In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids do appear in folklore in Europe, Africa, and Asia. There have been stories of mermaids to have existed for thousands of years deep in the depths of the ocean. They are also said to have mystical powers which could bring prosperity or doom to anyone they encounter. However, most times, mermaids are only as true as movies portray them.
research as to if mermaids do exist and if they could also be found in countries with deep traditional roots like Nigeria
Are There Mermaids in Nigeria?
No, there have been no records of mermaids in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian culture doesn’t really consider these half-human, half-fish creatures to be mermaids. In Nigeria, they are called Mami Wata.
What is a Mami Wata?
Mami Wata are water spirits and according to African tradition, one of the most powerful of African water spirits. This water spirit is represented as a woman and still quite popular in Nigeria and several parts of Africa. She is most often portrayed as a mermaid and among locals especially in Nigeria, all mermaids are referred to as Mami Wata.
As a water spirit, Mami Wata is thought to possess divine powers. She could heal the sick and bring good fortune to her followers. She was also ferocious, causing problems and the downfall of those that did not obey. While most locals would think that the name Mami Wata was crafted from their inability to properly identify the water spirit, it actually comes from the English words, Mammy Water.
The story of the Mami Water can be traced back hundreds of years ago, when numerous water spirits were said to live in West Africa. Stories told by the Igbo people and other locals talked about water spirits that were half-fish, half-human with many of them looking more like snakes or crocodiles.
In the 1500s, ships from Europe began arriving in West Africa. On them were statues of mermaids that look similar to the African water spirits. With time, the European mermaid legend blended with the local tales and that’s how the most powerful water spirit in many African countries began represented.
How Does a Mami Wata Look Like?
Depending on the culture, the Mami Wata could be represented as a mermaid or a mermaid with snake. In most African Water spirit representations, the Mami Water is always picture as a mermaid, with the top half being half-human and the lower half being half-fish. However, some African mermaid water spirits known as Mamba Muntu are shown to be holding snakes with her appearance and jewelry representing foreign wealth.
Mermaids in Other Tales
While they are called Mami Wata in many parts of West Africa, other countries have more charming names for these water creatures. In Haiti, these female water spirits are honored in shrines and referred to as Lasirn.
Throughout history, many people have testified to having encounters with mermaids but none has even been proven.
- In the ocean near Haiti in 1493, Christopher Columbus claimed he sighted three mermaids during his voyage.
- John Smith who famous for his encounter with Pawhaten rescuer, Pocahontas, claimed in 1614 to have seen a fish-tailed mermaid.
- English explorer Henry Hudsons also claimed to have seen a mermaid in 1608 while sailing near Norway
- As of 1910, several mermaid sightings were reported in Ireland.
- There have been many more sightings, however, there have been no reported sightings since the 21st century.