This is the first day of the fortnight (April 14-28) governed by the rune Mannaz, alternatively known as Man. This is appropriate because the rune’s literal meaning is man (as in human being).

Mannaz represents the basic reality of our human nature, that quality which is present in every human person, whether male or female. It is, in fact, androgynous; the polarity of the rune is both male and female. Mannaz represents the shared human experience of every person who is conscious of his or her being.

The Greek philosopher Protagoras (490-420 BC) is famously known to have said, “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” Like many fragments of knowledge from the past, this phrase has been passed down to us without context and its meaning is open to interpretation.

pic012I think of the meaning of this phrase on a couple of levels. First, our ability to perceive and know things is limited by our sensory organs and what they, as instruments, are able to pick up. There are sounds and smells we cannot perceive, but that dogs are able to. There are colors we cannot perceive, but that insects can. The wisdom of Mannaz leads to the realization that there are things which exist which we cannot perceive with our senses alone.

Yet our senses and experience are all we have to work with. It is the wise human being who uses his/her experiences to greatest effect, yet remembers that this is not all that is.

As work by Harvard scholar and researcher Howard Gardner suggests, several types of human intelligences are valued by cultures all over the world. According to Gardener, these intelligences fall into seven or eight natural categories, half of which are cognitive, and half of which are more physical. For example, “bodily-kinesthetic intelligence” entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body as an athlete does to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements.

“Intrapersonal intelligence” is the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations, to have an effective working model of ourselves, and and by extension, to others and use it as a key to solving problems. One’s own internal self-knowledge is an effective key to understanding external things.

“Logical-mathematical intelligence” is the capacity to analyze problems as a scientist might, to carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues empirically. In Gardner’s words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively, and think logically.

In every mode of intelligence, effectiveness is determined by our ability to use our bodies and brains as instruments for performance—so this is the second level on which I think about the meaning of the Mannaz rune.

Gardener says the discrete intelligences he has identified are rarely used alone, but in combinations particular to the individual. Mannaz is the rune stave of the “perfected man,” the complete human being.

In his or her own small way, the human being is seen as a measure and reflection of society, the world, and the cosmos. The rune expresses the full range of human experience, without which the total potential of our lives is not realizable.

Yet the Mannaz rune is also the symbol of man’s mortality. The Old English Rune Poem states: In happiness a man is beloved of his relatives, yet each must depart from the other, because the gods will commit their flesh to the earth.

This sober note about the inevitability of death is maintained through all of the major rune poems. The Teutons certainly saw enough of their kin die to have no illusions about physical immortality. However, author Nigel Pennick says that this pessimistic tone in the rune poems may be due to the influence of Christianity, and should not be projected back onto the pagan roots of the runes.

Mannaz is the rune of the clever man and the wise woman. Magically, Mannaz is used to evoke the powers of human intellect, cunning, and daring as means to an end.




Groove of the Day

Listen to the original Broadway cast of “Hair” performing “What a Piece of Work is Man”


Weather Report

60° and Cloudy


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