mananan - the myth and the mystery



The Gaelic name of Mananan Mac Lir, whose head forms the symbol of the Mananan Festivals, means Mananan Son of the Sea. He was a great god in Irish mythology and early literature, and was the legendary first ruler of the Island - "the first man who ever held Man", to whom a tribute of green rushes was paid each midsummer.

Mananan's magical powers are well known in Manx folklore. He had power over the sea, understood tides and navigation, and could foretell tempests and avoid them. Manx fishermen used to call for his blessing before they sailed:

Mananan Beg Mac y Leirr
Little Mananan Son of the Sea
Who blessed our Island
Bless us and our boat
Going out well, coming in better
With living and dead in our boat

He used his magic art to defend the Island by drawing his cloak of mist down over it, and by causing illusions to terrify attacking enemies. By his magic he could make one man standing on a headland appear like a hundred and invading fleets panicked and fled before his mighty ships, which were chips of wood cast in the harbour.

Mananan is known too as a ferocious giant and warrior of incredible strength and violent temper. His horse was Enbarr of the flowing mane, "as swift as the clear, cold wind of spring", his mail was impenetrable, and his sword Answerer was enchanted,

Mananan's chair overlooks his Island kingdom in the western parish of Kirk German and his grave is a green mound below Peel Castle's walls.

Illustration: Mananan, symbol of the Mananan Festival drawn by Eric Austwick from The Mananan Collection, Ellynyn ny Gael


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