MANY people often ask if mermaids are real.
Although sightings of mermaids have been reported in some districts around Zimbabwe, they have never been substantiated.
According to media reports, in February 2012, work on two reservoirs near Gokwe and Mutare stopped when workers refused to continue, saying mermaids were hounding them from the sites.
Numerous other incidents have also been reported, but not investigated.
Currently, villagers in Gokwe believe there are mermaids at Gwehava Dam.
Fishermen have reported mysterious occurrences at the dam in recent years.
They claim to hear voices from mermaids, chasing them away if they catch many fish for resale.
In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female being and the tail of a fish.
Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including Europe, Asia and Africa.
They are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drowning.
In other folkore, they can be benevolent and generous, giving herbs to traditional healers.
The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore and heraldry.
Although traditions about, and sightings of, mermen are less common, they are generally assumed to co-exist with their female counterparts.
According to research and African folklore, the mermaids have been known to bestow wealth, health, assistance with procreation or simply power in society.
As easy as she can grant success, she can also grant misfortune because to have these fortunes granted upon you from the mermaid would mean the sacrifice of a family member in return or celibacy in the mortal realm.
The mermaid is often addressed and materialised in dreams of a receptive medium where she can employ her seductive powers. Some people believe origins of mermaids in Africa were spawned on the western coast of Africa by diamond miners who believe that she can grant luck in finding diamonds.
Other traditions and research also point the origins of mermaids to central Africa.
Folklore has it that the mermaid can be found combing her hair upon the rocks of shores and if one was to attain a lock of hair or even her comb, then he/she would expect to see her in a dream. In that dream, he/she would use these objects to barter with her to obtain what he/she desires in exchange for eternal silence on the encounter.
Despite the vast cultures in Africa and the aquatic deities affiliated to them, the mermaid is probably the commonest denominator.
Differences can be spotted in how they are portrayed artistically. For example, in other cultures, the mermaid is often portrayed holding a serpent or snake, whereas in others it is displayed with crocodiles.
Some are found in lakes and rivers while others, in seas and oceans.
Mermaids are known by different names in Africa, mawu-lisu in Benin, mamlambo in South Africa, mmnuommiri in Nigeria or mamba muntu in the DRC, njuzi or njuzu in Zimbabwe; all roughly translate to ‘Mother water’, ‘Lady of the water’ or something similar to it.
African culture has portrayed the idea of the mermaid in many ways across the continent.
It has also been observed that certain features are similar across these variations.
It has the same purpose; to seduce, beguile and intrigue mankind. Mermaids often shroud themselves in their mysticism, attractiveness and, above all, their retribution.
Typical accounts of their appearance in African mythology describe a beautiful woman with flowing black hair and an angelic gaze used to entrap or bewilder her spectator (not forgetting fin-like tail with a torso and head of a human).
Most accounts of how mermaids came to be the main symbol of water deities originated from a belief in ‘water spirits’.
These spirits are often referred to as minions or soldiers, often males, for the higher deities, such as merman, where they would kidnap, trick or deceive fishermen and seafarers to sacrifice or tithe to them.
These male figures have been known to become ‘spirit husbands’ for entranced women.
This overarching belief in water spirits developed the specific deities of cultures through the framework of societal identity, spiritual direction and historical beliefs.
On all accounts, there is a gender associated with the belief of mermaids – a maternal deity that has a sexual power over her captives and because of this, she commands great sacrifice and obedience for the reward.
In comparison to the mermaid of European cultures, the mermaid is not so much a powerful deity than just a seductive siren that hopes to entice and seduce mortal men.
In the European version of the mermaid, she has the same physical appearance, half-fish and half-human, but her intentions and actions are not as metaphysical as the African counterparts. She has a playful personality, boasts an alluring singing voice and beautiful complexion that she uses to entice seafarers.
As the myths goes; while at sea, a seafaring mortal catches a glimpse of a mermaid and to his bewilderment and amazement of this beautiful woman, he attempts to make contact with her.
Using her beauty and voice, she sings a song to lure the seaman into the water where she drowns him at the bottom of the sea. The legend varies whether this is intentional or not.
Many claim it’s a circumstance of her playful nature, while others say it is a killing tactic.
This version of the mermaid is framed as sea creature only found in physical form that doesn’t appear in dreams or grant great wealth, but rather is an enigmatic entity whose purpose is to seduce man.
Nonetheless, the European version of the mermaid has great power over mortals.
According to folklore, for centuries, it has toyed with explorers, fisherman and natives who would all advise to stay away from it or suffer the same fate as many before them.
According to Wikipedia, the first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover.
Some of the attributes of mermaids may have been influenced by the sirens of Greek mythology.
Historical accounts of mermaids such as those reported by Christopher Columbus during his exploration of the Caribbean, may have been inspired by manatees and similar aquatic mammals.
While there is no evidence that mermaids exist outside folklore, reports of mermaid sightings continue to the present day, including 21st Century examples from Israel and Zimbabwe.