Today is part four of my five-part series on my Gods and today I want to talk to you of Manannán mac Lyr. Now, I’ve found that Manannán to be one of the more popular Irish Gods in this day and age and it doesn’t surprise me. Manannán has a sense of humor to rival the Dagda, He is lord of the oceans (no small task) and the people of the seas, and He is our connection to the Otherworld. Manannán rules one of the three realms (sea, sky, and the lands of the Otherworld that reside there, as well as the cloak of mist that keeps the two worlds separated; so knowing Him can aid you in any working that requires reaching the other side.
But there is another side to Manannán, a side He has shown to me from the first time I allowed myself to acknowledge His presence in my life. Manannán is a trickster, and though so far His tricks have only been to cause laughter, there is a danger to Him that I recognize. I’ve done my best to avoid trickster Gods after Loki decided to make Himself known in my home (invited, as He told me one night, because I named my cat after Him – yes, I’ve been more careful since). I do not believe that Manannán would trick me for fun and allow me to come to harm. But I’ve been so immersed in the stories of Coyote and how He will facilitate you learning painful lessons that I have shied away from tricksters as much as possible. I like a good laugh as much as the next, but I’ve seen friends torn down to their core in order to learn a lesson and I just haven’t been brave enough to let myself be that exposed. But it seems that Manannán has other ideas for me.
I’ve been very careful to keep Him at arm’s length since the day He first came to me, but it’s a gap that is slowly shrinking. I have studies Him off and on over the years in my research (never stop learning is a commandment in this house) and always it has been His aspects as psychopomp and sea patron that I’ve seen Him. That Manannán always seemed like such an interesting Deity and – strange as it may seem to many – a safe one. He gives that off, and I’ve seen others describe Him as such. And yet, since I’ve opened myself to Him, He has made no secret of the fact that He has a much less safe side and it is this side of Him that He will show to me. Just as the Dagda comes to me as my laughing God, Manannán is much more intense and dangerous (not that I fear He will hurt me just to hurt me) than I so often see Him described.
He is mysterious in a way – partially my own fault for keeping Him at a distance, partially because He doesn’t talk to me as much as the others have. He comes to me with images and feelings. He has spoken to me a few times, but they have been short, cryptic moments. The clearest message He has given me to date is “you are now one of Mine; I have many things to teach you.” As with Brighid, He doesn’t demand that I break my oath ties to Danu and the Dagda – He respects that They came first and that my relationship with Them will not change. But as I continue to get to know my new Gods better, I am beginning to see that I owe Them as much allegiance as I do my Patrons – I owe Them as much a promise of dedication. I’m not sure exactly what that will mean, I’m still working it out. But They are no longer simply “the Gods from my pantheon that are now reaching out to me”, They are calling me specifically to Them. That fear that I had initially is back, because I fear what They will demand of me and if I am strong enough to be able to give Them what They want and deserve.
Even as I say that, I can see Manannán’s gently smiling face – and somewhere beyond Him, Danu’s smile and Brighid’s gentle touch upon my shoulder, and though the Dagda and Manannán have yet to come to me at the same time, I can even feel His comforting touch. And somewhere, slightly more distant, is the rhythm of the sea that is Lyr’s voice – but I’ll tell you more about Him next week. I can serve Them all because I’ve been called to serve Them all. Mostly They are about a single goal – my duty to foster and nurture a community – but I sense that each has specific goals that They want from me.
Once again, I started off talking about one of my Gods and got mildly sidetracked into what They all mean for this new branch of my path. In the end, I know that Manannán has lessons for me and some of them may be painful to learn – and that may be the only way I can learn. But He’ll be there to offer me a smile at the end; and one day, when this journey has ended, Manannán will be waiting to escort me to the other side, and there is comfort in that – a comfort that I didn’t even think mattered to me at this point.