Manannán mac Lir - a great master of illusion has much to teach us!
Bran deems it a marvellous beauty
In his coracle across the clear sea:
While to me in my chariot from afar
It is a flowery plain on which he rides about.
Sea-horses glisten in summer
As far as Bran has stretched his glance:
Rivers pour forth a stream of honey
In the land of Manannán mac Lir.
Speckled salmon leap from the womb
Of the white sea, on which thou lookest:
They are calves, they are coloured lambs
With friendliness, without harm for the other.
Along the top of a wood has swum
Thy coracle across ridges,
There is a wood of beautiful fruit
Under the prow of thy little skiff.
How frightened we are to loose our grip on our perceived reality! How fearful of finding our coracle aground, or of drowning ourselves in our chariot. So careful are we to hold fast to the mundane, repetitive din and jostle we call reality, that we rarely glimpse the other realities that lie amongst it. The other realities we may also touch, and know - in silence, in nature, in simple awareness, in moments of thoughtless being. Some would argue that most of us are asleep when we believe we are awake and "living". We are sleepwalking through a reality made up of digital images, shopping, competition, empty talk and short term gratification; when all the while another reality of nature, oneness, and quiet knowing also surrounds us.
For me, moments of glimpsing the riddle of illusion and reality are often the most illuminating and also the most fun. I am always refreshed when I am plunged into that which lies beyond the mundane. When I am reminded that the grinding "reality" that describes my current struggle is only as fluid or as solid as belief makes it.
This is part of why I find joy in using my cards. As I stand in my boat and ponder the image before me, I am always delighted to see things differently. How easily I am shown that
"There is a wood of beautiful fruit
Under the prow of my little skiff."
where I thought there was only water. This is the joy of the riddle, of the illusion and the moment of insight. Words like "meditation", "divination" and "enlightenment" sound so heavy and serious. Like hard work, or something slightly perilous from which we might not find the way back. More often they are the best parts of life. Burdens are lifted from us and we become light and happy.
Manannán mac Lir offered the purest of gifts to Bran that day on the sea. The playful joy of the riddle of reality and illusion. Is this just a metaphysical plaything? A glittering but useless toy? Well, as things worked out for Bran, he was not going to be able to safely land his coracle on Erin again. In some versions of the story, he meets his end after doing so, but in the oldest versions, we are told that it is one of Bran's men, Nechtán, who is "overcome with homesickness" and upon stepping from the coracle onto the shore, crumbles to ash (for in what seemed a few months journeying, they had been away for many hundreds of years). So it seems to me that the insights given to Bran by Manannán mac Lir will have strengthened him against both homesickness and helped him to see that the sea which might now be his permanent home was also a land of fruit, forests and green pastures. Something he would not otherwise have guessed.
Again, this is part of the riddle of reading cards, or gaining wisdom from nature, myth or any other well of wisdom. An insight here, a reassurance there and sometimes a moment of joy and wonder that changes everything.
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Quotes based on the Kuno Meyer translation of 1895 which is available at this link - http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/vob/vob02.htm