Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mermaid or "Mammy water"

My hubby was reading a children’s story to our almost- two- year old today.
He began the story with
“Once upon a time there lived a mermaid…..otherwise called Mammy water….”
I burst out laughing at this addition to the story, I laughed so hard he looked at me bewildered.
“You have no idea the depth of the statement you just made”, I told him recovering from the poignant humor that had overwhelmed me.
Since childhood I have heard stories of “mammy water”, she is a ‘mythical’ water spirit\goddess\demon, depending on who is telling the story? This half woman -half fish is rumored to be very beautiful, with spotless fair complexioned skin, and long beautiful black hair. She comes out of the river taking her full human form to lure men to unexpected death. Our mammy water is nothing like the beautiful mermaid Walt Disney has made famous.

Growing up in Nigeria, superstitions are an inseparable part of life. Fear of “ritual killings”, having your genitals stolen by the touch of passersby, or turning into a tuber of yam if you pick up money from the ground. These are just a few a few things one has in mind as a child. I have heard and read “testimonies” of born-again “ex witches” who claim to have converted other children to witch craft by giving them sweets, biscuits or even by lending them a piece of clothing, at night the witches and their new converts will take the form of birds and fly to their meeting place.
…….And the village, how can anyone forget the village, rural communities are not just known for their lack of electricity, water supply and modern plumbing systems but also for being the HQ for all witchcraft. The extreme paranoia embedded in the mind of young children all over Nigeria will take generations to efface. “Don’t drink water or eat food in any house in the village, don’t give money to anyone or they can use it to cast an evil spell on you”, the list of warning are long and tedious.
I have always found it shocking that an innocent person can fall sick or die from the activities of some jealous or vindictive individual. It’s never made sense to me that despite how religious Nigerian’s are we are still so fetish. I guess it’s nothing new; many other societies have been superstitious in the past. Asia, Europe and all other continents have had a period in their development of social thought when religion and superstition ruled.
In Han dynasty China (206 bc-ad 220), realist philosopher Wang Chong rejected popular superstitions, denying that any special connection exists between humans and cosmic forces. He insists that the validity of ideas should be based upon the evidence of reason alone. He is the earliest recorded Philosopher to recommend reason over rituals.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, Europe had its time of witch hunting mania, when all magical powers previously accepted in traditional societies became ‘evil’. Fortunately for them, “The Age of Enlightenment” arrived, a period when reason was considered the ideal way of considering all matters, issues such as witch hunting was now considered with some skepticism. This period was heralded by Isaac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity.

Suddenly, possibilities abounded. If the Laws of nature could be deciphered, then all can be explained. As Long as man reasoned instead blindly believing; humanity can indeed be saved. There would be no end to the progress that man could initiate, in technology, nature and even morality; at least for most of Europe...

When Nigerians begin to reason?

When we do, maybe mammy water will no more be demonized or feared, or simply just ignored (if she even exists) and as the "Age of enlightenment" in Europe gave birth to the French Revelotion, our Enlightenment; use of reason over superstition will lead to an African Revolution, an evolution of our culture.

Believe me it will! Many corrupt political leaders in Nigeria today go unchallenged because they are believed to have supernatural powers.
Imagine if we no longer feared them, especially not becasue they could send their minions to turture us to death, at least not in the 'spiritual Realm'.

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night,
God said, ‘Let Newton be,’ and all was light”

Alexander Pope


Jeremy said...

Good post. When I tell Nigerians about various English superstitions (don't walk under ladders, don't break a mirror for fear of 7 years of bad luck, always greet the magpie etc etc) they are always surprised. Superstition runs deep in most cultures. That said, you're right, the Enlightenment philosphers did much to dislodge the power of myth and hearsay in the West. It suits the powers that be that people still believe in such things in Nigeria.. Englightenments are always dangerous for those who profit from myth..

Kelli said...

Thank you for posting this information. When I
first read about this I knew that I needed to do something about this, so I created three petitions to help these children.

Could you please consider signing them for the


Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt


Stop Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries of

Nigeria from hurting anymore precious children

for money.



Stop the churches in Nigeria from endangering

children's lives to extort money from there




If you have already signed Thank you. Please

pass this on to your friends.

Thank you for all you do.

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