Mana Energy

Flowing Mana energy

Mana Energy

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Mana energy is a concept connected to the Polynesians, the prevailing ethnic group of the South Pacific islands including Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa, and the Melanesians, who are the main peoples of Fiji, New Guinea, and Tonga among others. It is a word from the aforementioned culture’s Australasian language group that is often translated in a number of ways ranging from “supernatural force”, “thunder”, “efficacy of the gods”, “influence”, or “power”.

It is viewed as neither benevolent nor malevolent, nor is it seen as being helpful or harmful. It just is. However, mana energy is usually seen as a power or force that is connected to objects and does not exist independently in the universe.

A group of Polynesians who are native to Polynesia.
Mana energy is a concept associated with the Polynesians, who form an ethnolinguistic group of closely related people who are native to Polynesia (islands in the Polynesian Triangle), an expansive region of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean.

The Concept of Mana

Missionary R.H. Coddington was one of the first western anthropologists to study deeply into the concept of mana, though his primary concern was using it to bring a Christian religion to the region. The term has caused a lot of trouble for anthropologists and linguists, and no perfect translation exists.

One difficulty is that there seems to be a need to view the word out of context, but the meaning can change markedly depending on the situation. In general, it can be understood as being anything that is outside of the normal powers of man. It seems to be a key to truly understanding some of the deeper nuances of Pacific culture.

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It would not be wise though to view this concept as universal across all of Polynesia and Melanesia, as these are often distinct cultures with their own beliefs, separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean.


In Hawaii, mana can be an energy or power that can be concentrated in both living things and natural objects. It is an energy that can be lost or gained. Sexual activity and fighting are both viewed as ways one can gain energy. There are also certain places that are believed to possess a large amount of mana. Two in Hawaii are the volcano of Haleakala on Maui and the sites of battles on Molokai.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s traditional use of the word is a bit different. It is something that somebody is born with, passed down from higher beings called kawai tipuna. Chiefs and their kin are considered to be of higher birth, more closely related to kawai tipuna and therefore are possessed or more mana. It was not uncommon to carefully mate high ranking families to keep mana levels high. It almost seems as if mana in this way can be seen as influence or political power. However, it can be acquired throughout one’s life, but also lost, primarily through their actions.

For example, being a skilled warrior or even an artist can increase one’s mana, as can having a deep knowledge of the past. It can be lost through carelessness, not finishing jobs, unwarranted hurting or insulting a person, or an abuse of one’s influence. Certain places have more mana than others. Inanimate objects such as certain objects or the heirlooms of powerful families can be possessed of it.

A full exploration of all the meanings of and uses of words across cultures is something that would require the scope of a whole book, so this article will stop with only the two aforementioned examples, but from just these one can see the nuance of the topic.

Origin of Concept

Given that many of the regions that utilize the concept of mana were non-literate before coming into contact with European settlers, it is difficult to explore how the philosophy surrounding it has evolved or where it started from.

One such culture that did have writing was some Fijin cultures and in older texts, mana has a connection to speech. However, modern anthropologists have already seen the concept change in the last couple hundred years.

Modern Use of “Mana

With the rise of Christianity in these regions, mana has been linked with the church. For example, Christian priests are now thought to bring mana, which may be viewed as an extension of God’s grace and his power.

Mana has also taken a more political meaning over the years. It can be seen as a synonym for political power or authority. For example, in the Hawaiian constitution of 1852, the term is employed to mean a branch of the government.

Uses of Mana

Although mana energy is sometimes listed as a synonym of other concepts of energy and power such as qi / chi and prana, as seen from above, it is a poor model. This has not stopped new agers from adopting it into their healing philosophies.

It is one of those buzzwords that can be thrown onto a particular product to make it seem more mystical or give it some sort of relevancy or exoticism. This is especially noticeable in products that come from Hawaii or other Pacific ring islands.

Using Mana for Healing

The modern movement of using mana energy for healing was popularized by Max Freedom Long. He claimed that a museum curator named William Tufts Brigham used a large portion of his life exploring the concept during his years living in Hawaii.

Long started the Huna Research group. He found that mana could be used for healing, combining these ideas with the healing theories of Wilhelm Reich. One his followers even developed a machine that was marketed as being able to sharpen razor blades.

Max Freedom Long the author of Mana or Vital Force
Max Freedom Long (1890-1971) found that mana could be used for healing.

Others have used it as a marketable name to differentiate their healing methods from other popular styles such as reiki and chakra healing, but there seems to be little that has to do with the traditional meaning of mana used by Australasian peoples. It is the typical mix of massage, dietary recommendations, and energy manipulation.

At worst, these uses of the idea can be seen as a damaging form of cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, the “modern mana healing machine” seems to show no sign of slowing down.

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Mana in Art and Pop Culture

Mana is often used in modern Oceanic literature. It has a clear link to the past culture. It has for example lent its name to a literature magazine.

Mana has found some popularity in gaming circles. The collectable card game Magic: The Gathering uses the name mana for their cost of spells. It has also found use in various video games, especially those produced by Blizzard Entertainment such as the Diablo series and the massively popular World of Warcraft series.

These have helped bring the term to the collective consciousness of the west, though with little connection to the original use of the term.

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