This is a subject I’ve been meaning to write a post on for a while. I’m sure that some of my readers have wondered (or if they haven’t, I’m sure they will!) why I chose to spell “manna” the way I did in the Eisengoth stories. There are actually a few reasons, and I’ll go into some of them (and the reasons why) after some brief history.
According to Wikipedia:
Mana is an indigenous Pacific islander concept of an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects. The word is a cognate in many Oceanic languages, including Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian.
In anthropological discourse, mana as a generalized concept is often understood as a precursor to formal religion. It has commonly been interpreted as “the stuff of which magic is formed,” as well as the substance of which souls are made.
Modern fantasy fiction, computer and role-playing games have adopted mana as a term for magic points, an expendable (and most often rechargeable) resource out of which magic users form their magical spells.
Okay, that’s a start. Now for the other:
Manna (Hebrew: מָן) or al-Mann wa al-Salwa (Arabic: المَنّ و السلوى, Kurdish: gezo, Persian: ترنجبين), sometimes or archaically spelled mana, is an edible substance that some[who?] believe God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert according to the Bible and the Qur’an.
So, in both cases, we have a spiritual connection. “Mana” is more of an impersonal force, and the term has been heavily co-opted by the RPG and video game industries as a countdown, a kind of numerical tracker to tell you how many spells you have left to cast in a single day. That’s what it means in the common parlance; “mana” is how many spell points you have left for the day, or until you quaff a mana potion.
On the other hand, manna is something different. It’s the undefined substance that YHWH provided to the Israelites as food. It was their sole source of nourishment for almost forty years, described as drops of dew which could be harvested and turned into bread. Each person could only gather enough for themselves, so it was constantly in motion. Any which was kept spoiled quickly, rendering it unusable.
So why did I choose the one with religious connotations?
Firstly, I did it because I wanted to distinguish the life force of Eisengoth from the video game model. It’s not a countdown, and it’s not something which limits the Arbiters. It’s a living life-force which has a (minor spoilers) divine origin.
For the Arbiters, it is also their sole sustenance.
An Arbiter need not eat nor drink. They require no other sustenance than that provided to them by the power of the heartblade, which injects them with raw manna. True, the method of intake is different, but the principle (for the Arbiters, at least) is much closer to the religious version than the video game one. They eat, drink and breathe manna; it is everything to them, for without it, they are nothing. By it, they are indefinitely sustained, barring sudden or violent death. If left untended or hoarded, the manna in Eisengoth turns corrupt and dark; it spoils, and these snarls can only be untangled by those who live and breathe it.
Sure, I could have spelled it with one ‘n’, and accepted the modern terminology. With that, I would have struggled to differentiate the life-flows and the Arbiter’s sustenance from the common video game parlance. The heartblade (a spiritual and reverent device) would have been nothing more than a glorified mana potion. It would have fixed an idea in the readers’ minds, because I would have been utilizing a shortcut, when that shortcut did not truly describe my intentions.
For better or worse, that’s why I did it. Every artist makes a choice here or there when they need to distinguish a key piece of their work, and that’s the choice I made.