Manannan Mac Lir

Manannán or Manann (Old Irish Manandán), is the guardian of the Otherworld one who ferries souls to the afterlife.

Also known as Manannán mac Lir (Mac Lir meaning “son of the sea”), he is a sea deity in Irish mythology. He is affiliated with both the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians.

In the tales, he is said to own a boat named Scuabtuinne “Wave Sweeper”, a sea-borne chariot drawn by the horse Enbarr.

He also possesses a powerful sword named Fragarach “The Answerer”, and a cloak of invisibility féth fíada.

Manannán appears also in Scottish and Manx legend, and some sources say the Isle of Man (Manainn) is named after him, while others say he is named after the island. He is cognate with the Welsh figure Manawydan fab Llŷr.

According to the Book of Fermoy, a manuscript of the 14th to the 15th century, Manannán:

“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.”

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. This 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.

An early Manx poem, dated to 1504, identifies the first king of the island as one Manannan-beg-mac-y-Lheirr, “little Manannan, son of the Sea” or, “son of Leir”.

Little Mamannan was a son of Leirr; he was the first that ever had it [the island]; but as I can best conceive, he was himself a heathen.”

The poem goes on to describe how Manannan defended the island by magic, by conjuring up mists and creating the illusion of a defending army.

In Manx Fairy Tales (1911), this theme is developed into Manannan creating the illusion of a fleet against the Viking invaders.

Manx legends also tell of four items that he gave 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.”

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