Equinox 2003: Trance Journey to the Land of Manannan Mac Lir

by Jen Martin

It started on the Equinox. There seemed a place that was very close, but again far, far away. When we went down to Point Pleasant to collect nine waves for our Well for the year, I could almost make it out on the horizon; the waves stretched into a broad, stoneless road to Somewhere Else. As the ocean rushed to greet us, it seemed to be welcoming us joyously. Manannan was there then, laughing at the childlike devotion of those silly human-types that he had come to know and love over many years of serving as their Cranky Old Gatekeeper. It seemed to my small human mind that he appreciated the simple gestures of gratitude and honor we offered.

I must have jumped in then, somehow, searching for the Road. I had been playing with the words that I thought would create it, assembling them into patterns that sounded pleasing to the ear and yet were structurally sound—the beach, the boat, the road, the fire, the isle. The ocean’s waters followed my steps when we left the beach, and in a way I was rather surprised that I wasn’t leaving squishy footprints behind me as I walked the familiar paths to my home, to my office, to my favorite haunts.

The Avenue seemed even more solid when I returned to the ocean the Saturday prior to the ritual. It was gorgeous, warm, painfully beautiful that day. I allowed myself the apparent indulgence of feeling the waters that had been following me for those few days to wash over me as the cold, glittering waters of the Atlantic washed over my feet. It purified me, prepared me, entered my veins and flowed through me. I found the visions I had been trying to create in the days of preparation for the ritual, all those words so carefully scripted coming to life in just the right way to make it work.

“To make it work”—as if I, or Ed, or any of us, really, had the power to make it work. We would go if the gods wanted us to go, and stay if they didn’t feel they could countenance the intrusion.

I was a little doubtful that we’d be going anywhere when I showed up at Norma and Ed’s place. Still, something inside me had faith that things would be all right. They would, of course, no matter what—things work out as they do and that is generally the end of that. We loaded up the cars and headed over to Sue’s, allowing the Fates to have their way with us. We cleared the yard and set up shop, and Manannan stepped in to offer some preliminary assistance (another thing to be grateful for, Friend!). Ed says he owes Manannan big-time for passing his kidney stone shortly before the ritual, allowing him to participate.

It was the perfect sort of day—warm in the sun with that touch of cold in the air that lets you know that winter isn’t entirely finished… it was very similar to the gray ocean’s waters—warm one minute, frigid in the next. We brought stones and shells that we had collected during our foray into Point Pleasant Beach, and as we set up our altar with quite possibly the most beautifully aquamarine cloth I’ve ever seen, I set them into a spiral pattern in the front that pulled me deeper still as it grew. We set up a candle in a lighthouse—simple, but meaningful. There was the seahorse—strong, steadfast, and shiny! We scattered stones and shells, and the candle in the conch shell that is my own recognition of the Gray One was lit in his honor. It felt like we had a little bit of the ocean in Sue’s marvelous backyard.

As for the ritual itself, I’m certain no one will be surprised to read I don’t remember very much. I wish I could say I felt solid and prepared that morning as we cleared the yard and set up our space, but I spent more time taming the butterflies in my stomach than anything else. From about “We are here to honor the gods …” on, I can’t quite say where I was, but I wasn’t at Sue’s and I was only peripherally with all of you.

Ironically, I invited the participants to relax, though I myself could not (at least not at first). This was, after all, a bit of a different sort of ritual for the Grove, and a different sort of undertaking for me personally. I was torn up with different fears: fear that it might not work, fear that it might work too well, fear that the participants might not enjoy or get anything out of it, fear that we might lose someone because they got into it too much.

We stood on the beach, becoming familiar with a suddenly new environment, standing near the crashing shoreline in the predawn gray fog. Norma blew a conch shell and then invoked the Earth Mother beautifully and soundly. We relaxed, we looked around, we put our troubles and our skepticism in a rucksack down on the sand and dug in with our toes. The air seemed to get more heavy and damp as we went on, and a little more foggy and cool. It wrapped around us as Ed sent our Outsiders down to Jack & Bill’s Bar and we bid them adieu, stepping down to the shoreline and finding our very own boats to ride in for our trip to the Blessed Isle. And there was Manannan, just before us, his warm wave of friendship bringing us off the beach and into the serene, supporting waters of the ocean (here, we made our first offering of whiskey to Him—it was the first of several invocations). We left the land and ventured out, safely and securely, onto the sea, following our Friend and Guide. Ed brought us onto the Isle of Promise, thronging with a fairy host. We enjoyed the marvels we found there, including the Shining Well of Five Streams (our Sacred Well), the Three Rings of Fire that surround the Isle (our Sacred Fire), and the Nine Purple Hazels that shaded the well (our Sacred Tree). Ed described for us a beautiful door of our own design, inscribed with symbols perhaps only we ourselves understood—the Door to the Palace of Manannan. We asked him to open the Door, which was the combination of the Three Gates of Well, Tree and Fire, invoking Manannan again, begging him to open the Door to which we had traveled and he had in his kindness guided us:

“We stand at your door, dear Friend and Guide, Gray One to whose beautiful and happy home we have traveled long, here to celebrate with you, to share our joy and friendship…. Dear Manannan, Sun-Dappled Wanderer, Wise Trickster and Honorable One, we will do all we can where we are, if you will but allow this well to be a gate (we knocked once on the door), this fire to be a gate (we knocked again on the door), this tree to be a gate (we knocked the third time on the door) … and Manannan MacLir, Keeper of the Ways Between the Worlds …”

…And you know the rest. He allowed us, very graciously I might add, access to his home and sanctuary for us to bring him friendship and praise. Brigid came—as did our Ancestors, our Nature Spirits, and Gods and Goddesses—to enjoy our celebration of Manannan. Nora brought in Brigid, and then you couldn’t hear a breath as Sue invoked our ancestors. Carol invoked the nature spirits around us and those in the sea. Norma invoked the Goddesses and Gods. Sue sang a really wonderful song about the coming of Spring, I think I read Whitman’s “Patroling Barnegat,” and Nora sang a lovely song in French to Manannan. Others offered stories and poems and praises. I spent the remainder of the time thinking how lovely it was that so many folks came to the party.

We had a great time and then settled in by the Shining Well to gather our omens. We had given our predetermined omen people each a liter-size bottle of water labeled with one of the Five Senses. Each bottle composed one of the Five Streams that flowed into the Well. This caused some consternation but we got it worked out and I still couldn’t get it out of my head that all these folks were so lovely to come to the party.

Our omen for Smell was the Knight of Swords (don’t overthink it). Our omen for Taste was Strength (revel, try new tastes, be brave). The one for Touch was the Empress (self-explanatory), and for Sight we received the Queen of Swords (in the Golden Dawn deck, Kali: cut off your ego, preconceptions; see what’s really there). Our blessing for Hearing concerned the Queen of Pentacles (marshmallow in the Herbal Tarot, relevant to our marshmallow peeps; listen to the stories of the people around you). Then the Five Senses poured their waters into a communal punch bowl to distribute the blessings.

We performed the Catechism of the Waters, and we tacked on a verbal blessing of waters as they were blessed with the omens.

As we continued to hang out with Manannan in his living room, we brought waters from our own well and many people poured water from their homes or special places, making our Grove well truly a community one.
Then Manannan said, “C’mon, party’s over, I’ll take you home.” We had a tough time bringing the revelers back to a place where they could climb back into their boats and make the journey back to the beach, but we managed to do that. We all picked up the things we had left on the beach and, before you could say “Spring has sprung!” everyone was burning Peeps and giggling.

I remember that at that point the most fascinating thing in the universe was the way a vanilla crème Peeps egg tasted after it was roasted over an open flame, and the way it stuck to your fingers.

It was sometime shortly thereafter that my shoes pretty well stopped squishing and I got to come fully back to the mundane world. I remember thinking that Nej was really the most wonderful person in the world for bringing me food, and that the person who invented chicken nuggets was really quite fabulous because you could eat those with fingers. Overall, it seems that a good time was had by all, whether they went with us or hung out on the beach or even in the backyard; and for that I was really quite happy and grateful.

Although it was not part of the ritual, the Peace Altar was a lovely side addition (thanks Sandrock!). We were bringing in the Spring and partying with Manannan as the nation was at war, and as our soldiers were putting their lives at risk for us. It was a great reminder that, no matter how we felt about the war, we shared a hope for peace and a sadness for the destruction it causes.

We had 18 in attendance.

Go to HERE to see photos from the Beach Ritual to Manannan we did on the weekday Equinox (7 in attendance);

go to HERE to see some photos of the altar for the weekend Manannan ritual;

go to HERE for the Trance Ritual Script;

go HERE for excerpts from some of the Manannan stories we worked with.


Patroling Barnegat (written 1880)

Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirits of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing,
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?)
Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.

—Walt Whitman