Norse and Celt

In the early mists of myth Celtic people populated the Isle of Man led by the likes of Manannan Mac Lir (son of the sea) who was believed to be the Sea God but may have been a very savvy merchant and sailor who, in myth, took on the attributes of a God.  The islanders followed their gods and their calendar, with its cross quarter holidays (Midway between equinox and solstice.)  In the 5th century missionaries from Ireland converted the island to Christianity, but the old gods lived on in legend. 

A Mix of Norse and Celt designs on this chair. From the House of Manannan in Peel.

In the 9th Century Vikings invaded the island and many stayed.  Their pagan religion conflicted with the Celtic Christianity but had a certain appeal to people who for centuries had a different religion.  Politically the Vikings won control and established the “Kingdom of the Isles” including Man and the Hebrides.  While the Norse ruled the Celts assimilated the Norse culturally, although with some Nodic twists.  One Irishman told me that the Manx Langue is Irish spoken with a Norwegian Accent. 

In 1099 Magnus III of Norway became “King of Mann and the Isles.” The Kingdom of Mann was under the Norwegian crown until 1266 when King Magnus VI sold the island to Alexander III of Scotland. After that the island’s lord shifted back and forth between Scotland and England.  But the Island maintained an independent parliament, the Tynwald with its 24 member lower house, the “House of Keys.”  The Tynwald claims its history goes back to 979 and in 1979 celebrated its millennial claiming to be the oldest continuously sitting parliament in the world.  The Althing in Iceland may dispute that, it first sat in 930.  The key word is “continuous” although records of the Manx parliament’s continuity are sketchy.  But the Tynwald can claim to be one of the earliest developments in the evolution of modern democracy.

The King of England is also the “Lord of Mann”, but the island is not part of the United Kingdom and not part of the Commonwealth.  Brian noted that he saw more Manx flags flying than he sees Alaska flags on our state.  It is a nation that guards its identity.  Man has its own laws.

The Manx Flag

On our visit we passed by St. John, a high point on the island where the Tynwald meets.  We also visited Cashtal Rushen, in Castletown, a medieval castle with a good interpretation program.  I didn’t feel up to climbing the steep circular stairs so spent my visit talking with the Castle’s historian, Stuart, (while the kids climbed and explored) who has written the history of this Norse castle (which I am reading).  He’s a good storyteller, and at one point during his long explanation he interrupted himself to say “excuse me, I am a bit OCD.” (Obsessive Compulsive) I’ve been told that you need to be “a bit OCD” to be a good historian.  He didn’t only talk about the castle, but the Manx language and culture.

We also visited the town of Peel, with another old castle and the House of Manannan, which had a good interpretive program about Manx history (Later I will have a post on Manannan Mak Lir.)

This was Suzi’s and my second visit to the Island.  The last time was in March with just beginning its greening, this time we were there in early August, high summer in full bloom.  Here is a gallery of Manx photos, mostly from Douglas, the Capital.

No Manx cats except this one. But in this picture it looks like it has a VERY long tail.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.