Archive for Manannan Mac Lir

Laa Luanys – Lugh’s Fair Day

Posted in Folklore, History, Poetry, Storytelling with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by manxwytch

Laa Luanys (Laa Lunys) – August 1 (August 12th Old Calendar) is the Day of Lammas, which was moved to the first Sunday in August by the Bishop of Mann in an attempt to eradicate the lewd festivities of its original pagan festival of Lughnasadh, the Festival of the God Lugh, Foster Son of Manannan.[1]  Some interpret Laa Luanys as the ‘Day of Lugh’ substituting Luans or Lunys as Lug, Lleu, or Lugh.  Academics and historians of Religion know that Christianity ‘borrowed’ many religious days and festivals from various religions and cultures including the elder Celtic Calendral Cycles in an attempt to obtain converts and destroy the Old Faiths and practices.  For instance, St. Patrick replaced Lugh in Sunday Services.  On Ellan Vannin, Lugh’s festival, rife with apparent lewd behaviour on the mountains, seemed to be one of the most pernicious practices to destroy, with Christian priests complaining of its remnants even up until the late 18th century.

“The curates and wardens represent to the court that there is a superstitious custom, which is yearly continued and practiced in this and the neighbouring parishes by many young people (and some of riper age) going to the top of Snaefell Mountain upon the first Sunday in August, where (as they are informed) they behave themselves very rudely and indecently for the greater part of that day.”  Pg 70 Manx Calendar Customs

First Sunday after Old Lammas: This was Lhuany’s Day, the day of a festival dedicated to the god Lugh. An orgy was held at the top of Snaefell.” (

Now, to be clear here, the above quotes are as biased toward Christianity as the Manxwytch Tales are toward the Old Faith; so take it all with a grain of salt.  However, it seemed to take many years for such an enjoyable tradition to die out… though I’ve heard the coals are still kept warm.  The last reports of such open activities on Snaefell[2] were said to have occurred in 1870.  More exclusive celebrations were whispered to have continued in homes, fields and keeils, away from the eyes of prudish priests and those who “spend more time on their knees in church than their backs in bed.”[3]

Various attempts were made by the Parish to end the “profane customs” practiced and handed down through generations of Manx families.  One of the most outright offensive attempts was when the church sent Ministers[4] up to the top of Snaefell and South Barrule to collect alms for the Church and to read aloud both the Nicene Creed and the story of Jephthah and his Daughter from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.  Briefly the story of Jephthah is that the Israelites were no longer worshiping God again and he got angry and gave them to the Ammonites.  Jephthah was born illegitimately and had only an un-named Daughter.  He becomes a leader and defeats the Ammonites and makes some kind of vow to God that whoever exits the door of his house upon his return will be sacrificed as a burnt offering to God on the altar.  And, since Jephthah’s wife is never mentioned, we can only assume that he might of known who would exit the door to greet him upon return home.  He bewails meeting his Daughter, but must keep his vow to God and sacrifice her.  She cries at the loss of her virginity (!?) (some scholars interpret this as that she mourns that she will never marry) and asks for a couple months leeway to prepare herself.  Then Jephthah carries out the deed and sacrifices her on the fiery altar, burning her to a crisp and all the women remember her for four days each year.   But pay close attention to the story and you might read how it fits what was going on at the top of Snaefell[5].  Worship of a god other than YHVH, sexual theme, sacrifice and mourning.  This all appears to fit quite well with the Day of Lugh.  Despite this dour story being read, I understand that the real killjoy was the demand for alms for the church.  Nothing kills a good ale drinking, laughing, singing, frolicking orgy than some Priest expecting cash!

There are many stories of Lugh in both Welsh and Irish mythology but I will emphasise the Manx legends as they are scantily discussed.  Lugh was the bright Solar Warrior God of the sun, corn and as mentioned earlier, Foster-Son to the great Wizard King Manannan.  Lugh was said to have spent his youth with Manannan on Ellan Vannin and it was here that he was trained in poetry, philosophy, music, smith craft, skill in battle, love and war, sailing, craftsmanship skills and cunning magic, all tutored by the Wizard King.  When his training was complete and Lugh was ready to fulfill his destiny as a warrior of epic renown, Manannan gave to Lugh his own great sword Fragarach, (the Answerer), whose power  forced anyone at whose throat it was held, to speak only the truth when questioned.[6]  Fragarach also bestowed command of the four winds to its owner and any piercing from its blade would deal a mortal wound that would never heal.  Manannan also gave Lugh flashing armour that could not be penetrated and a helmet that could not be broken.  For Lugh’s journey from the Isle, Manannan summoned from the depths of the underworld sea, a swift floating coracle called the Wave-Sweeper and lent to him his prized mare from his royal stables, the horse Aenbharr (Enbarr) whose hooves travelled as easily on water as on land.


As a corn (grain) and solar Deity, it is little wonder that the word lugh in Manx Gaelic means mouse.  The mouse, as a totemic animal of Lugh makes obvious sense when one examines the Celtic Harvest Festival named after him, Lughnasadh.

As well, we can possibly see fragments of the relationship between the solar harvest god who dies and is reborn, Lugh’s magical spear and John Barlycorn, though this song is not particular to Mann, it was still sung in a few pubs… and may still be.

John Barleycorn: By Robert Burns

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm’d wi pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bendin joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.

His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
They ty’d him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heav’d in John Barleycorn-
There, let him sink or swim!

They laid him upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.

They wasted o’er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two atones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

As has been noted, the pilgrimage to mountaintops was important on Mann to celebrate Lugh, light, the corn and the first harvest.  But this was only one of two pilgrimages on Laa Luanys, the second of which was to the Holy Wells.  For some reason, perhaps related to Manannan, it was important to visit the known healing wells, in particular Maughold[7], Laxey[8], and St. Patrick’s[9] though there were many others, these three appear prominent.  It was said that the curative powers of the wells were more accessible at this time and offerings were made to the Genius Loci of the well and its particular power.  This was often done by the exchange of a pin or a silver coin for its curative spirit.  During the offering, a prayer was made invoking the healing property to cure whatever the ailment was.  Once accomplished, the well was often circled three times and then dressed in ribbons, and flowers.[10]

There is so much that could be told of Lughnasadh, Lugh and his Harvest Festival but I will leave that for another time.  What we can see, is that on a tellurian level, the celebration took place both in the heights and in the deeps.  The very same locations  where the spiritual celebration of this Great Sabbat is held for all witches.

If you are really interested in reading further I suggest obtaining a copy of Marie Mac Neill’s book, written in 1962, titled ‘The festival of Lughnasa: a study of the survival of the Celtic festival of the beginning of harvest‘ and published by Oxford University Press.



[1] There was for many years a harvest fair that continued in the Parish of Santon.  Further there was a Laxey Fair, a Maughold Fair and a Fair at Ballasalla.  Take note of this as you will see, it is important because these were also places of prominent healing wells.

[2] Snaefell is the Isle of Mann’s tallest mountain and therefore those who celebrated Laa Lunys on its summit were as close to the sun as possible.  On a clear day you can see all seven kingdoms – meaning Ellan Vannin, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of the Sea.  From here, it was easy to give thanks for the harvest and all that could be seen.  Nowadays it’s tough to find a day without rain!  The jaunt up the summit is made easier by the electric train which takes you easily to the top where there’s a good cafe house / tourist shop.  As well, there is almost always someone flying off the peak in a chute.  I prefer to climb the way my Elder taught me, which is by an old footpath straight up from the Mountain Road.  It’s far more fulfilling for the spirit.  Besides this, he was climbing that mountain until well over the age of 75 and I feel that his pilgrimages added to his longevity, happiness and wellbeing.  I can only pray to reach his age and vigour!

[3] Perhaps you recognized it.  An altered quote taken from the classic movie The Wickerman in the extended version.  Apropos for this blog entry I would think.

[4] Ministers Parick Beg and William Giek in the mid 1800s.

[5] Also, there was said to be people who climbed South Barrule and other mountains on Mann but Snaefell seems to be the most prominent at this time.

[6] Magical items that force people to speak the truth are particularly emphasised in Manx folklore.  More on this in another post.

[7] A legendary witches’ haunt.

[8] At the foot of Snaefell, as it is at the beginning of the electric tram.

[9] Obviously re-named from an older Celtic Deity.  Possibly Lugh, as we know the Church replaced Lugh with Patrick during the festival.

[10] It is believed that as the bouquets fade, so too does the disease.

Midsummer Tributes

Posted in Folklore, History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2012 by manxwytch

On St. Johns Night, Midsummer’s Eve[1] it was the old tradition to pay tribute to Manannan Mac Lir[2] at South Barrule.  The People gathered two bundles of St. Johnswort, Midsummer Men[3], Meadow Rushes, Rue and Mugwort to pay tribute to the Just King of Mann for allowing them to live and prosper on His Holy Isle.  The first bundle was placed at the foot of the mountain and the second was taken up the slope to the top of the mountain where a small hill fort remains[4].  In effect this act pledged fealty to Manannan in all the heavens above and all the earth beneath.

According to an old Manx ballad, the only yearly tribute that was levied on Manxmen by the wizard-chief Mannanan was a bundle of rushes delivered to him every St. John’s Eve, i.e., the eve of the Midsummer festival. A survival of this is still seen in the custom of strewing the path from the Church to the Tynwald Hill with rushes, representing a former sacrifice or offering to the Spirit of Vegetation. “  (Manx Quarterly, #25, 1921)

For Witches, this was the eve to renew pledges to the Ancient Gods and the Ancestors. Sometimes, this was called Renewing the Pact, and was often done on Mann by either circling seven times deosil on the top of South Barrule, or seven times round a Midsummer Fire muttering old incantations.  One such incantation to Renew the Pact was said to be chanted by Witches in Cornwall on Midsummer Eve and it was:

Green is Gold – (Nature is clothed  in the Sun’s light)

Fire is Wet – (Candleboats are set afloat)

Fortunes told – (Divination that eve)

Dragon’s Met – (Green lines or serpent tracks)

Huge bonfires were often lit on every hill-top and sometimes fires were set out on small coracles to follow the currents of the Irish Sea.  Ellan Vannin was ablaze with fire, light, music and dance.

Manannan and his Faery Queen, Fand, began their royal ride with the 12 Fey Lords & Ladies of the Keys, from South Barrule, 15 miles to rule the High Court of Tynwald[5] at Baldwin in Braddan, Algare[6].  The King and Queen lead the Seelie Court, surrounded in song and dance, accompanied by faery music, fire brands, revelry and starlight.  Upon arrival at Algare (the Place of Justice) Old Tynwald court would be held and lasted a full week.  Disputes were settled, children, flocks and crops were blessed, the old laws were read and new laws proclaimed, wisdom and sage advice was sought from the Wise Sage of Mann, and titles and honours were bestowed upon the finest beasts and the most gifted men and women.  The People celebrated the summer harvest fair with the first seasonal fruits, herbs, honey and berries, drank mead wines and old ale libations were given.  The nights were warm weathered and many spent an enchanted night with their loved ones on the soft mossy floors of forest beds.

[1] Also called St. John’s Night.  One must remember that John is an old pagan survival, often called the Oak King and connected to Jack in the Green.  If this wasn’t enough, he was often called ‘Pan the Baptist’ much to the chagrin of the Christian priests.  This is because he was often depicted as a shaggy man, sometimes even cloven hoofed such as a satyr.

[2] Manannan often appeared in the form of a great Crane, his totem animal and a bird of esteemed magical powers.

[3] Sedum telephium

[4] This was also reported to be a place where one of eight cyclical castles of Manannan once resided.

[5] Tynwald is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, making a claim on the Isle of Mann to be at least 1000 years old.  It is now celebrated on July 5th in St. John’s and attendees still wear sprigs of St. John’s Wort as a protection against evil and to bring good fortune.

[6] Old Tynwald is north of St. Luke’s Church in Braddan.  Of an interesting note, the name of the homestead where Old Tynwald stood is still called “Algare” which is a word meaning “justice” or “A Place of Justice”.

The Feats of Manannan

Posted in Folklore, Poetry with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by manxwytch


“Manannan beg va Mac y Leirr,
Shen yn chied er ec row rieau ee.”*1

*1 Manannan the little was son of Leirr,
He was the first man that ever had her.”

HAST thou not heard the feats of Man’nan*2 sung,
Who o’er this Isle a silver mist-shroud flung,
To veil the treasure from Sea-rovers’ eyes,
Searching the waters for his fairy-prize ?

This Merchant Manxman of the solemn smile,
First legislator of our rock-throned Isle,
Dwelt in a fort (withdrawn from vulgar sight),
Cloud-capp’d BAROOLE*3 upon thy lofty height.

From New-year-tide round to the ides of Yule,
Nature submitted to his wizard rule:
Her secret force he could, with charms, compel
To brew a storm or raging tempests quell;
Make one man seem like twenty in a fray,
And drive the Stranger*4 over seas away.

But they who read our Island lore aright,
Know that this curious Myth the fact bedight,
How that one Manxman, erst, was worth a score
Of savage Warriors from rude Scotia’s*5 shore.


*1 Translation “Manannan the little was son of Leirr, He was the first man that ever had her.” Meaning the Island. Island is feminine in Manx.

*2,The Manx believe Mannan Mac Lear, to have been their first legislator, and hold him in great reputation for his wisdom.” SACHEVEREL.

*3 ,On the highest point of South Baroole are the ruins of walls of most unusual magnitude. On the steepest and least accessible side the walls are of inferior strength, but on the northern side they are 27 feet in thickness.”- KERRUISH’S Guide, p. 186.

*4 ” Our most Gratious and excellent Lord, Sir John Stanley, King of Man and the Isles. In the Vigill of your Lady Set. Mary, Anno Domini 1422, att his Castle of Rushen, &C., &C., gave for Law, that ‘Alsoe that all Scotts avoid the Land with the next Vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine of Forfeiture of their Goods, and their Bodys to Prison.’ “-Ordinances and Statutes of the Isle of Man previous to the Revestment (MILLS), p. 27.

*5 In the “good old times,” the Manx law permitted a native of the Isle to kill a Scotchman, provided he afterwards went over to Scotland and stole a white skin, meaning a white goat, and so giving the Scotch an opportunity of retaliating (by killing him) ; or he was to forfeit three white goats-plentiful in those days as sheep are in these.

Manannan and the Isle of Mann

Posted in Folklore, Musings with tags , , , , on April 5, 2012 by manxwytch

Much has been published and posted online about the Tuatha De Danann god Manannan Mac Lir, the son of the sea. He is the Ruler of his Namesake Isle, Lord of the Waters, and He who commands the Mists of Elphame.  He is both Divine King and Magician, known best for wrapping the island in mists to confound any who tried to attack it.   He particularly loves to shroud the Isle from the British and many a Tinwald ceremony has begun under cover of his cloak, with a protective sprig of St. Johnswort in every lapel.  He walks on three legs to travel earth, sea and sky.

According to one legend, Manannan first set foot on the Isle at the Calf of Mann.

South Barrule is his sacred seat on the Isle, and at midsummer the Manx who followed the old ways would carry a tribute of rushes to its summit.

He has always had a special relationship with the witches of Mann, above all other folk of the Isle; even before the days of the Christian priests. There are stories of  conversations between the god and the witches in Manx folklore, mainly complaining about the Christians and talking about the good old days before they showed up and spoiled things.

When I first came to Ellan Vannin, I had as guides, a witch and her Elder who had spent much of his life wandering the Isle, and who knew the sacred places like the back of his hand.  He was bound by love and time and blood to the spirit of the island, and took me to as many places as he was able.  In hopes of being accepted by the Puissant Spirits of the sacred sites, I made offerings of blood and silver, seed and stone, to plant and nurture eidolic roots there.  (Plus an extra one for the Buggane at the ruin of St. Trinian’s. Any supernatural being who tears the roof off a church enough times that the builders give up and walk away is a being I want as a friend!)

I was taken to the hearts of Mona’s Isle, the heart of the waters and the heart of the land.  I visited the dancing-sites and gravesites of the Elders of my line, ones I had met in life and ones who crossed the veil before I was born.

My Elder told me of pilgrimages and vigils he had made at the old sites for dreaming, communing with the spirits and imbibing the power of the Isle.  I saw tools, lovingly and skillfully made before anyone had heard the term ‘Wicca’ and I was gifted with stories of places and witches from all parts of the island, now bequeathed as part of my legacy to those who follow in my line.