This summer I have been tuning in deeply with the bountiful beauty of water and all its forms. Water is a precious source of life and I'm remembering to connect with beauty of its simplicity. Especially in these times when much of our water is toxic and filled with chemicals, it is important to remind ourselves that this diminishing necessary vital life force is sacred. Indigenous cultures give thanks to water with such reverence and joy, connecting us back to the waters of being in our mother's womb and the primordial force of our evolution that emerged from the sea waters. Creating our own water ceremony is way to connect back to the healing presence of water in our daily lives. mermaid   In honoring and celebrating the waters, I am inspired by Mami Wata, the wild, mysterious water spirit who inhabits oceans, lakes, rivers and streams in a myriad of forms. She has ancient feminine roots from Africa to India to Brazil and yet comes in clothed in contemporary beauty of popular African art forms, sometimes white, sometimes black; sometimes male, often female; sometimes of the huge ocean waters, sometimes of the smaller tiny streams and everything in between. Her form is transracial, transgendered, transcontinental as she swims through the waters of our world reminding us to open the loving healing grace that endlessly supports us.   pink rainbow3 This summer I told the story of Mami Wata several times. I told the story to my daughter, to my niece and nephew, to sisters in Fire of the Goddess water ceremony, to friends and my beloved.  Each time was beautiful and magical, however the most profound moment was on a small beach in Providence, Rhode Island.  We made our flower offerings to the ocean, cried our tears, sang songs and I told the beautiful loving story of Mama Jo, the mermaid.  As the ceremony closed the sky turned the most brilliant shade of pink.  As the pink sky deepened, a PINK RAINBOW appeared in the sky, as if to illuminate the mysterious, feminine watery wonder of Mami Wata.  I discovered Mami Wata in Washington DC a few years ago, while madly researching and writing my book Fire of the Goddess. One day, on a whim, I decided to head downtown to the Smithsonian, alone.  I casually remarked to my parents, "I'm headed to downtown.  I'm going to find the Goddess."  Little did I know what was in store!   I wandered through the Asian art museum, growing increasingly restless with the statues of Asian goddesses, many who I adore, Lakshmi, Tara and various yoginis, but am accustomed to seeing them in the context of their homeland: in temples, swathed in golden clothes, anointed with tikka powder, flowers offered at their feet; not caged in by glass boxes.  I yearned for the Living Goddess as I experienced her in India during my seven years there. mami wataRestless, I pushed through a door that connected the Asian art museum with the African art museum, which all my years growing up in Maryland, I had yet to visit.  As I entered, wandering upstairs, a bell went off in my mind, recalling my mother's yoga teacher who had mentioned, in passing, an incredible water exhibit that I should visit.  Curious, I peered over the banister, down toward the main exhibit and to my astonishment discovered Mami Wata, the contemporary mermaid goddess of Africa, Caribbean and South America.  Who was this enchanting mermaid goddess?  How was it that I had never heard of her?  I fell in love instantly: the portrayal of a dark, vivid goddess, holding two snakes, riding oceanic waves of compassion, love, healing as well as seduction, magic and mystery.   Similar to Yemaya, the water goddess of the Orishas, and yet very different in origin and practice, Mami Wata is plural and refers to a collective of water spirits.  Her worship is matriarchal and connects deeply with the powerful spirits of the ocean as well as those in rivers, streams and lakes. Mami Wata in contemporary forms is portrayed as half fish, half woman, sometimes depicted black, sometimes white, or even green. Her hair ranges from bright blonde to deep dark black, sometimes male and most often female.  She is water, mother, of light and shadow, associated with the mysteries of the depths of the ocean. The exhibit was set up as an experience, with an overflowing, decadent altar, shells, stones, rattles, a video of people honoring mami wata waterMami Wata through dance and drums.  Huge images of Mami Wata as a divine mermaid along with contemporary depictions portraying her as seductive, associated with wealth, sexuality, magic and sorcery.  Her roots are close to the surface, holding the divine feminine snakes of rebirth and healing, her watery shimmering fish tail and surrounding rainbows reminding us of shamanism and the potent connection to Dream Time and the unseen. In my book, Fire of the Goddess, I explore the story Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci.  I found the story at the exhibit that day, and was so inspired that I used it as the Healer myth in my book. Sukey, a fourteen year old girl who is fast becoming a young woman,  meets the gorgeous, enchanting Mama Jo, a mermaid water spirit or mermaid spirit in the folklore of the Carolina islands and the West Indies.  The name Mama Jo originates French Maman de'leau or Mother of the Water and is one manifestation of Mami Wata. let go Later, as I emerged from the cool museum outside into the hot sun, invigorated by my discovery, I was imminently overwhelmed with the sound of heavy, throbbing Haitian drums, women all in white swaying and weaving to the intensity of Caribbean rhythms rooted so powerfully in the ancient motherland of Africa.  Feeling the pulse in my blood, our liquid selves, I realized indeed I had found the Goddess, once again, her presence, like water, ubiquitous and oh so nourishing.   Resource:  "From Myth to Divine Reality:  Ancient African God/dess Reawakens in the Soul of the Diaspora."  Based on Book: Mami Wata: Africa’s Ancient God/dess Unveiled by Mamaissii Vivian Hunter Hindrew, M.Ed. (Mama Zogbé,  Chief Hounon-Amengansie Priestess) http://www.mamiwata.com/mami.htm