Mami Wata – Africa and Caribbean
The deity of the water spirit, Mami Wata, found its way to America and the Caribbean through the transatlantic slave trade. Mami Wata is said to be a beautiful woman adorned in watches and mirrors that are gifted to her by devotees, and she is almost always accompanied by one or multiple large snakes.
Mami Wata legends hold that the water deity usually reveals herself to followers individually, sometimes even in disguise. She is associated with healing and fertility, as an encounter with her could yield great wealth, health, and even an increase in attractiveness.
Surprisingly, Mami Wata is also a patron of fidelity. In Nigerian lore, Mami Wata would disguise herself as a promiscuous prostitute and seduce men. After having sex with them, she would reveal herself and force the men to vow fidelity to their wives forevermore.
Keep Reading to find out what the creatures with fish bodies, human faces, and monkey mouths did to the people of ancient Japan!
The Ningyo from Japan
The mermaid in Japanese tradition is less on the beautiful-water-sprite end of the spectrum and closer to what one might call a sea monster. This creature had the body of a grotesque fish and the face of a human woman, but the mouth of a monkey. So not exactly beautiful.
But while the Ningyo wasn’t beautiful herself, the creature was still associated with beauty. Ningyo was said to cry tears of pearls and to consume the flesh or blood of one of these sea monsters gave one a fountain of youth – woman who ate this rare delicacy were said to have ceased aging altogether, and even to revert to a younger, more beautiful form.
Hi, yes, I’ll have four Ningyo fillets, please.
The Melusine from France
You may not be aware, but you probably see Melusine thousands of times every single day – that’s right. This mystical creature from European folklore is the mermaid-like creature that graces the cups of Starbucks beverages.
The Melusine appears across several traditions of European folklore as a beautiful water spirit inhabiting the lakes and rivers of the region. But the best-known story involves a maiden named Melusine who attempts revenge on her father in the name of her mother, only to have her mother turn around and punish her for the act by cursing her with the tail of a serpent.
Melusine appears at times with one or two tails, or even a pair of wings in addition to her tail or tails. The French royal house of Lusignan claims to be directly descended from Melusine herself. In the photo above, Raymond walks in on his wife Melusine bathing, only to find that she’s a serpent from the waste down. That’s gotta be a pretty tough one to swallow!