Episode 39: Water Fae: Mami Wata
The folklore of Mami Wata in a nutshell and how I reimagined her for my writing.
Written and narrated by Ronel Janse van Vuuren.
Copyright 2022 Ronel Janse van Vuuren — All rights reserved.
Learn more about Mami Wata here.
Get the transcript here.
Music: Secrets by David Fesliyan (FesliyanStudios.com) and Dramatic Heartbeat by FesliyanStudios.com
You’re listening to the Faeries and Folklore podcast by Ronel.
I’m dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. With nearly a decade of digging around in dusty folklore books, researching creatures of imagination that ignited my curiosity, I’m here to share the folklore in a nutshell and how I reimagined it for my writing in an origin of the fae.
This is the Faeries and Folklore podcast.
Hi, I’m your host Ronel Janse van Vuuren. You can just call me Ronel. In today’s episode, we’re continuing our exploration of the fae realm.
This episode is brought to you by my book Once… Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie available in eBook, audiobook and paperback. Learn more at ronelthemythmaker.com/my-books.
We’re continuing our exploration of Water Fae.
Today’s Faery: Mami Wata
Folklore in a nutshell by Ronel
Mami Wata or La Sirene is a water spirit venerated in West, Central, and Southern Africa, as well as all the places African slaves were sent to in the Atlantic islands and southern North America (known as the African Diaspora).
Mami Wata has been depicted as a classical mermaid, combing her hair while sitting on the rocks of a river, waiting for her prey, and as a beautiful snake charmer. In either incarnation, she seeks one thing: devotion. She is usually seen with long, healthy hair, enviable beauty and a dark, appealing mysteriousness. She also appears to be the same ethnicity as the women in the area she is in.
She can even turn into a tornado – though that seems to be an aspect of another water spirit amalgamated, as so many others, under the umbrella of “Mami Wata”. Which seems to be confirmed by one of her high priests in West Africa when he says that “the Mami Wata tradition consists of a huge pantheon of deities and spirits, not just the often portrayed mermaid”. Not that anyone outside the priesthood is supposed to know anything more…
Mami Wata can grant her devotees wealth, wisdom, healing, divinatory powers, fame, and beauty. She can also just as easily take it away. She’s been known to cause disease and natural disasters when displeased. Her followers dance in her honour, usually going into a trance state where they commune with her. They also leave her offerings of jewellery and sweet smelling soaps at the many shrines devoted to her. More often than not, Mami Wata prefers to interact with her followers in a one-on-one situation, sometimes taking them to her underwater palace – this is especially true of her male devotees. She usually demands sexual fidelity from her male devotees in exchange for the riches they seek – failure to comply results in ruin.
The mirror, one of her symbols, is how she communicates with her followers. It also represents movement between the present and the future: her devotees can see themselves not as they are, but as they will be in the future Mami Wata will create for them.
The snake, another one of her symbols, represents both divinity and the art of divination.
Mami Wata has a very special role: to protect the bodies of water. Many traditional groups will not go to the beach or fish on special days to honour her home.
No matter what you think she looks like, she is a water goddess to be loved and feared in equal measure.
And now for my interpretation of the fae in an origin of the fae: Mami Wata
She’s the Queen of the Water Fae. She can appear as a mermaid or a human – she can breathe air or water in either form.
She’s a renowned figure of African Folklore, and stories of her went with African slaves to their new homes in the Atlantic islands and southern North America. Mortals cry out to her for justice and guidance – which she supplies at a price: devotion. The power of mortal belief fuels her glamour (magical powers).
Mami Wata is a beautiful Black woman who is usually associated with snakes, mirrors and jewellery. If one wanted to contact her, thinking about her while staring at any of these objects will usually call her to you.
The Jengu do whatever she wishes. They are extremely loyal to her. All water fae show fealty to her, but she is only their ruler through might.
As with all mermaids, she is shrouded in mysticism, attractiveness and, of course, vengeance. Her magical powers rival (and can surpass) that of any High Fae.
She is the biggest opposition to the Obayifo (as they destroy all life and the basis of her powers lie within human life).
She has an underwater palace, though none who have gone there have any recollection of its location or what it looks like, just a feeling of opulence.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the faeries and folklore podcast and that you’ve learned something new about faeries.
Remember that you can get a transcript of this episode in the description. If you’re new to the podcast, why not go and grab your free copy of Unseen, the second book in the Faery Tales series, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com? Loads of folklore, magic and danger await! Take care!
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