August 1, 2012 - Laa Luanys in the Isle of Man

A festival of lights! And a harvest festival!

Traditionally, this Celtic festival involved climbing a hill to gather bilberries, feasting with family, building bonfires, and a whole lot of dancing.

Since the people celebrated on hilltops, you can imagine why this festival was known as the festival of lights—can you imagine seeing flickering firelight from numerous nearby hilltops, as people danced around their bonfires?

However, I didn't find evidence that this holiday is celebrated much these days on the Isle of Man.

(Another name for this Celtic festival is Lammas. See this earlier post for how the holiday is celebrated in Scotland.) 

The Isle of Man? The Kingdom of Mann? Manx?

World-famous for a yearly two-week-long motorcycle race, which is nicknamed the TT, the Isle of Man is located between the two major British Isles. On a world map, the Isle of Man is just a speck between the main island of England/Scotland/Wales, and the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is not part of the United Kingdom, as I expected it to be, but is a self-governing “British Crown Dependency.” It's a complicated thing, this “dependency” status—residents of the Isle of Man have passports that state that they are “British Citizens,” but they are not considered part of the European Union, as most British citizens are, so they lack certain rights in E.U. countries

Inhabited since before 6500 B.C.E., the people of the island were influenced first by Gaelic culture and later by Norse traditions. The language of Manx, which is an offshoot of Gaelic, is one of the official languages on the island, but of course, these days most Manx people speak English.

The "Three Legs of
Man" is a curious
symbol found on the
Manx flag and shield.
As I was reading about the history of the island, I kept coming up with references to “Mann” with two “N”s. The “Mann flag,” the “Kingdom of Mann,” the “Lords of Mann,” and other references make me believe that the island name used to have two “N”s, back when it was a translation of the Manx name “Ellan Vannin.”

As I read that the Romans used to call the Isle of Man “Mona,” I remembered that the third book of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series (books based on legends from Wales, which is quite close to the Isle of Man) was set on the Isle of Mona! I was excited to see this connection—but I checked on Google and found out that the fictional Isle of Mona, in the kingdom of Prydain, is really based on an island that is much larger and much, much closer to Wales: the Isle of Anglesey. Apparently, the Isle of Mona is Anglesey's original name!

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