It will soon be Midsummer, the time of year when many Celtic Polytheists honour Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea and king of the otherworld. This Midsummer association relates to the Manx custom of paying a “rent” of rushes to Manannán at Midsummer, a tradition which is still reflected when the island’s parliament meets a few weeks after the Solstice, and their processional way is strewn with rushes.
I was excited when I heard that Morgan Daimler was writing a book about this deity. Manannán mac Lir is a god I’ve long loved and honoured, and there is a great deal of mythology and folklore concerning Him. I knew that Morgan would have a good understanding of this material.
Publisher John Hunts’s Pagan imprint, Moon Books, is by now well known for its “Pagan Portals” series of short, introductory books on many topics. I have bought or reviewed quite a few of these over the years and am always curious to see whether an author will manage to pack their short-format book with useful information or not.
This book is filled with information about Manannán, primarily from the early Irish textual sources. As well as looking briefly at each individual mythological story about Him, the author covers Manannán’s relationships to other deities, including an exploration of the question of whether mac Lir, is a true patronymic, or simply describes this god’s intrinsic relationship to the sea. It also looks at things like His many magical possessions and His strong ties to the otherworld.
As I expected, the scholarly Morgan Daimler has done a thorough job of rounding up all the mythological and textual references to Manannán and giving a very short synopsis of each story. For some reason, although the book is not heavy on Irish language words in other ways, Daimler has chosen to head each of these stories with its Irish name only, relegating their English names to a glossary. I would have preferred to see the English language titles kept with the stories. It’s a small niggle, but I’m sure many in this book’s intended audience would have appreciated it, too.The author devotes a full chapter to Manannán “outside Ireland”, in which she discusses both his strong ties to the Isle of Man, and his Welsh counterpart Manawydan fab Llyr. The Welsh section is well laid out, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a bit more depth on the Manx side, which is such an essential part of who this deity is.
It’s in the sections on the Isle of Man, and the longer chapter on mythology, that this book’s almost terse brevity feels problematic. There are only 89 pages in total, and I can imagine that the dilemma of writing a Pagan Portals text lies in knowing that if you say too much, you will have to say a great deal more to explain things, get in too deep, and end up with a much longer book. Still, without claiming that I could have necessarily done better, I feel that another thirty-to-fifty pages, used to give more depth to the myths and the Manx material would have been more satisfying, and brought Manannán more vividly to life for the curious newbie. I hope that Morgan will take my wish for a slightly longer book as a compliment!
The final chapter: “Connecting to Manannán” was probably my favourite in this book. The author offers up a guided meditation, a ritual, several prayers, and some suggestions for creating altars. All of this is very well done and should be useful and accessible to people of a variety of paths and experience levels.
Morgan Daimler ends each chapter of the book with a section entitled “Manannán in My Life”. As the book progresses, these also help the reader build up a picture, not only of who the author is, but of what it might be like to have a relationship with this wonderful deity.
Manannán mac Lir: Meeting the Celtic God of Wave and Wonder by Morgan Daimler is published by Moon Books, with links to online sellers here.