A Mermaid Tail Story: Where are the Mermaids?
Mermaids Lives in Rivers and the Sea
In the Niger Delta along the West African coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, there are a people called the Wakirike Ijaws or Okrikans, whose basic occupation in the distant past before the arrival of the European missionaries and explorers is fishing. I am proud to be a Wakirike Ijaw. Fishing appeals to me, and three of my boys. I specialized in the catching of sardines, mullet, and tilapia fish among others.
In this region, cultural beliefs hold strong. Mermaids or water spirits exist. Locally called Mami Water in Nigeria or Owu in the Okrika Ijaw language. Those spirits are malevolent and at times appear turbulent in character. They abode in the creeks and promontory turns. Some types are like the fairy spirits in English, European, and Oriental culture. Here the mermaids appear benevolent, luring ignorant men into their abode for marriage or coitus.
Fishermen have one or more encounter with these beings positive or negative, influencing life and destiny. At times, the scenario appears as folklore. Persons who regularly disturb their abodes are usually dealt with. One fisherman was traced to his house on returning from a fishing trip and was beaten to death behind closed doors, by these malevolent beings, leaving his dependent wife a widower.
They warned the man to desist from threading on their terrain again, and again. But he persists, and that costs him his life.
It is a warning sign that when a fisherman ventured too far on the high sea in course of a fishing expenditure, he should fish where there are human beings or settlement. Birds have even known to warn men to desist from fishing at certain location on the high sea. Those who dare resist the warning paid dearly. This man falls into the group.
Fishermen reflected much on unusual happenings during a fishing trip. These are at times translate into stories, songs, folklore, myths, and legend.
The Poem: Where are the Mermaids?
I stand at the River Bank
And, I look beyond my fondest dreams.
I take a look to catch a glimpse of the fair mermaid.
My Spirit reflect on the water
And, I thought and wonder beyond my dreams.
No, that’s not the mermaid
That’s neither me, flesh nor blood.
Childishly, I throw a pebble.
A ripple the water
The mermaid appearing weird!?
Distorted head, body, arm, and…
The mermaid comes back to form?
My Spirit comes back to beauty!
Where are all the mermaids gone?
Not a single mermaid to see?
Do You Believe Mermaids Exists?
Mermaids May Appear in a Disco Hub as a Human
Have You Seen Mermaids?
Sighting a mermaid is not a common phenomenon. Since being spirits, they have their world a marine kingdom which is a bar to human beings. Why do mermaids appear unaware of the presence of a human is hard to fathom. Immediately these beings realize you have sighted them, they disappeared. They seek a very quiet location for appearance, playing masquerades, games, tricks, and dancing. Mermaids have been pin-point as the harbinger of the cowry shell games. Many like me dislike these game because any time it was started, money disappeared in the home mysteriously. At times they change into human form and intermingled with human beings to achieve a diabolic mission. Mariners or seafarers sees them afar off on a voyage, but on approaching the location their manifests disappearance. The thing is that they had a secret to protect from the mundane world.
“Owu Nini, Mingi Nini”
The phrase in the Okrika dialect means ever raiding the promontory and the creeks. Mermaids usually habit the seas and rivers. As human beings began to civilize along the river banks and creeks, and form towns or villages inland, it seems the mermaids began to raid or colonized the precinct or frontiers of the settlers. Why this is so is to corrupt the human civilization. The word “owu” means a diabolic spirit. And, it can be view in more than one aspect, positive or negative. Nonetheless, it is associated with a demonic being.
Remember the first creative experience of the human species? The serpent was human-like in all appearance. His committing canal knowledge with Eve led to her downfall and that of the serpent. So we should understand that mermaids seek to mingle with humans just to corrupt the human race.
The initial “O” in Owu is pronounced as in the English O. The “wu” as in English “who.” Mingi means water. The “min” is pronounced as in English mint, without saying the “t.” While the “gi” as in giving.
Mermaids have created millions of years ago before the first human beings appear, though from the belly button to the head, they resemble human beings. Some mermaids have scales on their body as on fishes, and they are exemptions in certain cases. The scales seem to be tiny hair covering on the body as noted in human beings.
A Water Front
I remember I returned late from work some 15 years ago. I took my fishing net to the River Bank to get some Tilapia because my wife has need of them to make a nice and delicious pot of soup. It was night time. I swirl my fishing net into the river. I tried to pull it out minutes later but it got stuck by an obstacle at the bed of the River. I dive in with a piece of loose cloth around my waist to release the net. A hand somehow massage my thigh, and the cloth got loose. I came out naked from the river.
There was a big stump of a tree on the bed of the river. The tree was cut down during a dredging work. The location was an abode of mermaids, and fishes usually appear significantly there. Nowadays, the location is a waste dump, and as the beautiful and fair mermaids disappeared completely, it is goodbye to fishing at the creek.
Igi Konbo: A Fisher Man
Okrika Water Front
Okrika waterfront is a big fishing port from time immemorially. After being dredged was noted for drowning human beings. Boys and girls were warned not to go swimming. But some persisted certainly got snatched by the demonic beings. I remembered one of my extended family member who got drown and died at the Water Front.
At the promontory turn of the waterfront is another location colonized by mermaids. I once went fishing at low tide with my son. At the first swirl of the fishing net, the net catch “multitudes of fishes” and we could not release all the fishes into the canoe. The night is approaching, and we carried the net home still tangled with fishes.
The famous Wakirike Odumu festival was a mermaid cult. On a fishing expenditure long ago before the arrival of the first Christian Missionaries on the Wakirike (Okrika Island or kingdom), two Anyugu Biri fishermen were on a fishing trip within the vicinity of the crude oil off-loading jetty of the first Nigeria Petroleum Refinery Company. The fishers experienced serious turbulence on the high sea, and stir they canoe to the river's bank for safety. When the waves ceased, they appear some mermaids playing Boa constrictor masquerade. This the Wakirike people called “Odumu Owu,” Odumu masquerade or just Odumu.
The Odumu masquerade was played in the year 1977 during the world famous 2nd Black Festival of Arts and Culture staged in Nigeria. Another followed less than 20 years later on a minor scale due to a special chieftaincy installation. The Odumu festival seems to be the highest mermaid cult in the Wakirike or Okrika kingdom. It was postulated that the festival always comes about 20 years after appeasing the mermaid spirits. If the later gives the green light, it is a deal, otherwise, calamities follow the Island.
The Year on May 29, 1999, Nigeria opens its door with a new Presidential system of government to date. I do not know whether any special chieftaincy installation will warrant the display of the Odumu festival again.
A Boa Constrictor
Mermaids exist in all culture. They are no country that has not a story or lore about mermaids. You go to Europe, America, Africa, India, China, in fact, all the continent has a story to tell. Local ethnic names varied. In the whole of Nigeria, it is called Mami Water. These beings usually strike certain persons with illness. They cause ships or boats to sink when disturbed. I noted a location at a River Bank always steaming with very large and pinkish-colored Tilapia fish. A man attempted building a house there. I warned him: “owu omiye”- there are mermaids there, and he stubbornly builds without finishing it. The foundation fell! The building debris is still standing there. I last saw them in the year 2017. It is some 20 yards away from the location that I catch the multitude of fishes and my net nearly break.
Though mermaids may appear benevolent, it is a sign of deception. When a man breaks an agreement, he is dealt with or stricken with calamities, like a sickness. The type of games or masquerade they introduced seems innocent enough. But these captivate men into misfortune.