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Basic Information

The satyr is a humanoid creature from Greek Mythology with upper body of a man and the horns and lower body of a goat (although early versions may only have a goat's horns, ears, tail and phallus). They also bear a strong resemblance to the Se'irim ("hairy ones") of Semtic Mythology and are closely associated with the Greek deities Dionysius and Pan and/or the Roman Faunus although they were also said to have a god of their own called Silenus. Similar associations also exist with the Schrats and Woodwoses of Northern Europe and the Leshy of Russia. Depending on the setting, satyrs may even be interpreted as nature spirits and/or fae.

Despite subsequent bowdlerisation, the satyrs are creatures of the untamed wild, both in their habitats and their behaviours - beings whose sapience is undermined by their lack of restraint of emotion, appetite and action, being governed by lust, violence and base desires. In many ways they represent the dark side of Man (and, more specifically of men) … especially when counterposed to the urbane, sophisticated ideal of the urban Greek. Satyrs were known for the rape of unattended women and the theft of wine and food and for their raucous revels … they were meant to be capable of civilised interaction, and of trade and seduction, but the tendency to lose control and take was never far from the surface. As such, they also cleave fairly closely to the classical depiction of the centaur.

Unsurprisingly, satyrs are usually thought to be a single gender species (in as much as they are a species at all), reproducing with all female nature spirits like nymphs and dryads … or with human females. Some later portrayals depict "satyresses", but these seem to be a significant departure from the mainstream and more a poetic device than true myth.

Satyrs were also said to be relatively talented musicians - usually on the syrinx (or "pan pipes")1, but they were said to play other instruments as well and enjoy the music of others … but for obvious reasons attending a satyr revel might not be the wisest of ideas. Sometimes satyrs are depicted as being able to entrance humans with their music, forcing them to attend revels anyway.

In Greek drama, satyrs were often used in slapstick roles, especially in the eponymous "satyr plays" used to provide light relief after heavier tragedies … from whence the modern concept of satire arises.

In the Cthulhu mythos, Satyr-like creatures were often associated with Shubb-Niggurath and the more human-like of Yog-Sototh's two sons from the Dunwich event was described as distinctly goaty below the waist. The men of Leng also had distinctly satyrical features - or at least goat legs and horns.

See Also


2. Movie: The 7 Faces of Doctor Lao (1964) — has a scene in which a repressed schoolteacher encounters a satyr who is one of the circus exhibits, and which might make some parents wonder why they thought a George Pal film starring Tony Randall was an appropriate movie to show their kids.
3. Movie: Pan's Labyrinth (2006) — a somewhat atypically restrained satyr acts as Ofelia/Morenna's contact with the fae world.

Game and Story Use

  • Players used to bowdlerised "Good Ol' Boy" satyrs may have a nasty shock.
    • Lampshade this by having your satyrs play the banjo…
  • Probably good candidates for a target monster for a PC party - given their habits of stealing and raping.
  • Someone who hangs out with satyrs may turn out to be a very unpleasant character indeed.
  • Of course, their animalistic aspects should make it relatively easy to bribe them - given enough booze and food.
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