Máni is attested in the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, and in Tacitus’s Germania. He is the god of the moon, and the twin brother of goddess of the sun, Sól. It is from him we get our famous Man-in-the-Moon in English folklore.
Along with his sister and their father, Mundilfäri, Máni is one of the gods of time. Like his sister, he is described as exceptionally beautiful, with raven-dark hair and silver eyes. In Voluspa, he is described as serving the Æsir “in order to be able to reckon the year.”
Both Sól and Máni are pursued, ceaselessly, by a pair of wolves, and are destined to be caught up with and devoured by them at Ragnarök. Lunar eclipses were thought to be times when Hati (“Hate”) the wolf who pursues Máni, gets dangerously close to him. Some tales count Máni and his family among the gods, and others as being of the Jötnar, being especially ancient powers who appeared during the creation of the cosmos. The idea of the sun and moon as pulled by horse-drawn chariots is ancient, and fundamental across Indo-European religions.
Máni is attended by two child spirits, a girl Bil, and a boy, Hjuki. Bil and Hjuki are depicted as carrying pails of water in tow, and are the figures behind the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water.” Bil’s name means to decrease or lessen, pouring out the water, and Hjuki’s name means to increase, filling up his pails with water: the two of them symbolize the waning and waxing of the moon, and it’s connection to bodies of water.
Máni is known by different names according to the nine realms of Norse myth, being called “moon” by mankind, “the fiery one” by the gods, “the whirling wheel” in Hel, “the hastener” by the giants,“the shiner” by the dwarfs, and “the counter of years” by the alfar (elves).
As god of the moon, one of Máni‘s chief roles is to help humankind to tell the time and date. He is not the moon itself, but rather it’s guide, and is described as steering a celestial chariot in which the heavenly body is placed. The phases of the moon are said to be under Máni’s control, and they represent his endless running, dodging, swerving and evading the wolf who chases him. His moon chariot is drawn by a horse named Hrimfaxi, whose name means “Rime” or “Frost Mane”.
There is little evidence of a cult dedicated specifically to Máni, however his sister did receive worship, and he figures in as part of her mythos, a companion deity and background player in the Northern mythical landscape.
In Baltic Europe, Sól was worshiped as a major deity under the name of Saule. Máni is thus a part of his sister’s religious reverence, and the broader, pluralistic and polytheistic worldview of the North. Ancient Germanic religion did not see Sun and Moon as opposites, rather as companion sibling forces who accompany one another. Thus when you work with one, you likely get the other as a bonus.
Máni in particular was invoked in many spells throughout Scandinavia, Germany and England. He is connected with seiðr, or witchcraft. In Havamal he is connected with curses and blessings, and many inscriptions on stones and at graves invoke his protection for the living and the dead, and also ask for his assistance in fortune-telling.
The name of the week, Monday is named after him.
Thoughts on Máni
Máni is invoked by many Heathens as a protector of children, especially abused or vulnerable children, as he protects and guides Bil and Hjuki.
Many New Age traditions attribute the moon to feminine personage and energy, but to the Germanic and Norse people, the moon is a masculine presence, just as it was known to the ancient Egyptians (as Khonsu). Máni does have a connection to the feminine, however: the influence of the moon on women’s menstrual cycles was acknowledged and well understood, and Máni was thought of as a sort of dark lover of womankind.
European folkloric traditions about the moon’s influence on the fertility of crops, and blessings in love and marriage, are attributed to Máni, and he is credited with helping in any magical venture involving increase or decrease.
Jacob Grimm writes about Máni as a helper in increasing financial abundance, and Tacitus notes that observation of the moon’s phases mark the holy days, and good times for planting and harvesting.
Many Anglo-Saxon lunaria survive – texts which predict all manner of phenomena, from weather to human fate based on movements of the moon. Lunar astrology was significant for the ancient English and Germanic peoples, whose calendars were lunar.
Signs and Symbols
The moon, silver, astrology, and crescent shapes. Herbalism, time, clocks, magic, and stone circles. Monday, calendars, tides, the night, and flowing motifs.
Manni, Moon (English), Meness (Baltic)