Manannán Mac Lir

So, a few weeks ago a valuable statue of the sea god Manannán Mac Lir in Northern Ireland was stolen. It was replaced with a wooden cross with the words: “You shall have no other gods before me”.

Whilst this kind of occurrence wouldn’t have been unusual in some parts of the world, it is very unusual indeed over here. Neither the UK nor Ireland see a lot of religious fanaticism, which is remarkable especially in Ireland, a country which has been practically ruled by the Catholic church until fairly recently. When I first came to Ireland 25 years ago, it was still a very Catholic country – much more so than it is today – but I was struck by the “live and let live” attitude the vast majority of people had. It’s one of the nicest things about the people around here: we mind our own business.

It saddens me that it has come to this. Now if you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer in the good in people and never tire of pointing out that our world gets safer and better all the time. I’m not going to hail the end of religious freedom in my part of the world; this was an isolated incidence. But it still saddens me, not only because the theft has hit a very gifted artist (the statue’s creator is John Sutton) and destroyed a popular tourist attraction of the area, but it’s also removed one of the few pieces of “pagan art” around here. Manannán, son of the sea, is a truly ancient deity and was thought to be the first ruler of the Isle of Man, which got its name from him.

The interesting thing is that the theft has brought a lot of publicity for Manannán, which is probably not what the criminals had intended. It’s a beautiful side effect which to me proves how just life can be sometimes. You meant to remove the ancient sea god? Well, actually you only succeeded in bringing him back into everybody’s consciousness – in yer face, assholes!

I believe the best way to react to what happened is to keep that spotlight on, to remember, hail, read about, and otherwise honour the mighty Manannán Mac Lir. It’ll strengthen not only the memory of the old deities, but also the many, many peaceful christians on these islands who wouldn’t dream of dishonouring or shaming another’s god.

Here’s a poem by a friend of mine, who incidentally has a book of poetry coming up (I’ll link that when it’s published so watch this space!). 

What’s His Name?

Sure you know him
his name is Manannán Mac Lir
the bloke that’s God of the Sea
When you call him softly
by any old shore
he’s there as clear as can be.

O Manannán Mac Lir
is a fine old fellow
and an honourable friend of mine
O Manannán Mac Lir
has his wits about him
just about most of the time.

I remember one day
not that long ago
when he decided to call me
so in I went
mask, flippers and snorkel
plunging right into the sea

He mused “Johny mate,
we’ve been pals
for what seems like a long, long while;
any chance of doing me a favour?”
then he winked with a devious smile

I says “Manannán me man<
well you know me
and I’ll assist you as best I can.”
So down we went
to his underwater palace
where he says “this is me plan!”

“Now Johny old bean
for this last while
things just haven’t been the same
for those who used to know me
and leave me offerings
have forgotten me and my name

Now don’t get me wrong
for it’s not all bad
with a belly full of seaweed and fish
but when the sun does shine
it all tastes like brine
so please hear my desperate wish

O Johny by Crom!
you know I’m not selfish
but my wish is that you’d write me a rime
to tell those humans
the bloody eejits
to brew me a few oceans of wine!”

©2015 John-Paul Patton

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