Supporting Meanings: Human relations, the divine-in-human, the human archetype, the best that man can be
Ancient Meanings: In the Younger Futhark, this rune evolved to an intermediate form that resembled a diamond struck through with a line that continued through its bottom point. It later lost its top and took a form identical to that of the older rune for Elhaz. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem takes a rather gloomy view of what man is capable of, saying that “the mirthful man is dear to kinsmen” but that all men inevitably “fail his fellow” since God dooms that their “frail flesh” will be eventually buried in death. In the Scandinavian poems, however, this final death is augmented. The Norwegian poem, for example, directly states that “man is an augmentation of the dust; great is the claw of the hawk”. The Icelandic one, says that man is the joy of man and an augmentation of the dust and adorner of ships.” In either case, both note that man, though he might become dust, is eventually reborn of it and accomplishes great things.
Modern Meanings: Edred Thorsson holds that mannaz is the human archetype that identifies humanity as progeny of the gods. Thus, mannaz is man as a manifestation of the Divine. In addition, he sees it as an archetypal androgyne, the humanity beyond gender. Gundarsson reads it as the rune of the rational minds in which the powers of thought and memory interact. Aswyn reasons that mannaz is a rune of the fetch, as man is the highest animal in which mind rules instinct. Paxon says that in studying mannaz, “we confront the question of what it means to be human.” We are both divine and animal. We may be distinguished by the powers of our intellect and memory, but we have animal urges as well. The essence of our humanity, perhaps, is the ability to relate to the rest of humankind.
My Take-Away of the Meanings: Biologically speaking, I think that humans are unique among the animals as being capable of true altruism. We don’t necessarily protect our kin out of a compulsion to keep a stable breeding pool. Instead, we’re capable of having empathy for people we’ve never seen in places we’ve never been. We can even extend this empathy to other animals. It’s the divine in us recognizing the divine in others.
Paxson’s Interpretation and Use: A diviner should consider all possible meanings of “gift” in a layout, including the gifts of the spirit, or a need to look at the nature of one’s interactions with others. Another area to consider is the balance between aspects of an individual’s life, or between the individual and his environment. It can have economic significance relating to job relationships and results. IT can also indicate a union or partnership of some kind. It may also refer to contracts, agreements, and alliances. It can be used as a general luck rune and to create a link between other forces or in spells of integration or balance.
Paxson’s Practice for Living Mannaz: Everyone wants to know where they came from, so it’s unsurprising that all peoples develop some myth to account for the origins of human kind. Read some of these myths from cultures extant and extinct, read what the latest scientific data infers what our origins may be. Read stories and myths that discuss how humanity has come together to form societies. When you have read, write your own story.