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by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
Jamaica can be as mysterious as it is beautiful. The belief that ghosts, spirits and evil forces that cannot be seen with the naked eye, is alive and well in Jamaica. While Mermaids may be seen as just mythical creatures, in Jamaican they are quite real. Or, so some think. Let’s talk about the Jamaican Mermaid, River Mumma.
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The mermaid called "River Mumma" appears in Jamaican folklore. While mermaids are typically portrayed as more tranquil beings, a River Mumma is more like the Sirens of Greek mythology in that she induces trances in those who come close to her before leading them to their deaths.
It is believed that all of the fish in Jamaica's rivers are the offspring of River Mumma, a mermaid who lives there. She frequently sits by the river, teasing her long, black hair. A person who sees River Mumma is likely to get into a trance, approach her, and be grabbed by the heel and dragged to a watery doom.
Some folklore holds that a River Mumma is the keeper of the golden table that the Spanish conquistadors threw into the river upon their arrival in Jamaica. The table will occasionally rise from the water at lunchtime on hot days and hover there. It will sink to the river's bottom if anyone tries to steal it. When the would-be burglar grabs onto it, they frequently drown.
Despite the problems River Mumma creates, she is unable to be expelled by the populace due to her bond with the fish. All the fish in the river will leave if someone tries to catch her, and the river may even dry up.
According to some legends, a River Mumma only permits individuals who have good intentions to cross her river; those who have bad intentions are either forced to turn back or perish in the water.
There are many, oh so many stories about the River/Riva Mumma. Whether they are all completely true maybe a bit questionable, but, the tellers of these tales will assure you that they are.
In a media interview, a young man confirmed that numerous motor vehicle accidents and crashes had occurred nearby, with vehicles driving off the bridge into the Rio Cobre or individuals driving into the river in what appeared to be deliberate acts, and the victims dying because, as locals believe, the bridge is haunted.
The young man claimed that when the river becomes unclean, it becomes dangerous, and the mermaid emerges because it needs blood. The people also claimed that they had stopped performing blood rituals at the river in order to placate the mermaid for some time.
Eager to avoid a more detailed description of Ornell's bathing rituals, I asked him about the mermaids he mentioned earlier.
"Yeah man, nuff mermaid. When mi was likkle, mi used to see whole heap ah dem," said Ornell.
"Yuh tink ah likkle man mermaid pull inna di river wid dem? Dem mermaid deh nuh easy," he added, shaking his head.
Now, if I'm, to be honest, I had very little confidence in Ornell's story. I was surprised though when the woman behind the counter at the bar suddenly spoke up.
"Is true yuh know," she said, adjusting the zipper of the sweater she was wearing.
"My father tell me about it from mi was likkle. Dem say is one mermaid was there and she dead now, but first time yuh used to see har all di while," she said.
I had a puzzled look on my face. "True true," the woman said.
"Dem say is di same mermaid what used to deh ah Flat Bridge swim come here because it more quieter. Mi never used to believe it, but den mi seh, so much people couldn't just meck up di story so," she said.
I looked across at Ornell, who was nodding in agreement. "As granny seh, wah nuh go so, nearly go so," he said.
Eddie Edwards, 69, who has lived in the gorge for 36 years told THE WEEKEND STAR that he has seen one such mysterious creature, a mermaid.
“A bar did inna di corner and we in deh a gamble and yu see when it reach certain hours a night, him wi come pon di boulder weh deh pon di bridge and siddung pon it and we mek noise and him jump off a it,” he said.
He said at the time, they weren’t scared of the animal that he described as a very hairy half-human, half-fish.
However, since street lights were erected on both ends of the bridge, Edwards said the sightings have ceased but he is still convinced that mythical animal lives in the Rio Cobre.
Samuel Dixon, a fisherman and driver from the area, also believes there are mermaids and other strange creatures in the water.
He recounts an incident that occurred about seven years ago, when a fellow fisherman who was determined to capture one of the mermaids ended up dead.
“Mermaid inna di water but dem mostly up underneath the top dam because a bredda dead up deh and mi certain a mermaid kill him. Dem [fishermen] say every time dem go up deh, dem see a certain type of fish wid eye big like a moon," he said. "Dem shoot after him and dem only manage fi get the scale. Di one weh carry the scale guh a him yard, inna di night some falling angel come down and sick him out and some church people come pray fi him.”
He said the sick fisherman warned others not to go back to that section of the river. But his deceased colleague did not listen.
The Rolling calf is another elusive but deadly creature in Jamaica and this woman details her harrowing encounter with one.
Now whether or not mermaids truly exist, can one ever really and truly be sure? What do you think?
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