Greatest of all the water spirits, the sea god, Manannan mac Lir, has occasionally appeared, usually on some errand of mercy on the coast of Co. Mayo and he, or his son (or double), Oirbsen,^ of Loch Oirbsen (Loch Corrib), on the coast of Galway Bay. He has sometimes come to warn of the approach of a storm.
No doubt the pagan ancestors of the shore dwellers, worshipped him of old; and his reverence lingered when his. godhead was forgotten. The people live by the gifts of the sea, its fish, timber and seaweed, so naturally the gracious side of the-god was most felt, but there are also suggestions that his fierce cruelty was once felt. Anything that falls into the sea should not be retrieved : a hat blows off and Aran boatmen have refused to go after it.
A curious ceremony where young men naked on horseback are driven into Galway Bay and for some time kept from coming to land is very suggestive of a symbolic sacrifice. I am told that this has been in use near Spiddal, to. the west of Galway, in very recent years. Some fifty years ago I heard from Lord Kilannin that his father and others had to go to the rescue of some shipwrecked men whom the peasantry would neither help nor permit to land.
His relatives were eagerly warned of the disasters’to which they might be liable for saving anyone from the sea.