Who is Manannan Mac Lir?
It's easy to find historical info on Manannan Mac Lir, especially on the internet. By historical I mean things like his associations with the oceans and storms, or his connection to the Isle of Man. What we're really talking about here though, is who Manannan is. Pagans are a lucky lot in that the get to interact directly with their gods and goddesses, and while myths are interesting reference points, it's the direct experiences we have that really shape our image of a deity. People that have had the pleasure of interacting with Manannan all have very similar things to say about him. Quite often the first thing they mention is his notorious sense of humor.
A life without humor is like a tree without leaves, a spring without water, a burger without cheese… Well, you get the point. Religion is the same way. If it's free of laughter and fun, one is left only with dreary dogma and a bunch of rules. Manannan, being a trickster god, always manages to inject absurdity into the lives of those that know him, making the daily grind of life much easier to deal with. His wit is infamous, but always amiable and friendly. Perhaps his association with the ocean is the best physical representative of this. After all, isn't a visit to the beach almost always carefree and fun?
If you sail far enough on those playful coastal waves, you find the waters become very reflective and deep. There is much a more serious side to Manannan, one that is caring and protective. All of us suffer tragedy in our life, as it is part of the game, and Manannan is always there to lend a comforting hand and a few soothing words. He's helped more than one person through the unhappy times in life, helping to steer us over those dark ocean waters to a place shining brightly with the sun.
Sometimes powerful storms rage over even the clearest waters, and they can be quite intimidating. Manannan isn't a god without anger. He won't hesitate to tell one when he feels you are taking the wrong path in life, and he is no fan of dishonesty or ignorance. However, the lightning never strikes out. He knows that the decisions you make in life are yours to choose, and punishment isn't a part of that plan. Storms can be intimidating, but it's important to remember that the rain and change they bring helps things to thrive and grow.
Manannan can be a prominent force in your life, or an occasional acquaintance. He can take on numerous guises, be it a father figure or a teacher. Others know him a protector or a gatekeeper, and some even see him as a flirtatious lover. However, most of us that are familiar with Manannan know him first and foremost as a friend. Frankly, it's damn near impossible not to love the guy once you get to know him.