapers in late April 1891. The transcript appearing here was taken from the front page (column 8) of the April 23, 1891 issue of The Comet, a newspaper published in Johnson City, Tennessee (access original):
By Associated Press to the Comet.
GOSHEN, IND., April 22.—William Clark, a farmer living east of here, brought to town a lamb with a perfect human face. The lamb was born only a few days ago, but the features are well developed and look more like the features of a mature woman than a child. The lamb is alive and apparently perfectly happy.
The following report appeared on page 2 of the March 19, 1892 issue of Logan Witness, a newspaper published in Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia (access original):
There are at present on view in Armidale [New South Wales] (says the '[Armidale] Express') some most singular freaks of nature, in the shape of sheep with several tails and extra feet, but one sheep in particular is a most extraordinary specimen. This woolly individual, which rejoices in the name of Jimmy Ah Poo, while being like other sheep in formation, wool, &c., bears a face of human resemblance startlingly like that of a Chinaman. There is the distinct flat nose, thick lips and jaw, that bears the unmistakable hallmark of the Mongol. This monstrosity is well worth seeing, though it can be hardly termed a pleasing spectacle.
A brief announcement from the front page (column 3) of the April 28, 1893 issue of The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, a newspaper published in Pascagoula, Mississippi (access original): "A negro woman in Sunflower County, Miss., has given birth to a freak of nature which is half human and half billy goat."
A report that appeared on page 4 of the June 23, 1893 issue of The North Coast Standard, a newspaper published in Latrobe, Tasmania, Australia (access source):
Mr Ensor, of Sherborne, having ascertained that a sheep belonging to him had died, made enquiries, and then found that it had given birth to a monstrosity of a remarkable character, the head had a human conformation with one eye, and that in the centre of the forehead. The body was covered with apparently dog’s hair. The hind part of the body was duplicated and as separated as in the case of two ewe lambs. Portions of the fore-quarters are missing, and are said to have been thrown away in a sudden panic arising from their peculiar formation. The parts rescued have been handed to a taxidermist, and having been preserved, may now be seen.
The following story appeared on page 4 (column 1) of the June 20, 1895 issue of The Yakima Herald, a newspaper published in Yakima, Washington (access original):
A singular freak of nature was born recently at a sheep ranch near Wallula. It was a perfect lamb, so far as the body was concerned, but had the head and face of an infant. The little thing only lived about a week when it died, as it could not nurse from the mother ewe. Reliable parties who saw the monstrosity, while living, said its life could have been indefinitely prolonged, had proper sustenance been given. It is stated that the oddity has been preserved in alcohol and will be sent to a prominent museum in the east.
Wallula is a census-designated place in Walla Walla County, southwestern Washington. Its population was 179 in the 2010 census.
The following story appeared on page 8 (column 6) of the February 8, 1897 issue of the Houston Post, a newspaper published in Houston, Texas (access original):
Last night Mr. J. Drenkle, Jr., blacksmith at the Houston and Texas Central shops, exhibited at the office of the [Houston] Post a very remarkable freak, in the form of a young goat, which was taken yesterday from its mother, stillborn and which was remarkable in that nature had placed the face of a human being upon the body of a goat. The mouth, nose and eyes, and, in fact, the entire face was that of a human, while the back of the head and ears were those of a goat. The front shoulders also had the semblance of a human formation, but nature, as though revolting at its repugnant work, failed to provide a backbone and thus deprived the monstrosity of the means of existence even had it come in to the world alive.
The Houston and Texas Central Railway was in operation from 1856 to 1934.
A brief statement from page 4 (column 2) of the April 14, 1899 issue of Semi-weekly Interior Journal, published in Stanford, Kentucky (access original): "A lamb with a human head was born near Valparaiso, Ind."
Another short notice announcing the birth of such a hybrid appears on page 4, column 7 of the December 7, 1910 issue of the Mährisch-Schlesische Presse, a German-language newspaper published in Jeseník, a town in the Olomouc Region of what is today the Czech Republic: “A piece of almost unbelievable news from Sebastopol: A sheep birthed twins, one of which is said to have the head of a human being.” [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]
The following is from the front page (column 7) of the December 10, 1914 issue of The Star-Independent, a newspaper published in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (access original):
Cagliari, Italy, Dec. 9.—From Nulvi [a commune located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of the city of Sassari on the Italian island of Sardinia] comes a strange story of a sheep giving birth to a monstrosity that in all respects resembles a human being. It created great consternation among the populace and the attention of noted men of science has been attracted to an event that is almost beyond belief.
The house of the owner of the sheep that gave birth to the phenomenon, attracted immense crowds of the curious, as the people in long processions flocked to the scene of the occurrence.
Giovanni Fiori is the name of the shepherd who was in charge of the flock when one of its number is said to have given birth to the monstrosity which weighed twelve pounds. The head is round and the rear legs are much longer than those of the front part of the body. All who have seen the phenomenon pronounce it a close resemblance to a human being and Fiori has donated the "lamb boy" to the University of Sassari, where it will be given very careful nursing as noted scientists of the institution investigate the mysteries connected with the case.
Thus, at least according to the report, this creature survived long after birth.
The following is a brief notice appearing on page 6 (column 4) of the October 14, 1932 issue of the Singleton Argus, a newspaper published in Singleton, New South Wales, Australia (original article).
Warialda and Bingara are small towns in northeastern New South Wales.
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
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