Mananán Mac Lír - When the Otherworld Calls

In the time before the Tuatha Dé Danánn came into Ireland there were other tribes in the land and indeed older Gods. Lír is the name if one such ancient deity and he was a being of some importance to the island nation as he was the God of the sea itself. Yet for all of his power and influence, we seem to have more tales concerning his son, the Mac Lír, known as Mananán.

We find tales of Mananán's presence all through out the mythical cycles but indeed also in later stories known as the cycle of Kings. He is presented in many forms, but almost always he is a pivotal character around whom some important function, action or change invariably occurs. It's Mananán who leads the Tuatha Dé Danánn into the hollow hills. Mananán who converses with Bran on his voyage, giving him a warning. Mananán who gives Cormaic Mac Airt the famous cup which divines truth.

There are many amazing and wondrous and magical things which Mananán possesses. Everything from his self sailing boat Scuabtuinne or wave sweeper, a sword that cleaves any armour and compels truth Fragarach "the answerer", a cloak of invisibility which he can also use to cause memory loss, his steed  Enbarr or "water foam" which can run as well on the waves as it does on land, and of course his unique bag in which he keeps all of his treasures. The bag which is only full at high tide and at all other times remains empty.

If you think that this is where the wonder ends you will find yourself mistaken, for even if Mananán were bereft of all of these items he would still be a figure to inspire amazement. Our stories tell us that he is a master of disguise, capable of changing his appearance in any manner he pleases to suit his ends. He is also a warrior and sorcerer of such note that even the Tuatha Dé Dananan defer to him. In one tale Mananán sprints from Tara to Emahain Macha and back, covering near the length of the island in all but a few mins returning ahead of the other racers who were about to cross the finish line before he had even set out.

By now you have a deeper understanding of this very powerful and influential deity, but there is one thing that I have yet to mention which sets him apart from almost all the other Gods of Ireland. Mananán is the lord and guide to the Otherworld. In Irish tradition the Otherworld is known as an Saoil Eile, literally the other life. It is a separate parallel existence to our reality yet it is possible for some to cross over and experience fantastic places like Tir na n'Og the land of the eternal youth, and Mananán's home Emhain Abhlach, the Plain of Apples which is an abundant paradise.

Many heroes of Irish lore have cross the waves, stepped through the mist or ridden a horse into the Otherworld, from Bran, Cormac, and Oisin we learn of this amazing alternate reality, but also of its dangers. To get lost in the Otherworld is to loose all sense of self, all sense of purpose or direction, and to spend an eternity rowing around seeking the solace of a home you may never see again. Those who manage to safely navigate this realm generally do so with the aid of Mananán as thier guide.

There is a saying that knowledge is power. The knowing of a thing leads to understanding and in understanding we are empowered. Might I suggest you take some time to get to know Mananán Mac Lír, so that you too may be prepared for when the Otherworld calls.

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