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Meaning of mana

The meaning of mana

By jens Heijkoop

mana ˈmɑːnə/
noun
  1. Mana, in Austronesian languages, means “power”, “effectiveness”, and “prestige”. In most cases, this power is understood to be supernatural.

The word Mana has several meanings in different parts in the world however the first time I came across the word was during my travels in North Australia. For the Yolngu peoples of northeast Arnhem Land, certain ancestors who created potent sacred sites are known as ‘power totems’. These ancestors are central to the identity of the clans descended from them, and clansmen draw spiritual and physical strength by accessing their power through sacred designs, songs, and dances. Several Yolngu clans trace their identity to the ancestral whaler shark Mana (pronounced: MAR-na). According to the public version of the story, this ancestral being began his journey along the coast of northeast Arnhem Land. While sleeping on the beach, Mana was speared by an ancestor from another clan who did not want other creator beings near him. Enraged by this stealthy attack, Mana charged inland from the sea, exploding into the landscape.

“While sleeping on the beach, Mana was speared by an ancestor from another clan who did not want other creator beings near him”

The ancestral shark gouged his way inland using his teeth to carve out several river systems. As he journeyed onward, his teeth broke off on the hard riverbanks; these lost teeth became the pandanus trees which line rivers today. The leaves of these trees are dagger-shaped with serrated edges, like shark teeth. These trees represent both Mana’s anger at being speared and the stingray-spine tipped spear that Mana carried to avenge his death.

The name inspired us when we first laid eyes on our hill. If you follow the River Seixe which is full of fresh salty Atlantic water, you arrive at what we call today Mana village. Inspired by the native Australian Eucalyptus trees and rocky formations.

So I hear you thinking what does the Austronesian word Mana has to do with Portugal. As we are separated by land but connected by water, the shark Mana could have gone anywhere in the world and if you look closely at Odeceixe beach, the story of Mana make sense, the river, the spiky cliffs. Mana even left us a constant reminder of himself right on the beach!

“Mana even left us a constant reminder of himself right on Odeceixe beach!”

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