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The first ruler of Man

Manannan mac y Leirr, the Son of the Sea, was the first Ruler of Mann. He was a great Wizard, and he was so powerful that afterwards he was looked on as a god. He had a great stone fort on Peel Island, and he could make one man, standing on its battlements, seem to be a hundred. When he saw his enemies’ ships sailing, he would cover the island round with a silver mist so that it could not be seen ; and if, in spite of the mist, his enemies came near, he would throw chips into the water and change them into ships. He was out walking one day on Barrule, when he saw the warships of the Northmen were in the bay of Peel. And with that he made himself into the shape of three legs and rolled like a wheel down from the mountain top as fast as the wind. It was about low tide in the harbour, and there ran a stream of sparkling water out to sea. Now the banks of the stream were marshy, and by the river-side grew a quantity of sedge with broad, green leaves. So Manannan made little boats of the sedge, a good number of them, and sailed his boats in the stream. And when the little fleet floated out of the harbour, he caused them to look like great ships of war, well manned with fighting men. Then terror seized on the Northmen when they saw the Manx fleet, and they cut their cables, hoisted sails, and cleared away as fast as they could, and Manannan and his island were left in peace. Thus did he keep Mann, and not with his sword, or his bow and arrows.

In his fort he had a great banqueting-hall, where handsome boys made sweet music, and others played games and did great feats of strength. He had a horse called Enbarr of the Flowing Mane, who could travel like the wind over sea as well as land, swift hounds that could catch any wild beast, and a sword called The Answerer, whose wound was always fatal, besides his Magic Branch and his wonderful boat, Wave Sweeper.

He governed Mann well for long, long years. Manx people had the best of good treatment from him, and all the rent he wanted was that each one was to bring a bundle of green rushes to him on the Mountain of South Barrule on Midsummer Eve. The island was a happy place, full of sunshine and all pleasant things, and no person there was old or tired or sad.

Manx men have never forgotten Manannan, and this thousand years our fisher-men have prayed to him the following prayer, as they have put out to sea. Even up to the days of our fathers it has been used:

Manannan Beg Mac y Leirr
Little Manannan Son of the Sea,
Who blessed our island,
Bless us and our boat, going out well.
Coming in better, with living and dead in our boat.

From Sophia Morrison’s Manx Fairy Tales, 1911, pp171-173.

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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Paying the rents to Manannán

Here is an excerpt of a sixteenth century Manx poem, which mentions the custom of paying the rents to Manannán at Midsummer:

Dy neaishtagh shin agh rish my skeayll, If you would listen to my story,
As dy ving lhieu ayns Chant; I will pronounce my chant;
Myr share dy voddyms lesh my Veeal, As best I can; I will, with my mouth
Yinnin diu geill dán ellan Sheeant. Give you notice of the enchanted Island.
Quoi yn chied er ee row rieau ee, Who he was that had it first,
Ny kys eisht myr haghyr da; And then what happened to him;
Ny kys hug Parick ayn Creestiaght, And now St. Patrick brought in Christianity,
Ny kys myr haink ee gys Stanlaa. And how it came to Stanley.
Mannanan beg va mac y Leirr, Little Mannanan was son of Leirr,
Shen yn chied er ec row rieau ee; He was the first that ever had it;
Agh myr share oddym’s cur-my-ner, But as I can best conceive
Cea row eh hene agh an-chreestee. He himself was a heathen.
Cha nee lesh e Chliwe ren eh ee reayll It was not with his sword he kept it,
Cha nee lesh e Hideyn, ny lesh e vhow; Neither with arrows or bow;
Agh tra aikagh eh lhuingys troailt But when he would see ships sailing,
Oallagh eh ee my geayrt lesh kay. He would cover it round with fog.
Yinnagh eh doinney ny hassoo er brooghe, He would set a man, standing on a hill,
Er-lhieu shen hene dy beagh ayn keead; Appear as if he were a hundred;
As shen myr dreill Mannanan keole, And thus did wild Mannanan protect
Yn Ellan shoh’n-ayn lesh Cosney bwoid. That island with all its booty.
Yn mayll deeck dagh unnane ass e cheer, The rent each landholder paid to him was
Va bart dy leaogher ghlass dagh bleiu; A bundle of coarse meadow grass yearly;
As eisht shen orroo d’eeck myr keesh, And that, as their yearly tax,
Trooid magh ny cheery dagh oie-lhoine. They paid to him each midsummer eve.
Paart ragh lesh y leaogher seose, Some would carry the grass up
Gyn yn slieau mooar ta heose Barool; To the great mountain up at Barool;
Paart elley aagagh yn leoagher wass, Others would leave the grass below,
Ec Mannanan erskyn Keamool. With Mannanan’s self above Keamool.
Myr shen eisht ren adsyn beaghey, Thus then did they live;
O er-lhiam pene dy by-veg nyn Geesh; O, I think their tribute very small,
Gyn kiarail as gyn imnea, Without care and without anxiety,
Ny doggyr dy lhiggey er nyn skeeys. Or hard labour to cause weariness.
Eisht haink ayn Parick nyn meayn, Then came Patrick into the midst of them;
She dooinney-noo, véh lane dy artue, He was a saint, and full of virtue;
Dimman eh Mannanan er y tonn He banished Mannanan on the wave,
As e grogh vooinjer dy lieh-chiart. And his evil servants all dispersed.

The original poem can be found in William Harrison’ Mona Miscellany, 1863, pp26-46, although I’ve followed Charles MacQuarrie’s capitalisations of certain words in Manx – see Macquarrie’s The Waves of Manannán, 1997, pp292-293.

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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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