He was a sea deity in Irish mythology and a chief of the Tuatha de Danaan who was greater even than their king, Nuada. He was a lawgiver and he understood all enchantments, so the Tuatha de Danaan left it to him to find places for them where they would be safe from their enemies. He chose the most beautiful hills and valleys of Ireland and put hidden walls about them.
His full name is Manannán mac Lir "son of the sea". As well as being the major sea god who ruled Tir Tairngiri, he is also seen as a guide to the afterlife. In this manner he is associated with the Otherworld and the veil between the worlds. He is affiliated with both the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians. He was also a shape-changer and with this he became Culain, “the Smith”.
He is the protector of the Isle of Man. With his cloak of invisibility he envelopes the Isle when trouble arrives. Some say the Isle of Man “Manainn” is named after him, while others say that he is named after the island. Which ever the case may be he has strong ties to the Isle of Man, where he is referenced in a traditional ballad as having been the nation's first ruler. At Midsummer, the Manx people offer bundles of reeds, meadow grasses and yellow flowers to Manannán in a ritual "paying of the rent", accompanied with prayers for his aid and protection in fishing. He is also believed to have been a magician who could make an illusory fleet from sedge or pea shells to discourage would-be invaders.
As guardian of the Blessed Isles as well as Mag Mell he also has strong associations with Emhain Abhlach, the Isle of Apple Trees, where the magical silver apple branch is found. To the Celts, the Blessed Isles that lie beyond the sea are the gateways to the Otherworlds, where the soul journeys to after death. Manannán is the guardian of these gateways between the worlds.
His wife was the beautiful Fand "Pearl of Beauty". She is remembered as a "Fairy Queen", and she’s also mentioned as being a sea deity. His sons are Donall Donn-Ruadh, Sgoith Gleigeil, Goitne Gorm-Shuileach, and Sine Sindearg. He had a daughter, whose name was Niamh of the Golden Hair. Some say he was Deirdre's father and Aine may have been his daughter. He raised Deirdre's children, taught Diarmuid the use of weapons, taught Cuchulain the use of the Gae Bulg.
Manannán had many magical items:
Some sources say that, to Manannán, the sea is like a flowery plain.
When Lugh, Manannán’s foster son, left home to aid the people of Dana against the Fomorians he was joined by Manannán's own sons and Fairy Cavalcade. When he looked back at leaving, Lugh saw "his foster-father's noble figure standing on the beach. Manannán was wrapped in his magic cloak of colours, changing like the sun from blue-green to silver, and again to the purple of evening. He waved his hand to Lugh, and cried: 'Victory and blessing with thee!' So Lugh, glorious in his youth and strength, left his Island home."
It was said his sword could slice through any armour and it created a wound no man ever recovered from. Those who were opposed to it in battle were so terrified that their strength left them. Upon command, when pointed at a target, it could make that target answer any question asked truthfully.
There are many stories about Manannán. I’ve included a couple of them in the Legends & Stories Section of these pages.
Some say Manannán was killed by Uillenn Faebarderg in battle at Magh Cuilenn.