Phanes (Ancient Greek: Φάνης), or Protogonos (Greek: Πρωτογόνος, "First-born"), was the mystic primeval deity of procreation and the generation of new life, who was introduced into Greek mythology by the Orphic tradition; other names for this Classical Greek Orphic concept included Ericapaeus (Ἠρικαπαῖος or Ἠρικεπαῖος "power") and Metis ("thought").
In these myths Phanes is often equated with Eros and Mithras and has been depicted as a deity emerging from a cosmic egg, entwined with a serpent. He had a helmet and had broad, golden wings. The Orphic cosmogony is bizarre, and quite unlike the creation sagas offered by Homer and Hesiod. Scholars have suggested that Orphism is "un-Greek" even "Asiatic" in conception, because of its inherent dualism. Time, who was also called Aion, created the silver egg of the universe, out of this egg burst out the first-born, Phanes, who was also called Dionysus. Phanes was a uroboric male-female deity of light and goodness, whose name means "to bring light" or "to shine"; a first-born god of light who emerges from a void or a watery abyss and gives birth to the universe.
Many threads of earlier myths are apparent in the new tradition. Phanes was believed to have been hatched from the World-Egg of Chronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity or Fate) or Nyx in the black bird form and wind. His older wife Nyx (Night) called him Protogenus. As she created nighttime, he created daytime. He also created the method of creation by mingling. He was made the ruler of the deities and passed the sceptre to Nyx. This new Orphic tradition states that Nyx later gave the sceptre to her son Uranos before it passed to Cronus and then to Zeus, who retained it.
It is also believed that by his centuries-old battle with Chaos, the creation of birds took place as the result.
- According to folk etymology, from φαίνω, phainō, "I bring to light".
- Thomas Taylor (1824). The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus (Second ed.). Chiswick. p. XV.
- Liz Greene (2000). The Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption. Weiser Books. pp. 78–79.
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