(pronounced MAHN-nahz) was used to represent
the m sound in runic writing in all the
Germanic languages. The name means man.
Although the Germanic word, like its modern
descendant, implies male sex, it is interesting to
note that none of the rune poems contrast man and
woman when speaking about this rune, instead
offering words that seem to apply to human beings
generally. The Icelandic Rune Poem reads
delight of man
and augmentation of the earth
and adorner of ships.
are social creatures. We are defined as much by our
culture as by our biology, and live in a network of
relationships and responsibilities. The symmetrical
shape of this rune suggests the reciprocal nature
of our relationships with each other, and our
We are also
ambitious creatures, often striving to reshape the
earth and its other living beings to suit our needs
and aspirations. We are builders, clearers of
fields, makers of tools, herders of animals.
Although land creatures, we have also learned to
travel by sea and, more recently, even by
something satisfying about the directness and
simplicity of this rune, which refers to man -
humanity or a person - without regard to social
station or interpersonal role. Whereas the tarot is
brimming with kings, queens, knights, and
ecclesiastical personages, in the runes, man simply
takes his place generically among the horse and
elk, the birch and yew, joy and need, as an
unremarkable component in the order of
makes us pause and wonder what it really means to
be a man or a woman. Is it about our relationships
with others? Is it about what we make and
do? Is it about finding our niche among other
living things in the world? As the psalmist
put it, "What is man, that thou art mindful of
rune appears in your divination work, ask yourself
the following questions:
do I express my humanity?
am I connected with others?
is my role?
am I distinctive?
does the human species fit into the natural
It is easy
for us modern people to become quite focused on our
individual pursuits. For our ancestors, struggling
to carve a life together in a natural world that
was largely untamed and unprocessed, our collective
identity was much more present in our awareness.
The clan, the tribe, the people . . . needing each
other to make a human niche amongst the plants and
animals and natural forces that surrounded us. The
mannaz rune directs us to look at ourselves this
way, as part of a community or species, to see how
our individual distinctiveness is part of the
distinctiveness of humanity as a whole.
draws us back to basics of body and tribe, of
selfhood and interdependence. It is what we are
after the self-indulgent trappings of the modern
life are stripped away.
rune can be used magically to help anchor yourself
in the social or natural order, to fit your
identity into a larger plan, or to stabilize
important relationships. It can also help us
express our distinctively human potential or
reinforce the unity of body, mind, and spirit in