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This episode discusses African water deities and figures such as Osun, Yemoja, and Mami Wata

*Disclaimer - these are the notes we wrote for this episode of the podcast - there will be spelling and grammatical errors, there will also be some informal language. Further research is encouraged 😀


Mami Wata: Descriptive Background

The name Mami Wata is thought to derive from the English word ‘mommy’ or ‘mammy’ and ‘water’, or ‘mother of the waters’.

However, the origin of the name can be traced to ancient Egypt, where the words ‘ma’ or ‘mamma’ mean ‘truth’ or ‘wisdom’ and the word ‘wati’ means ‘water’.

It’s interesting to note though that in many Sudanic languages, ‘wat’ or ‘waat’ means ‘woman’

The spread of the specific name ‘Mami Wata’ (the name we all recognise) came about at the end of the 18th century when it began to travel along the west coast of Africa, specifically Liberia, when European traders took stories of Mami Wata back with them.

Mami Wata deities can be both male and female but are nonhuman and have never been human.

Mami Wata spirits are born of Nana Buluku, who is the great mother of the mountain and the head of a sub-pantheon of deities known as Vodun.

Other interpretations place Mami Wata deities below the rainbow serpent pair of Dan Aido Wedo.

Each Mami Wata deity will have a specific ceremony, food, drink, taboo, colour and sacred day.

There are also beads for each deity which are called ‘danmi’ or ‘excrement of the rainbow serpent’ 

The colour, order and even material of the beads or ‘danmis’ indicate a specific deity. As well as this, when the beads are worn on the left hand - it represents a male spirit and if they are worn on the right hand - it is a female spirit.

Mami Wata deities are the source of Earthly wisdom, human creativity, genius, divine inspiration and sacred paths to enlightenment.

Priestesses are usually referred to as ‘mammisi’ which means ‘motherhood temple’ in ancient Egypt and could also indicate a relationship with Isis, the goddess of fertility. Also known as the goddess of motherhood, magic, death, healing, and rebirth. Isis was the first daughter of Geb and Nut who was the god of the earth and the goddess of the sky. (last episode covered this)

People usually enter a relationship with Mami Wata by having an encounter through Ifa divination or dreams.

In the past, villages would initiate a young girl who would be responsible for maintaining the shrine to Mami Wata. In more recent times though, future devotees often experience a crisis that requires the assistance of a mamisii.

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Adwoa Botchey