A to Z Challenge Folklore

Jengu: The Mermaid from Africa #folklore #AtoZChallenge

J is for Jengu

Learn more here.

If there is a big body of water, stories of merfolk can be found.

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The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

An African water spirit in southern Cameroon beliefs, the jengu, dwelling in rivers, streams, and the sea, is a benevolent and healing force who also acts as an intermediary between the people and their spirit world. Sometimes described as having the appearance of a mermaid, it also possesses healing powers and can bring good luck and prosperity to those who believe in it.

*More can be read in the book.

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Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Jengu (plural: miengu)

Among the Duala people of the Cameroonian coast a jengu are a species of water-spirit still widely and openly worshipped in modern times. The miengu are said to live in rivers and in the sea and are described as looking rather like mermaids, having long wooly hair and a gap-tooth smile. Having the ability to control the quality of fishing the miengu are worshipped and allowed to take part in possession rituals.

*More can be read in the book.

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Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Jengu, miengu, liengu, maengu – depending on the region, the name and the plural changes. So let’s just stick with jengu. They are native to Cameroon, a Central African country on the Gulf of Guinea. The jengu are typically beautiful mermaids with long hair and gap-toothed smiles, resembling the humans living on the shore in ethnicity and in their choice of accessories. They reside in rivers and the sea, bringing good luck to their worshippers. Among their powers is the job of intermediary between humans and the spirit world (most likely other fae) and the power to cure disease. The jengu are linked to Mami Wata, an important African water spirit.

There’s even a jengu cult! We’ll not get into that, but these water fae are definitely thoroughly worshipped by mortals.

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Jengu in Modern Culture

Warriors of Myth

This creature has made it into the Warriors of Myth wiki!

The Jengu looks like a mermaid or merman of African descent. From the waist up, its skin is Black, its hair color and texture is full and wooly, and its face is very close in resemblance to surface dwellers from the surrounding lands.
Below the waist, its fish tail is similar to that of the various fish that live within its waters, although longer and more serpentine, as fitting proportions to the Jengu’s body.

Jengu as on the Warriors of Myth wiki.

As the name of a company

The Jengu is a mermaid-like creature with origins in African mythology, legend and folklore believed to be reborn as a child with no name to become the savor of floods, have power over water and move it in whatever way they wish. As it is with the mythical Jengu, our company is committed to being the force that allows your business to navigate today’s increasingly competitive waters. It takes a precise wave of marketing to gets brands noticed, get people talking and, above all, get results. That was precisely the plan when we started The Jengu Group. As digital marketers, we serve sophisticated, specialized clients while offering more personalized, flexible and cost effective services.
We’re different. We don’t settle for ideas that just keeps businesses above water. We get consumers to take measurable action that can rise above the flood and move our clients’ businesses forward. No wonder so many great brands trust us to help them navigate the marketing seas of their brands and businesses.

From the Jengu Group website.

In Books

I was only able to find reference to a Jengu in one book:

Set in beautiful Peru, Legendary tells the story of Inti, god of the sun, and his quest to save Killa, goddess of the moon. After learning his love was kidnapped from the sky, Inti sets out to rescue her and bring her home to Machu Picchu. Joined by a Celtic war goddess, a Nabatean caravan god, and a young river goddess from Cameroon, he begs a mountain for information, fights with a monkey, and learns to let go of his fear and rage. Meanwhile, Killa is trapped by the water dragon’s daughter, and must keep herself safe and her captor docile while she searches for a way to escape.

One character in the story is Jengu, a Cameroonian river goddess. She’s a young girl, thirteen or fourteen (or the immortal equivalent anyway), and she follows Inti, god of the sun, on his quest to find Killa, the kidnapped moon goddess. She’s very much a tag-a-long kid, but she’s still good company and very useful when it comes to coaxing information out of stuffy old mountain gods. She was a lot of fun to write, and one of my favorite characters. That is enough for the second of of my mythology essays to focus on her.

From the author’s blog.

Jengu in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Jengu

Singular: Jengu. Plural: Miengu.
Water Fae who are extremely loyal to Mami Wata.
They have a strong influence on African Folklore and are usually associated with Mami Wata.
They resemble mermaids, with yellow and green hair. Their fish tails are mostly silver, reflecting the colours found in the water they swim in.
They smile a lot. They have gaps between their front teeth. They also like to giggle.
Mostly they talk in their own language that involves a lot of clicking noises, like the noise made by crab claws or insects.
They have power over water. They can make it move in whatever way they wish.
They will ally themselves with anyone who protects Nature – and especially those who go up against the Obayifo.

jengu translation english afrikaans
love bites book extract
Coming soon.

I hope you found this interesting. Where did you hear about the Jengu for the first time? What are your thoughts about this creature? Any stories about the Jengu you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the Jengu.

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6 thoughts on “Jengu: The Mermaid from Africa #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. It’s so interesting how different cultures have the same mythological creatures, though sometimes in different forms. I wouldn’t have thought of African mythology as having mermaids.

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