“Man is the joy of man (and augmentation of the dust, and adorner of ships).” Love, Freya
I have to say that it continues to weird me out when Freya quotes rune poems at me, but maybe it’s just Her way of helping me out with my rune homework for Odin; who knows?
Anyway, the rune she quotes above is “Mannaz“, from the Icelandic rune poem. Mannaz is where we get our English word “man” (both in the sense of being a guy and in the sense of being human; here it is used to indicate humankind). It has a wide variety of meanings, all related to humanity: the human condition; humans in relationship with one another; the highest and best form a human soul can take, etc. A lot of authors point out that Mannaz’s stanzas appear to be the most heavily Christianized of all of the poems’ stanzas, because the Anglo-Saxon and Norse ones for Mannaz go on about how human flesh is weak and humans will eventually fail each other (precursor to the gloom and doom of The Lord of the Rings, anyone?). At least the Icelandic one gives a bit of hope that when humans turn to dust, it “ennobles” the dust (as Diana Paxon puts it, in Taking Up the Runes) and can “adorn” ships, whatever that means.
This is a concept of “humans are a boon to other humans” is repeated throughout the lore. In the Havamal, Odin (in disguise) gives a wide variety of useful advice for how to deal with one’s fellow humans. He says:
When I was young I wandered alone,
And wandered off the marked way;
Rich I thought myself when another I found,
Humans are man’s comfort. (Stanza 47)
So what does this mean for me or you, or humankind as a whole today? Go out and hug a friend, spend some time with your loved ones, be social; eventually, all we are is dust gracing the prow of a ship.