The Water Aunty (Southern African Mermaid)
For centuries, merepeople have been the talk of various cultures. The beautiful, alluring sirens of the seas were known to lure unsuspecting sailors to their imminent deaths.
However, while the seven seas were rumoured to be riddled with memaids, its uncommon to hear about fresh water cryptids of this kind. That is, unless you’re African.
There are countless stories of merfolk in African culture, particularly in the western and southern parts of this continent. But some you will find in the most unsuspecting places imaginable.
Pale skin, black hair, red eyes and fish or serpent tails – don’t mention size ever
Njuzu – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a land locked country found north of South Africa. This is why it is particularly interesting that tales of mermaids are stronger than ever in this community. There is literally no ocean around the country whatsoever. But who’s to say mermaids can’t be fresh water creatures? This is exactly what the people of Zim believe.
The Njuzu of Zimbabwe are known to be evil water spirits. They are said to plague the people from time to time. The accounts of the Njuzu vary considerably. In some places, it is believed that they will only attack men. In other areas, they are known to attack anything basically.
However, what’s interesting about the Njuzu is that, unlike other mermaids who have become the stuff of legends, their story is still incredibly prominent in modern Zimbabwe.
In 2012 a stunning headline hit the Daily Mail, and honestly, it sounded like nothing more than click bate.
“Reason for Zimbabwe reservoir delays… mermaids have been hounding workers away!”
That was literally the title of Dan Newling’s article, released on the 6th of February 2012. However, the story is far from the fairy tale its title portrays it to be.
In the year of 2012, two major reservoirs near Gokwe and Mutare needed desperate work. As such, a team of locals were quickly assembled, and the men got to work. However, they kept noticing that their tools would go missing, and certain things they had fixed had been forcefully broken.
Naturally, speculation turns to people protesting the reservoirs construction. Perhaps an opposing political party wanted to halt Mugabe’s reservoir developments.
However, things took a turn for the worse when workers began to disappear. A considerable number of men disappeared at an alarming rate. Although concerning, the superiors just thought perhaps the men had lost interest in the job.
That was until bodies began to wash ashore.
Soon, the men refused to return to site, claiming to have seen a mermaid dragging their co-workers into the murky abyss. The water resources minister, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, reported to a parliamentary committee that local workers refused to return to the construction sites on account of being terrified of mermaids.
Brushing off the allegations, another team of foreigners were assembled and sent to work. However, this was short lived. In Nkomo’s own words: ‘We even hired whites thinking that our boys did not want to work but they also returned saying they would not return to work there again,’.
However, the country could not afford to waste any more time on the development of the reservoirs. As such, workers were sent to the areas accompanied by local military in an attempt to perform a local ritual to appease the disgruntled creatures.
According to Minister Nkomo, the only way to solve the problem was to brew traditional beer and carry out the traditional ceremonies.
Apparently, the merpeople of Zimbabwe have a real taste for local brew. Thus, a gift of beer is known to be a good offering to these spirits.
After this was performed, the men continued to work in the areas and the reservoirs were finally completed.
However, this was far from the end of modern mermaid encounters.
In 2017, the mermaid of Gokwe dam would claim two more victims, far younger than the workers she had preyed on 5 years before.
Three boys were out one afternoon in February 2019. They were herding cattle when they happened upon the dam. Two of the boys saw what looked to be a huge, brilliantly shimmering fish in the shore waters.
Without hesitation, the boys jumped into the dm to try and catch the fish. However, this is when they realized they had made a fatal error. The fish turned out to be a mermaid. Suddenly, the creature dragged the boys below the water. But quickly, the creature threw their bodies back onto the shore.
The remaining boy was alarmed by this, and quickly ran to fetch the elders from a near by villiage. A few elders, including the two boys’ parents, arrived on the scene. The boys were alive, however, the site of their limp bodies was too much for their parents, as they began to wail.
Suddenly, the mermaid reappeared, dragging the limp – but still alive – bodies of the boys back under. She proceeded to drown the boys and flung their now dead corpses back towards the onlookers.
You see, a huge rule in mermaid lore in Zimbabwe is that you should not mourn, nor show emotion to the abducted.
If your child or loved one is taken by a mermaid, you cannot cry. If you do not express emotion, they will be returned to you, unharmed. However, if you do cry, the mermaid will return to kill their victim.
The people of the village quickly made arrangements to appease the mermaid, to ensure this would not happen to any other young folk. Thus, they slaughtered an animal – usually a goat. The locals will then need to eat the goat – and this is very interesting yet bizarre – however they cannot eat it with any salt.
According to Zimbabwean lore, you should not go to a dam where mermaids are known to frequent. A hotspot for the merfolk are sually bigger dams, such as Lake Kariba.
Another thing worth mentioning, is that merpeople are said to travel via whirlwinds. Therefore children are warned to never run into the middle of a whirlwind, or they will be abducted by the mer person.
Mamlambo or Umamlambo – South Africa
The south African mermaid has, through the course of various accounts, gotten its name mixed up with the Mamlambo. The Mamlambo is a great water snake which we will be covering at a later stage of the poddy, but for now, we will be focusing on the mermaid of the Karoo.
Upon hearing about this cryptid for the first time, I honestly thought it was a load of hokum. If you’re a Sa local like I am, then you know the karoo is the least likely bloody place alive to have a water beast.
This is due to the fact that the karoo is classified as a semi desert area. Yup, this scorched stretch of land is as dry as a bloody bone. Hence, I’m sure you can understand my scepticism of this account of a mermaid.
Honestly when I heard that, it made as much sense to me as someone asking how many tyres I’d like in my coffee.
However, little beknownst to me, the karoo was actually covered by ocean some 250 million years ago. As such, when the lands formed and the ocean receded, magnificent rock pools were left amidst the arid desert.
A particularly beautiful collection of pools can be found in the Klein Karoo. And this is where the beautiful water being can be found.
The first western documentation of this water deity came from one Mr D Ballot from Molensrivier. He recorded a story told to him by an elderly bushman. The bushman recalled a tale of fiendish spirits which lived beneath the waters of Eseljagtspoort in Oudshoorn. The spirits was believed to be a shape shifter, taking the form of a beautiful woman or animal, enticing people to come towards it. Once the victim was close enough, the mermaid would grab the human and drag them to their watery grave. Similar to a Kelpie.
The woman could be seen sitting on the rocks by the pools, combing her long black hair. She was said to have remarkable bright blue eyes, which would beckon almost anyone to her.
However, although the first account written down from pen to paper happened in 1875, her story stems way back. Way back to the ancestors of the elderly bushman.
In a cave near the pools of the mermaid, lie a series of rock paintings pivotal to her authenticity. For, on these walls you can find a series of cave paintings left by the Khoisan. In the images, you can see a series of creatures with a human torso, and fish like tail. A few of the characters are seen to be holding a number of different things. One holds a bow like thing above its head. Another holds a small hand tool between both hands and the third seems to be holding a spear in one arm.
The reason these objects are important is because they put certain sceptical theories to bed.
You see, some people tend to believe that these drawings actually represent swallow birds – another believed entity to bring the rains. People mused that perhaps the Khoi had drawn an interpretation of certain rituals carried out by the Sangoma of the tribe – a sangoma is Zulu for medicine man.
However, there are two key things which put this point to rest.
Firstly, the Khoi were a very literal people. They have never been known to leave art depicting interpretations.
Secondly, the fact that the merpeople are holding things proves the upper limbs on the characters are arms, and not wings.
A clairvoyant in the area was said to have connected to the mermaid’s spirit, and asked her for her name. apparently, the spirit’s name is Eporia. However, she goes by various other names in these parts as well. One of which I’m particularly fond of.
So I thought the stories of mermaids in SA were a thing of the past, but in 2016, a terrifying encounter took place in a Mabopane dam just north of Pretoria.
According to an article published by Rekord North, a young boy named Mpho Shongwe fell victim to the beautiful lady of the water.
In April, 2016, Shongwe and a few friend were out by the dam, when they suddenly saw a beautiful woman swimming in the water. She beckoned to them to come to her. As they drew closer, they began to notice, that she was in fact not a human woman at all. Rather, where her legs should’ve been, they saw a fish like tail taking shape. Suddenly she launched towards them. The children ran, however, Shongwe was not so lucky. The mamogashwa
Managed to grab the boy and drag him into the water. The other children raced to their elders, telling them the horrifying tale.
When the people went to investigate, they found 15 year old Shongwa’s boy lying limp and lifeless a few feet from the dam.
Apparently, Shongwe wasn’t the first life to be claimed by the mermaid. According to a local woman, Elsie Nhlapo, “Three people that I am aware of, two kids and an adult were killed at the dam but police have refused to go near the dam”.
Mammi Wata – Benin
Benin (specifically Guida) is the birth place of Voodoo
Good voodoo spirit Shape shifter. African woman, can walk with humans. Always accompanied by a snake. Snake rests between her breasts. In water she is a mermaid – deity. One of the voodoo gods of water – most prominent water god in Benin Voodoo.
WHAT ARE THEY???
Accused of being mistaken for a crocodile.