African Folk Tales
Mami Wata

The African folk tales about Mami Wata are contradictory: they show her as both the bringer of fortune and of misfortune. The reason is that she is a goddess, she is not and has never been human and thus has no understanding of the human condition. To her there is no difference between good and evil.


Mami Wata, in the form of a mermaid, sometimes splashes about in the water at the end of a rainbow after a heavy storm. On sunny days she may decide to sun bathe on a rock. She lives in a magical realm "underwater" a transparent land of pure spirit.

In some stories she will come up from her watery realm and assume the appearance of a beautiful mortal woman. She will go about to bars, flirting and giving the impression she is a loose woman. She will go to bed with a man and soon after he will find that he has contracted an STD, or become impotent. Mami Wata is sometimes used as a slang term for prostitute.

Other African folk tales are the opposite of the above. Mami Wata will come to a man who is one of her devoted followers. After a night of lust she will reveal her true identify to him and demand that he remain faithful to her. If he does she rewards him with wealth and a good life. If he ever breaks his word she will take from him all she has given and much more.

In some African folk tales Mami Wata takes people, men or women, away to her land beneath the water. These people are transformed by the experience. When they return to earth they are different, serene and strangely remote from the world around them. They are more beautiful and have become wealthy.

She appears to people in dreams, counseling them or granting them the boons of wealth, good health and children. There is a little contradiction here since Mami Wata denies children to those women who are her special favorites. Such women are chosen to represent Mami Wata in the human world and are otherwise granted beauty and wealth. This is why exceptionally beautiful women are sometimes called "Mami Wata".

Click here for more African folk tales about mermaids.

For more on Mami Wata see The More Than Beautiful Woman.

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