Manannán mac Lir appeals from Gortmore...
... but, alas, no more. Manannán mac Lir, literally meaning Manannán, Son of the Sea, is a sea deity of Celtic mythology. Here, a sculpted depiction of him seems to appeal to Limavady, Northern Ireland, from the cliffs of Binevenagh Mountain... and the sculpture has just recently been vandalized! Sadly, “Manannán” was sawed loose and carted away, leaving only the prow. A cross with the first of the Ten Commandments inscribed thereon, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", was left in its place.
No one yet knows who left the cross there, much less who absconded with the figure... it could have been a Christian concerned for the “graven image” that the sculpture portrayed, though I saw no one worshipping it when I shot this. There was no indication that it was being treated as a shrine. There were a few more there than our little band of five, and those folks were making light of having their photo taken with Manannán amongst them. Whoever did this may be attempting to throw off those who are actively trying to solve this crime. As my Irish friend Mari Ward-Foster (who actually brought me here to the Gortmore Viewing Point when this image was taken) pointed out in a BBC interview, a Christian’s concern should be for all ten commandments of the Decalogue, including the eighth: “Thou shalt not steal”, especially about something as benign as the depiction of a mythical being... that’s akin to having serious issues about Paul Bunyan, who's depicted as giant statues throughout many states here in America, and that’s just silly... unless, of course, you’re a tree-hugger, and then it’s still silly.
Supposedly, some Celtic mythology predates written language. I’m not so sure about that, though I do know a few things about mythology that you may never have considered... and you may find interesting. Celtic mythology certainly predates empirical science, yet, in a way, it was nothing less than science... all mythology was a way for primitive people, with no understanding of the physics of nature, to apply order to the phenomena around them. Anything that appears to the senses, anything that we see, hear, touch, taste, or smell is all part of the phenomena of the physical world... reality. To make sense out of the world around us, considering the seemingly endless disparate elements of the material world, requires a unity between the material world and the world of ideas. Mythology was not only stories handed from generation to generation, it was the beginnings of ideas that would eventually elevate to theology, philosophy, and true science, which are still merely pursuits of making sense of this world... looking for truth.
As you can see in this image, it is not for no reason that Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, with rich soil for farming and pastures for cattle and sheep, yet it is an island where seafaring has been an occupation throughout its history of human settlement. The weather was beautiful when we were there, but storms can hit that northern coastline with terrifying ferocity... can you imagine setting out to sea without advantage of tidal charts and accurate weather prediction? Yet, that’s what many did back then, relying solely on such wisdom as “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morn, sailor’s take warn!”, which is not as reliable a predictor as you would think. My mind’s eye sees the tattered sail flailing in the turbulent wind, and the water rushing into the boat as the boards creak threateningly beneath their feet, and the vessel can do little more than rise and fall on the ceaseless waves. In panic, they wonder not only how so calm a start could end up like this, but also if they will make it back home again... for those that do return after such an ordeal, theirs is not only a question of how "fair winds and following seas" turn into something so monstrous that many who put out into it are never heard from again... there’s also the question of why. The myth of Manannán mac Lir figured strongly with concern to weather, especially about the “mists between worlds”, which is likely how such things as the veil of rain seen covering distant Donegal in this image was understood.
Now, one may think that mythology and Christian theology fit along the same plane... they do not. What sets mythology apart is that it is essentially impractical, as are many stories, and in no way conforms to reality. That’s the very definition of truth... that which conforms to reality. Mythology's ultimate value may have been little more than entertainment, and most everyone enjoys that aspect to this day. Though it is contemporary understanding, the Law of Non-Contradiction, which is a law (not theory, mind you) of both philosophy and science, states that A (whatever A is) cannot be non-A at the same time... even back in the day, people had enough sense to determine that the dailiness of what nature presented to them was in direct contradiction to mythology's answer to it. In a way, however, mythology, as well as other ancient legends and stories, helped to set a precedent concerning the authenticity of scripture, as determined by another famous son of Ireland... C. S. Lewis.
C. S. Lewis, declaring at age 15 to be quite mad at God for not existing, was an atheist professor of ancient literature at Oxford University. At J. R. R. Tolkien’s insistence, He decided to settle the matter of the Bible’s authenticity by using his skills to pick it apart. What he read there picked him apart instead, and he gave his life to Christ. One of the things that struck him concerning the Bible that differentiated it from all other ancient literature was the depth of detail expressed by the writers of the Bible. That kind of detail comes only from firsthand accounts. Lewis concluded the issue of Jesus’ deity in this way: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him- “I am ready to accept Jesus as a good moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claims to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man that is merely a man and says the things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level with a man who thinks he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else he was a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall down on your knees and worship Him as the Lord and God. But let us not come up with any of this patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. And He did not intend to do so.”
Those who cowardly hauled off with poor Manannán mac Lir in the cover of night might have rethought their actions had they known any of this. My prayer is that the law catches them before Mari does! And just a side note for my dear Irish Flickr friends Mari, Rodney, and Evelyn: I remember waking after a couple of hours sleep aboard that Airbus 380 shortly before landing at Heathrow after crossing the "pond", with the reality of the trip before me finally sinking in... "I'm going to physically meet folks that I've only known digitally up to this point. What if they're jerks? What if I'm a jerk?" Thank you so much for showing us your culture, your beautiful country, and your even more beautiful people... the point of how something like this rends your heart over the thoughtlessness of others shows the depth of that beauty. There’s not a day goes by that we don’t think of you. We’ll be back!
See Mari's Facebook community page here at "Bring Back Manannán mac Lir the Sea God" www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-back-Manannan-Mac-Lir-the-Se...
A postscript... the remnant of the Manannán mac Lir statue has been found. This article gives the details of both that and the dispensation of its replacement: www.derryjournal.com/news/second-coming-for-manannan-mac-...