THE PROPOMPOI: SATYRS & FAUNS
It’s place ranging from February through into March, the Propompeia is a festival honoring all those companions and attendants of Dionysus in His revels and sacraments, those who lead Him from the waters to His sanctuary on Anthesteria in late February… the Maenads and Bacchantes, the Satyrs and Nymphs, the Muses, the Graces, the Kouretes, and more besides. They are, as a group, called the Propompoi (though the Maenad priestesses who form the close retinue of Dionysus are known as his Thiasus).
Here we focus on the Satyrs and Fauns. Though there is no great clarity on this in mythological sources, the basic difference seems to be that of goat and sheep — Satyrs are emphatically goatish, while Fauns derive their name from the shepherd-god Faunus. Now technically, the later Latin term “Faun” was eventually used as a simple equivalent to the Greek term that became our word “Satyr”… however, the goat/sheep differentiation seems significant enough to keep in mind.
So, the narrow upward-pointing horns, the beards, the short erect tails, the hairy pelt, the independent and curious nature, the lean wiry figure that might give way to a hedonistic gut — these are all signs of a goat-footed Satyr. And the wide curling horns, the woolly pelt, the long hanging tails, the divided lip, the herd/group mentality, the bulkier physique that can lead to an aggressive muscularity in males, these are all attributes of sheep-related Fauns.
In any case, Satyrs seem most commonly associated with Dionysos, as befits their exploratory, curious, and independent nature. Though by all means, let’s welcome the occasional mellow and adventurous Faun as well!