Mami Wata is a goddess of the African diaspora whose immensely popular cult has grown in West, Central, and Southern Africa, and in the Caribbean and parts of South America since the 18th century.
Mami Wata is often pictured as a mermaid, half-human and either half-fish or half-reptile. Other stories and images show her as a human-looking woman dressed in the latest fashion. Her most definitive image that of a long-haired woman, with a snake circling her torso is based on a 19th century chromolithograph of a Samoan snake charmer.
The goddess is characterized by her inhuman beauty and capricious nature; in many traditions, she is as likely to harm her followers as to help them. Her cult has strong associations with fortune, healing, sex, and water. Worship practices for the goddess vary, but they often involve wearing the colours red and white (sacred to Mami Wata) and dancing to an altered state of consciousness, and potentially spiritual possession.
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