Manannan mac Lir

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John Duncan depicting Manannan and his wife Fand. John Duncan depicting Manannan and his wife Fand.

Manannán mac Lir is the god of the sea. He is often seen as a psychopomp, and considered to have strong connections to The Otherworld, as well as to weather and the mists between the worlds. He is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Manannán tempts the Irish King Cormac mac Airt with treasure in exchange for his family. Cormac is led into The Otherworld and taught a harsh lesson by Manannán, but in the end his wife and children are restored to him, and Manannán rewards him with a magic cup which breaks if three lies are spoken over it, and is made whole again if three truths are spoken.

As a trickster he disguises himself playing pranks, some resulting in serious trouble, but putting everything to right in the end.

Serglige Constitution Culainn ("The Sickbed of Cúchulainn") Manannán's wife, Fand, has an ill-fated affair with the Irish warrior Cúchulainn. When Fand sees that Cúchulainn's jealous wife, Emer is worthy of him (and accompanied by a troop of armed women), she decides to return to Manannán, who then shakes his magical cloak of mists between Fand and Cúchulainn, that they may never meet again.

In the Voyage of Bran, Manannán prophesied to Bran that a great warrior would be descended from him.

The 8th century saga Compert Mongáin recounts the deeds of a legendary son, Mongán mac Fiachnai, fathered by Manannán on the wife of Fiachnae mac Báetáin.

Associations

Manannán has strong ties to the Isle of Man, where he is referenced in a traditional ballad as having been the nation's first ruler. On Midsummer, the Manx people offer bundles of reeds, meadow grasses and yellow flowers to Manannán in a ritual "paying of the rent", accompanied with prayers for his aid and protection in and fishing. He is also believed to have been a magician who could make an illusory fleet from sedge or pea shells in order to discourage would-be invaders.

According to the Book of Fermoy, a Manuscript of the 14th to the 15th century, "he was a pagan, a lawgiver among the Tuatha Dé Danann, and a necromancer possessed of power to envelope himself and others in a mist, so that they could not be seen by their enemies."[8] It was by this method that he was said to protect the Isle of Man from discovery.

Manannán was associated with a "cauldron of regeneration". This is seen in the tale of Cormac mac Airt, among other tales. Here, he appeared at Cormac's ramparts in the guise of a warrior who told him he came from a land where old age, sickness, death, decay, and falsehood were unknown (The Otherworld was also known as the "Land of Youth" or the "Land of the Living").

As guardian of the Blessed Isles as well as Mag Mell he also has strong associations with Emhain Abhlach, the Isle of Apple Trees, where the magical silver apple branch is found. To the Celts, the Blessed Isles that lie beyond the sea are the gateways to The Otherworlds, where the soul journeys to after death. Manannán is the guardian of these gateways between the worlds. He is the Ferryman, who comes to transport the souls of the dead through the veils.

Mannanán's powerful role in the cycle of life and death is also expressed in his possession of magic swine whose flesh provides food for feasting by the gods, and then regenerates each day, like that of Odin's boar Sæhrímnir in Scandinavian myth.

Familial relations

As his name suggests, Manannán's father is the sea-god Lir, whose role he seems to take over. According to Táin Bó Cúailnge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley), his wife is the beautiful goddess, Fand ("Pearl of Beauty" or "A Tear" - later remembered as a "Fairy Queen", though earlier mentions point to her also being a sea deity). Other sources say his wife was the goddess Áine, though she is at other times said to be his daughter. Manannán had a daughter, whose name was Niamh of the Golden Hair. It is also probable that another daughter was Cliodna, but sources treat this differently. Either way, she is a young woman from Manannán's lands, whose surname is "of the Fair Hair". Mongán mac Fiachnai is a late addition to the mac Lir family tree. The historical Mongán was a son of Fiachnae mac Báetáin, born towards the end of the 6th century. According to legend Fiachnae, who was at war in Scotland, came home with a victory because of a bargain made with Manannán (either by him, or by his wife) to let Manannán have a child by his wife. This child, Mongán, was supposedly taken to The Otherworld when he was very young, to be raised there by Manannán. The Compert Mongáin tells the tale.

Despite not being the biological father of many children, Manannán is often seen in the traditional role of foster father, raising a number of foster children including Lugh of the great hand and the children of Deirdre.

Magical possessions

Manannán had many magical items. He gave Cormac mac Airt his magic goblet of truth; he had a ship that did not need sails named "Wave Sweeper"; he owned a cloak of mists that granted him invisibility, a flaming helmet, and a sword named Fragarach ("Answerer" ) that could never miss its target. A horse called "Enbarr of the Flowing Mane" which could travel over water as easily as land. In some sources he is described as driving his chariot over the sea as if over land, and through fields of purple flowers.

He gave four items to Lugh as parting gifts, when the boy went to aid the people of Dana against the Fomorians. These were:"Manannan's coat, wearing which he could not be wounded, and also his breastplate, which no weapon could pierce. His helmet had two precious stones set in front and one behind, which flashed as he moved. And Manannan girt him for the fight with his own deadly sword, called the Answerer, from the wound of which no man ever recovered, and those who were opposed to it in battle were so terrified that their strength left them." Lugh also took Enbarr of the Flowing Mane, and was joined by Manannan's own sons and Fairy Cavalcade. When he looked back on leaving, Lugh saw "his foster-father's noble figure standing on the beach. Manannan was wrapped in his magic cloak of colours, changing like the sun from blue-green to silver, and again to the purple of evening. He waved his hand to Lugh, and cried: 'Victory and blessing with thee!' So Lugh, glorious in his youth and strength, left his Island home."four items

Role-playing Notes

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Manannan Mac Lir

Manannan Mac Lir, is the "son of Lir", the god of the sea. Manannan himself is not an aquatic deity, but rather a trickster god who reigns over magical islands amidst the seas. He travels over the ocean on a magical horse that can stride on land and water alike, while at other times he sails a flying ship. As such, Manannan Mac Lir has become the patron deity of sailors and those who make journeys across the seas. However, the main aspect of Manannan is his ability of polymorphing and ubiquity, which he uses to seduce women and goddesses alike without anyone suspecting him.

Alignment: Chaotic Good

Domains: Flow, Travel, Trickery.

Symbol: Dolphin. Filidh of Manannan Mac Lir wear a small figurine of a dolphin as a medallion, for Holy symbol.

Favored Weapon: None.

Area of control: The sea.

Typical worshippers: Fishermen and mariners.

Duties of priesthood: Filidh of Manannan typically live in coastal regions. They must be sailors and travel the seas to visit distant and magical islands.

Special Benefit: Filidh of Manannan have access to a special feat of their own: Son of the Sea, that gives them a +2 competence bonus to all Intuit Direction (at sea), Profession (Mariner), and Swim checks.

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