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Mana refers to a supernatural force said to exist within all things, sometimes associated with maternal or lunar magic in mythology

Table of contents
1 Polynesian origin
2 Universal archetype
3 Mana in fictional works
4 See also
5 Miscellaneous

Polynesian origin

The word originates in Polynesian religion, and its modern use is a result of the popularization of the concept by anthropology and, to a great extent, by certain varieties of fantasy fiction. In Polynesian culture (e.g., Hawaiian, Māori;), mana is analogous to respect, but it combines elements of respect, authority, power, and prestige. To have mana is to have influence and authority. This property is not limited to persons—peoples, governments, places, and inanimate objects can possess mana. In Hawaiian, mana loa means great power or almighty.

Universal archetype

The concept of mana has been, in various other cultures, the power of magic; however, it was not the only principle, and others included the concept of sympathetic magic and seeking the intervention of a specific supernatural being, whether deity, saint, or deceased ancestor.

The magic of mana was embedded into all talismans and fetishes, whether devoted to ancient gods, Roman Catholic saint relics, the spiritss of the ancestors, or the underlying element that makes up the universe and all life within it. It has, in the Christian context, been seen as a sort of ethereal blessing, hence the phrase: "Manna from heaven." (However, see below that the biblical concept relates to "manna" and not mana). The concept of mana has been used in various cultures to justify human sacrifices, as the lives or blood of sacrificial victims might contain supernatural powers whose offering would please a deity.

Related cultural concepts

The concept of a life-energy inherent in all living beings seems to be a fairly universal archetype, and appears in numerous ancient religions and systems of metaphysics (in addition to having been borrowed by George Lucas's science-fiction films).

Analogies to mana in other societies include:

Also related are the philosophical concepts of:


The Polynesian word "mana" is not to be confused with the Hebrew "manna", which referred the mysterious substance which (according to the Bible) was provided miraculously by God to the Hebrews in the desert. Some modern critics believe this may have been an edible wafer or sap of a variety of cactus found in the Sinai peninsula. Christian use of the word "manna" in reference to this, according to some, is thus unrelated to the Polynesian concept of "mana" (although there are definite archetypal similarities). Mana in the Hebrew language is translated to mean "what is it". When Jews consecrated some object to make it holy and endow it with special religious virtue, they gave it mana.

Mana in fictional works

In some fantasy settings and games (in particular role-playing games), "mana" is a natural energy resource which is used or channeled by wizards to cast spells. This use of the term was coined by Larry Niven in his 1978 novella, The Magic Goes Away, which deals with mana as a limited natural resource, becoming depleted. The use of the word outside of anthropological circles may well derive from this. Mana in this sense has been used in numerous role-playing games and computer role-playing games (e.g., GURPS and Diablo series), trading card games (), MUDs and MMORPGs (EverQuest), and strategy games (StarCraft and Warcraft series).

In Tolkien's universe, mana is a Quenya word believed to mean "what is". [1]

See also


Other unrelated uses of the word mana include: