Mannaz. Man. Mankind. That which makes us human, that which separates us from the animals. Mannaz is about society, structure, organization and higher consciousness. Mannaz is seen as the divine light expressed in physical form, to drive our evolution closer to divinity and further from the animal realm.
In the progression of the runes, we move from Ehwaz, the loving and trusting animal state, and find ourselves now in a position of responsibility. Our hero emerged like a babe from his time of introspection, but he now remembers society, purpose and what it means to be back among the humans. His long journey has given him a depth of wisdom and knowledge that he can now draw from to contribute to the greater society. His bond between horse and rider or between lovers may now become a role to serve others, where the two continue to work together for a bigger picture. This rune is thus a representation of adulthood, and all of the work that comes with it.
Where Gebo and Ehwaz needed to be differentiated, so too must Mannaz and Wunjo. Gebo was when two people came together, and shared gifts, leading to joy and community in Wunjo. Ehwaz, which is now a lasting relationship, leads to Mannaz and greater purpose in society with many people taking on roles and responsibilities to create even greater structures. Wunjo was a small community where everyone is close and has purpose together, but Mannaz is vast and the individual needs can become lost as we work towards an even higher purpose that is not always apparent. Mannaz is not always joyful, but it is purposeful.
To have our cities, to have our culture and our structures and our higher learning, we need many people in many roles. Some people manage food, teach our children, build buildings, heat our homes, create laws, clean sewers, entertain us, or develop technologies. There are almost as many types of jobs as there are people, and though some may take priority over others, all of them are important and necessary for a functioning society. Assigning and co-ordinating this work involves a great deal of organization, sitting in meetings, moving money and scheduling, all tasks related to Mannaz.
Societal roles may sound dry and uninspiring, but there is also something greater hiding there. This is what our evolution is; this is what has removed us from an animalistic state in which we had to fight for survival. Not all of it is dry work, much of it is about higher thought also, such as creating great works that can be seen in the future, learning maths and sciences and reading and writing to communicate across space and time. This is our divinity, this is the power that the gods have imbued upon us to make us something greater.
Mannaz is our divinity, this is the power that the gods have imbued upon us to make us something greater.
The shape of Mannaz is that of Wunjo and a reversed Wunjo placed together, highlighting its link to the community rune. But it is also that of Ehwaz with the additional lines from the divine, as in Ansuz. These two lines are said to be rays of light coming from the gods to create man from animal. The divine rays in Ansuz led to communication, words and purpose, but in Mannaz these are now taken and given a lasting, stronger structure that can be relied and built upon. In my painting, I shone the divine light upon a speaker in an assembly built in a coliseum. The coliseum represents structure, the people are humanity and the speaker is our hero speaking his truth in the divine light. Nature is not present here, but our ability to change nature is also part of Mannaz.
There is a Native American philosophy that humanity’s purpose on this earth is as caretakers of the plants. This is also a higher role than that of the animals, for though many animals can greatly affect the ecological landscape, none do so with the same level of awareness. So Mannaz is also present in indigenous cultures, as farming, building shelters, making clothing and tools, embarking on hunting trips and collecting medicine. These are also highly intellectual skills that bring us past the realm of animals.
There is great wisdom in traditional ways of life also, and one should not assume that advanced modern societies are somehow better because we have advanced technology. Our advanced technology and societal progression have been majorly beneficial but are also what has caused almost every issue in the world today, which is the merkstave version of Mannaz. Too much focus on society and business can cause a great deal of psychological suffering on an individual level. On a greater scale, it causes environmental damage and imbalances of power such as extreme poverty. An inverse of Mannaz can also mean not contributing to society and running from responsibility.