Manannán mac Lir – A Story
Seamus, a young man of only 16 years, sat at the crest of a long wind swept dune near the tree line on a very small island. There were more rocks than trees though, and the small thickets of vegetation were bent and gnarled from constant seaborne wind. He watched the rolling breakers hitting the shore, tears streaming down his face. His ship had wrecked on nearby rocky shoals, and he had been the only survivor to make it to land. He could still see the remains of its masts and rigging bobbing among the flotsam and jetsam littering the waves. He felt like retching. He remembered only a week before, his pappy telling him to make an offering to The Lord of the Waves… and he had heeded that advice. He remembered dropping his only silver shilling into the sea with a short prayer to Manannán mac Lir. A coin he had earned working the potato fields near Dublin, waiting for his chance for employment on the fishing boat. It seemed the gesture had been in vain though. It had been days since he had eaten and he felt his body weakening. He had found small reservoirs of stale water in the stumps of a few trees… but those were being used up rapidly.
Lost in his thoughts and despair, he did not notice the other man on the island until he was nearly upon him. He was tall, dressed in old style oiled leathers, and carried a large wool crane bag on his shoulder. Shoulder length hair was bound in a braid. Seamus was speechless. He saw no ship, and could not comprehend how this man came to be there. The man strode up to him and stood there, silently appraising him. Seamus stuttered out two simple questions: “Who are you, and where did you come from?” The man smiled gently and gestured for silence. He collected dead wood while Seamus watched, and when he had a decent sized pile, bent near it and whispered a few strange words. The pile burst into flames, and Seamus’s eyes widened in disbelief. The man then reached into his crane bag and withdrew a small pig. He dispatched the animal and was soon roasting the delicate flesh in the fire. Realization soon dawned upon poor Seamus. He was in the presence of a God.
He ate in silence while Manannán mac Lir watched him, eagerly consuming all that was given to him. Finally he asked, with eyes averted, “My Lord, why did you save me?”
Manannán mac Lir smiled softly and his voice was low, almost like the pounding of waves on rock. “You did not survive because I saved you Seamus, you survived because you can swim, and you put every ounce of effort and energy into surviving. The Gods sometimes help those who help themselves, but making an offering and uttering a prayer never hurts.” He grinned as he flipped a silver shilling onto the sand at Seamus’s feet. The boy stared at the coin dumbfounded, he felt dizzy and faint, light of body and mind. Moments later Manannán mac Lir held a great swan in his hands, and as he thrust it into the sky and released it he said softly “Fly Seamus… fly.”
As he watched the large swan take flight and head towards the mainland, the Great Goddess Danu approached from a nearby copse of trees, a small smile on her face. She bent down and picked up the silver shilling, brushing grains of sand from it as she stood. With a twinkle in her eye she said, “Lord Manannán, you should have been a potter.” With a sly grin he said, “Aye, I sprinkled water upon inert clay at the creation of your Third Children, Great Mother, aiding in their shaping… and even now I feel the need to do a little molding.” A small pig nestled against his leg, grunting for attention, and he bent over, picked it up, and placed it back into his crane bag.