New England’s Answer to Bigfoot

Via New England Folklore:

Before there was Bigfoot, there was the Wild Man. Like Bigfoot, he was large, hairy and often naked, and he lurked in the woods and lonely meadows, emerging only to terrorize and amaze those who witnessed his emergence into the civilized world.

One particularly famous Wild Man has haunted part of Connecticut for nearly a century. His name? The Winsted Wild Man.

Here is a timeline of his appearances…

The folklore surrounding “wild men” intersects not only with Bigfoot but also with fauns, satyrs, and other uncivilized creatures of the untamed wilderness in folklore and mythology from around the world.

Satyrs: Greek Spirits of the Wild

Michelangelo, "Satyr's Head"

Michelangelo, “Satyr’s Head”

Satyrs are associated with forests and mountains in both Greek and Roman mythology. Hesiod (7th cent. BC) considered them the “brothers” of the mountain nymphs and Kouretes. Whatever their genealogy, they are uninhibited children of nature: earthy, reckless, seductive—and dangerous if threatened. They are the quintessential “bad boys” of the faery world, brazenly flouting the norms of civilized society. In keeping with their untamed nature, their traditional garment is a panther pelt.

Despite their wildness, satyrs do have an appreciation for at least some of the gifts of human culture. They love music and dance, for example. In fact, they have a special form of grotesque, vulgar dance called the sikinnis. They are also associated both with Pan, the Greek god of the wild, and Dionysus, the god of wine. They are notably hardy and resistant to fatigue, able to dance for hours on end, for example, or remain (relatively) sober no matter how much alcohol they consume. They are lovers of wine, women, and revels. They have a particular infatuation with nymphs.

There are two common depictions of satyrs in Greco-Roman art. Young satyrs are called satyrisci (singular, satyriscus). They are graceful beings with elfin features and pointed ears. Praxilites’s sculpture “Resting Satyr” depicts a satyriscus.

The earlier depiction of satyrs made them older, more animalistic, but also more powerful. These satyrs are classified as sileni (singular, silenus). Sileni are bearded and strongly built. They have the ears of a horse, a horse-like tail, and sometimes even the hooves (or the entire lower body) of a horse. Sileni are the oldest, wisest, and most magically adept of satyrs.

It should be noted, then, that satyrs are not to be confused with fauns or “goat-men.” As time progressed, Greek satyrs became blended with Roman fauns in the telling of the myths. The two, however, were originally different sorts of beings. Satyrs are, in fact, fully humanoid (at least in their youth). Medieval bestiaries often compared satyrs not to goats but to apes or monkeys.

Maine’s Goatman

I knew there were (supposedly) goatmen in Maryland and, of course, Fisherville, Kentucky (just outside Louisville, where I used to live). I hadn’t heard they ranged as far north as Maine. Here is the scoop from Peter Muise of the New England Folklore blog:

The story goes something like this. Back in the 1950s a Cherryfield man was driving his truck through the woods outside town. He was a local and had spent most of his time hunting, fishing, and logging in the forests of Maine. Those decades of experience didn’t prepare him for what he encountered that day.

He had filled up his gas tank before he left home that day, so he was very surprised when his truck came to a gradual stop on a lonely road. His gas gauge read empty.

He got out and checked the tank. It indeed was empty. He checked the bottom of the truck but couldn’t see a leak, and he didn’t see any sign of gas dripping on the road. He was annoyed and puzzled, but when he got out from beneath those truck those emotions turned to surprise – and maybe a little terror.

Standing in the middle of the road was a man who was half-human and half-goat. His lower body and legs were naked, hairy and shaped like a goat’s, while his torso was human-shaped and covered in a flannel shirt. Goat horns grew out of his head and his ears were pointed like an animal’s. Other than the flannel shirt, the goatman looked like a mythological satyr or the Greek god Pan.

I wonder if all these New-World satyrs have a big family reunion somewhere?