Are Mermaids Real In Nigeria?

A lot of stories have been told about mermaids. Most people believe in the existence of mermaids, while others see them as superstition. In folklore, a mermaid is a mythological creature with the head and upper body of a human, and the tail of a fish. These aquatic creatures are depicted in folklore in Europe, Asia, and most especially, Africa.

There are various stories about mermaids, who were said to have existed for thousands of years. Mermaids are said to live in the depth of rivers, seas, and oceans. Also, they are said to possess mystical powers that can bring danger or prosperity to anyone they encounter. Mermaids may be true just the way they appear in movies and books.

Lots of stories have been told to certify the existence of mermaids in Nigeria. Research work has been carried out and discoveries have been in countries with mystical beliefs like Nigeria.

Are There Mermaids in Nigeria?

mammy water

There are stories and records of mermaids in Nigeria, but these tales have not been proven. Still, some Nigerians believe in the existence of mermaids. That being said, the Nigerian culture does not consider mermaids as half-human and half-fish creatures. Rather, they are called “Mami Water”, also known as ‘Mami Wota’, ‘Mami Wata’, or ‘Mammy Water’.

What is a Mammy Water (Mami Wata)?

According to the African culture and tradition, Mami Wata are water spirits. Mami Wata is a pidgin English term for “Mother Water”, reflecting the water goddess’s title as ‘Grandmother of Water’ or ’Mother of Water’.

This water spirit is said to be very powerful and is quite popular in Nigeria, Benin, Angola, Togo, Ghana, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, and other parts of Africa. They are also revered in other parts of the world, including Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and Jamaica.

are mermaids real in nigeria

In Nigeria, the water spirit is portrayed as a mermaid. The Igbos call it ‘Mmuommiri’, which means Lady of the Waters. The Yorubas call it ‘Yemoja’, and the Edo people call it Obanamen/Oba n’amen, which means “King/Queen of the waters”. The Mami Wata is believed to possess sacred and divine powers.

She also has healing powers and can heal people with incurable and languorous diseases. She brings good fortune to her followers, who give her offerings like expensive goods, food, and drinks, alcohol, fragrant items (incense, pomade, perfume, soap, powder) in return.

The Mammy Water can also be fierce. She causes problems and brings doom to the worshippers who fail to obey her. People blame the water spirit for all sorts of misfortune.

The history of the Mami Water can be tracked to hundred of years ago when several water spirits were believed to live beneath the rivers in West Africa. In the 1500s, ships sailing from Europe began arriving on the West African coast. On these ships were statues and sculptures of mermaids that wear the same look as the African water spirits.

Stories and tales told by Igbo people claim that the water spirits (Muommiri) were half-human, half-fish. Other locals claim that the water spirits appear in the form of crocodiles and snakes. In the Idemili area of Anambra State and other parts of Igboland, it is forbidden for people to kill pythons (Eke) because such creatures are worshipped.

In some West African communities with streams and rivers, it is a taboo to go to stream after 8 pm. It is widely believed that is water spirits show up during the late hours of the night. There are stories of people who left for the stream at night but never returned. 

The water spirit is worshipped in most parts of Nigeria. For instance, traditional worshippers perform sacrifices at River Niger, and other streams to appease the spirits living in the water.

African mermaids

What Does a Mami Wata Look Like?

The Mami Wata is represented in the form of a mermaid or a mermaid with a snake, but this varies depending on the culture. In most African traditions, the water spirits could be represented as mermaids. That is, it is pictured with the lower half being half-fish and the upper half being half-human.

However, some mermaid spirits in Africa known as ‘Mamba Muntu’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are pictured to be holding snakes with her appearance and jewelry portraying foreign wealth.

While the water spirits are called ‘Mami Wata’ in many parts of West Africa, they have charming names in other countries.

  • Angola – Ndandalunda.
  • Benin – Mawu-Lisu.
  • Brazil – Yemonjá or Yemanjá.
  • Colombia – Mohana, Madre de agua.
  • Cuba – Yemanya or Yemaya.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo – La Sirène, Madame Poisson, Mamba Muntu.
  • Dominica – Maman de l’Eau, Maman Dlo, Mama Glo.
  • French Guiana – Manmandlo.
  • Ghana – Maame Water.
  • Grenada – Mamadjo.
  • Guadeloupe – Maman de l’Eau, Maman Dlo.
  • Guinea – Mamy Wata.
  • Guyana – Watramama.
  • Haiti and Sierra Leone – La Sirène, La Baleine.
  • Jamaica – River Mumma, River Mama, River Maiden.
  • Martinique – Lamanté, Manman Dlo, Maman Dilo.
  • Netherlands Antilles – Maman de l’Eau, Maman Dlo.
  • Nigeria – Igbo: Mmuommiri, Yoruba: Yemoja, Edo: Obanamen/Oba n’amen, Ibibio/Efik: Ndém, Humono: Mehyanyi.
  • Republic of the Congo – Bunzi, Kuitikuiti, Makanga, Mboze, Kambizi.
  • South Africa – Zulu: Mamlambo; Ndebele: NoMlambo
  • Suriname – Watermama, Watramama.
  • Trinidad and Tobago – Mama Dlo, Maman Dglo, Maman de l’Eau, Maman Dlo, Mama Glow.
  • Zimbabwe – Shona: Njuzu, Ndebele NoMlambo.

Records of Mermaid in the World

Throughout human history and existence, many people have claimed to have encountered mermaids, however, they are yet to be proven.

  • In 1493, Christopher Columbus claimed to have spotted 3 mermaids during his voyage in the ocean near Haiti.
  • In 1608, English explorer, Henry Hudson claimed to have spotted a mermaid while sailing near Norway.
  • In 1614, John Smith, who is known for his encounter with Pawhaten rescuer, Pocahontas, claimed to have spotted a fish-tailed mermaid.
  • Around 1910, numerous mermaids were reportedly sighted in Ireland.
  • There have been rumors and sightings of mermaids, but none have been confirmed or proved since the advent of the 21st century.