African Mythology:
The More Than Beautiful Woman

In African mythology there is a mermaid goddess called Mami Wata (water mother). Her cult is one of the most popular in Western and Central Africa. Her religion was carried to the New World by African slaves. She is a goddess in the cult of Voudun (which is different from that Hollywood Voodoo nonsense). She even influenced the myths of American Indians.

Mami Wata is described as the more than beautiful woman. Her beauty is so extreme it is supernatural. Her clothes are so new they seem to shine and more fashionable than any designer's. She possesses unimaginable wealth and dazzling jewelry. Often she is shown with a snake coiled around her waist, its head between her breasts. Her hair is black and straight and her skin is fair which are unusual traits in African mythology.

In her mermaid form she is naked. Since she is a goddess of wealth she may be shown with a gold mirror or a golden comb. Like the European mermaids she is often combing her long hair while gazing into that golden mirror.

Colors are important in this mythology and Mami Wata's colors are red and white. Red is the color of blood and death and violence - male qualities. White is spiritual, female and beauty. It also means transparent or clear. The fact that her colors have opposite meanings is an important characteristic of Mami Wata. Like many gods she is described in terms of opposites. This is a way of saying that her true nature is beyond all opposites and all things.

Mami Wata is a lot like those old Greek goddesses. Like them she is bold, capricious, generous and indifferent. She symbolizes in African mythology a natural force that does not follow human ideas of good and evil. She is a goddess of fertility, sexuality, healing, wealth and beauty. Notice that again we have a mermaid associated with the same basic things.

Mami Wata is marvelous. Here we have a goddess like Aphrodite or Astarte from a living cult. She has the attributes of a mermaid: the tail, the comb, mirror, long hair and beauty. She is a genuine goddess with followers who both love and fear her. She is an ancient goddess in modern times.

Compare this goddess from African mythology to Aphrodite.

Click here to read some African folk tales about Mami Wata.

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