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OLD-IRISH-L  June 1999

OLD-IRISH-L June 1999

Subject:

Re: Manann/an

From:

Charles MacQuarrie <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 29 Jun 1999 05:38:10 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (114 lines)

My, Francine you do ask many tricky questions!

I've been thinking about the Manannan/Manawydan relationship for many years now
-- not that I'm any closer to a solution, but I've been thinking about it all
the same. In fact, I'm in the process of analyzing and comparing the various
representations of Manannan in medieval Irish literature with the
representations of Manawydan from the _Mabinogi_ for a paper I'll be giving in a
few weeks. I like what Alexei Kondratiev has to say about the probability of
borrowing from Irish to Welsh. He is right that Manannan in many of his roles,
is not really so different from Manawydan. This is true not just of Manannan’s
role in the Fiannaiocht, but also in earlier appearances in "Immram Brain,"
"Serglige Con Culainn," and "Cuach Cormaic" (and even the account of him in
"Sanas Cormaic"). Pronsias MacCana in his _Celtic Mythology_ calls Manawydan
Manannan’s “British counterpart” while the _Oxford Guide to Welsh Literature_
boldly asserts, without citing texts, that the deceitful and malevolent wizard
Manannan is nothing like the wise and benevolent Manawydan. Another way
explaining the derivation of Manawydan can be found in Koch’s article, “A Welsh
Window on the Iron Age: Manawydan, Mandubracios” which appears in CMCS 14 (1987)
pp. 17-52).


It seems to me that both Manannan mac Lir and Manawydan fab Llyr, would have
been analyzed by native speakers as "Dear/little one from the Isle of Man son of
the Sea." Since Manann is an n stem genitive of Irish Mana "The Isle of Man"
probably gives its name to Manannan rather than vice versa. Though is possible
that an older character underlies this name -- Oribsen perhaps -- and that
Manannan was originally simply a sobriquet. Manannan, unlike some of the other
god-names doesn't appear in continental inscriptions. My theory, which I don't
have the time, space, or energy to recount here, is that the name itself is
relatively late, say c. 500. The sea as route to otherworld may be part of the
reason for the name, as may the Isles importance to early medieval maritime
kingdoms.

"High-king" Francine? In what tales? "Altrom Tighe Da Medar"? It's possible that
this "functional" role developed in the later literary tradition, but Manannan
is a first function (king/magic/wisdom) figure from his earliest appearances.

Patrick Ford's dioscuric theory. Who's going to argue with a scholar like
Patrick Ford? Who's going to argue with a word like dioscuric (lit.
Zeus-boy-ish)? Are you referring to Ford's intro in his edition of the
_Mabinogi_? Isn't he building on Gruffydd's argument in _Rhiannon_? Very
interesting theory in any case.

"God of crafts, skills, and boundaries" Alexei? Hmm, maybe. I do like Heinrich
Wagner's theory (ZCP 38, 1-28), that at root Manannan/Oirbsen was a god of water
and wisdom, but the answer to this one is shrouded in mist.

As to the "Tree Cassyn" it is associated with Manannan in other sources, all
late, such as the Manx version of the "Churl in the Grey Coloured Coat" "Boddagh
yn Cooat Laaghagh". One interesting explanation for the origin of the three legs
-- from Norse sources and naught to do with Manannan until very late -- can be
found in G.V.C. Young's _The Three Legs Go to Scandinavia: A Monograph on the
Manx Royal Family and their Scandinavian Origins_. Peel: Manzk-Svenska
Publications. 1983.

Sorry for joining the discussion so late and for yammering on so long.

Charlie


Francine Nicholson wrote:

> > From: Alexei Kondratiev [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> >
> > I think one should be cautious here in talking about their "cults", since
> > we
> > have no evidence of any such thing. They are known to us only as literary
> > and
> > (in the case of Manannán) folk figures. It's certainly reasonable to
> > assume
> > that these figures were derived (at some remove) from traditions about
> > deities that were actually worshipped in pre-Christian times, but we can't
> > know whether the deities actually bore those names, or how much their
> > image
> > may have been transformed through centuiries of literary treatment.
> >
>         Of course. I used the phrase "cult" to indicate the total complex of
> perception of people about the figures, folk customs/oral tradition
> involving them, and myths. It's hard to find a single word that says all
> that, but cult may have implied more than I intended.
>
> >    To make a dangerously simple statement about an obviously complicated
> > topic, I would say that Manannán/Manawyddan is a reflection of a deity
> > associated with crafts and skill and the boundary between this world and
> > the
> > Otherworld,
> >
>         So his association with the sea would be linked to the idea that
> crossing the sea was a route to the Otherworld?
>
> > who was known for his (not exclusive) association with the Isle
> > of Man, leading to his acquisition of this descriptive title. An official
> > role was found for him within the cast of characters featured in the Irish
> > literary tradition that used the _Lebor Gabála_ as its backbone, but he
> > obviously played many "unofficial" roles in oral tradition, not all of
> > which
> > have been recorded.
> >
>         Would his role as sort of high-king (not literally but functionally)
> of the Otherworld be a later development of the literary tradition?
>
> > The Welsh literary figure that bears his name may reflect
> > many more of these "unofficial" traits -- that may seem less
> > characteristic
> > of the Irish Manannán to us today as we view him primarily through the
> > limiting perspective of the literary tradition, but would have been living
> > and familiar elements in folk consciousness in the Middle Ages.
> >
>         What do you think of Ford's suggestion that Manawydan was half a
> dioscouric-type pair of which the other half was alternately Bran or
> Pryderi?
>
>         Francine Nicholson

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