A friend of ours asked us the other day where satyrs come from because you never see any female satyrs. This is a good questions so we decided to do some research on the matter.
There are many satyr like beings that exist in Greek and Roman mythology and artwork, eventually they all became muddled into the same thing. It is true that in traditional mythology there were never any female satyrs, later in art there were some female satyrs appearing, for example Michelangelo included a haggard satyress nursing drunken toddlers with her old breasts in his 1533 work, The Children’s Bacchanal.
The substitute for female satyrs were forest nymphs, the satyrs were always obsessing over the nymphs that lived in the forest. That is what they spent their time doing, chasing nymphs and drinking wine with Bacchus. There is no mention that satyrs reproduced with the nymphs, only that they pursued them with sexual desire.
Perhaps the reason there were never any female satyrs in mythology was because the deities they were associated with were male fertility gods. Therefore their identity was intimately intertwined with that of their rulers. These deities were not considered the fathers of these forest spirits, just the leaders of them.
Dionysus or Bacchus in mythology was said to have come from Asia long after Zeus had become ruler of the gods, he was an old god of the grape harvest, the satyrs were his companions. Dionysus took a liking to Pan and Pan became a very good friend of his, he belonged to the retinue of Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of debauchery, who’s wine, music and dancing would liberate his followers. He was often depicted in scenes of excessive drunkenness with the satyrs and nymphs.
Pan was a much older god of fertility and he was also equated with an old Roman horned deity called Faunus who was also a fertility god. Faunus was accompanied by little Fauni or fauns, which there were no females either.
With Pan and Dionysus as influences it is understandable how the satyrs became so sexually charged and full of wine.
The satyr’s chief was also Silenus. Before Silenus was the tutor and companion to Dionysus he was also a fertility god with the ears of a horse or ass and sometime the legs of one too. The satyrs were originally depicted as quite ugly creatures also with ass ears and legs.
Eventually satyrs and fauns became the same thing (although they weren’t the same to the Greeks), Silenus became only depicted in human form and Faunus was equated with Pan but he also still remained his own entity.
So there is no real answer as to why there are no female satyrs, only that there was no role for them symbolically, the only sexually driven females were goddesses like Aphrodite. It is not necessary to wonder how they reproduced because they are forest spirits like the fae, they don’t need to reproduce for their race to survive because they are immortal. The female equivalent are forest nymphs, other nymphs often accompanied goddesses, there is no mention of male nymphs in mythology, only dryads and satyrs.
Brad & Saskia