There’s a lot to be said about Manannan mac Lir, both from a historical perspective and from the perspective of personal experience. I’m going to speak from personal experience, because that’s best what I can write about.
Manannan is…a trickster. He loves to joke, to laugh; laughter is huge with Him. Reverence comes packaged with mirth when you adore Manannan. He finds it hilarious and appropriate that my playlist for Him has the Mahna Mahna song from the Muppets on it (to which I sing “Manannanan!”).
He is a lord of storms, the ocean, the rain, the weather, and I feel His presence often because I live in a place where rain is exceedingly common, as well as being on the coast. I’ve always adored thunderstorms, even when I was little. I think that’s not coincidence.
Manannan is a very loving god, and He’s described by various people as sort of wanting to be everyone’s foster-uncle. That’s not the relationship He has with everyone, of course, but He definitely is a god who will want to comfort you when you’re down; who wants to be there for you. For me, He’s a father; for others, He’s an uncle; for some, a brother; for others still He is a lover. But regardless the relationship, what I often hear from other followers/devotees/mortal-relatives of Manannan is that He is a god who really does care about you, who really does love you. And He desires the same sort of love that humans desire, which makes Him pretty relatable to me.
But He’s scary, too. He feels anger, He feels disappointment (which I honestly think is worse to be on the receiving end of), and He’s (in my mind) the god of death. He comforts those grieving, yes, but He also takes the dead away. He’s a guardian between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. Logically, I don’t feel any fear of death, but emotionally…there are mysteries I’m not ready for.
He’s like the ocean, in that way. In the shallows you can play and have fun and enjoy yourself and feel comforted. The deeper you get out, the scarier it gets, the more dangerous, the more unknown. I’ve come to understand the ocean as a chthonic realm through my relationship with Manannan. There’s a sense of understanding when it comes to underground spaces — they may be scary, but for the most part, we understand them. There’s so much about the ocean we’ve yet to discover. It’s much more an Underworld, in my view.
And He’s more than just Manannan; while I interact with Him mostly as that side, I get the sense that He slides into other roles easily, or sometimes is both at once: Manannan mac Lir, Manannan beg mac y Lir, Manawydan fab Llyr. Deity individuation isn’t the same as mortal individuation, and sometimes He’s all of these, or one, or two, or something else entirely. And I can’t really articulate it beyond that. (For the most part, though, I’m talking about Manannan mac Lir. I think.)
He is the ocean and the storm and the transition between life and death. And He’s warmth and love and comfort.
He’s my father, and I love Him.