Máni is attested in the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, and in Tacitus’s Germania. He is the god of the moon, and brother of the 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 associated with the keeping of time. Like his Sól he is described as beautiful, but with 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 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. It is thought that the finality of Ragnarök is a Christian convention, invented (or at least passed along) by Snorri Sturlson, and that perhaps in early myth the wolves chasing and gaining upon the celestial lights was cyclical rather than apocalyptic.
Some tales cast Máni and his family as gods and others as 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 also ancient, and fundamental across Indo-European religions.
Máni is said to be attended by two child-spirits – a girl Bil, and a boy, Hjuki. Bil and Hjuki are depicted as carrying pails of water, 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 water, and Hjuki increase, filling up his pails with water: the two symbolize the waning and waxing of the moon, and its connection to tidal bodies of water.
Máni is called by different poetic names according to the nine realms of Norse myth. He is called “Moon” by humanity, “The Fiery One” by the gods, “The Whirling Wheel” in Helheim, “The Hastener” by giants, “The Shiner” by Dwarfs, and “The Counter of Years” by the Alfar.
As god of the moon, one of Máni‘s chief roles is to help humankind to tell the time and date, and to prepare for the growing season. He is not the moon itself, but rather it’s guide, and is described as steering a chariot in which the heavenly body is placed. The phases of the moon are said to 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 there is evidence that his sister was worshiped, and he figures as a central part of her mythos. Ancient Germanic religion did not see Sun and Moon as opposites, but as companion sibling forces who accompany one another through the sky.
In Baltic Europe, Sól was worshiped as a major deity under the name of Saule. Máni was likely a part of his sister’s widespread religious reverence, and he was invoked in many spells throughout Scandinavia, Germany and England. He was also one of the few gods associated 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 ask for his assistance in fortune-telling.
The name of the week, Monday is named after him.
Thoughts on Máni
Máni is invoked by modern Heathens as a protector of children, especially abused or vulnerable children, as he protects and guides Bil and Hjuki.
To the Germanic people, the moon was a masculine presence, just as it was known to the ancient Egyptians (as the undead god 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 seemed to be associated with women’s cycles by Northern pagans.
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 helpful 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. The Lunula, a stylized crescent jewelry motif, has also survived through many Norse and Slavic cultures as a symbol of the moon.
Signs and Symbols
The moon, silver, astrology, and crescent shapes. The lunula. Herbalism, time, clocks, magic, and stone circles. Monday, calendars, tides, the night.
Manni, Moon (English), Meness (Baltic)