May 05, 2021 • POSTCARDS FROM

River Mumma

Jamaican culture is replete with folkloric tales and local legends that have totally captured the imaginations of locals and foreigners alike. Tales about Rolling Calfs and haunted Great Houses are real fixtures of Jamaican culture that are as believable to some Jamaicans as they are incredulous to outsiders. These legends are a part of every Jamaican child's upbringing and are revered in rural communities. One such legend is the legend of River Mumma.  Some anthropologists have  argued that her origins lay in the Ashanti belief in the divine origin of water.

River Mumma is a fantastical mermaid creature that is said to live in the deepest, most serene parts of Jamaica's rivers. The part of the river where nature lets loose. Where leafy branches and palm fronds hang over to create shaded alcoves along the river's edge. And where the only movement you'll see is the gentle ripple of the river or rustle of the leaves. Anthropologists have reported stories of River Mummas living in Black River, Rio Grande, Great River, Cabaritta, Rio Cobra and the "great blue hole near Port Antonio."

Legend has it that all the fish in the river are River Mumma's children, and her life's work is to protect The Golden Table – a table of gold supposedly left by the Spaniards in their quest for gold centuries ago. On the hottest of sunny days, The Golden Table is said to rise to the surface, luring in onlookers who happen to get a glimpse of it.

Some say River Mumma surfaces on moonlit nights and sits on top of a boulder, where she combs her long black hair with a golden comb. If she is frightened, the legend says, she will dive back in the river and leave her comb on the boulder. It is said that whoever finds this comb will become very rich. But if you ever happen to see this elusive River Mumma, it's best you leave her alone. There's no telling what she could do. Locals claim River Mumma has been known to put people in a trance and drag her intruders under the river. Others say that if you touch her the river will dry up.

As with all folk tales, the legend of River Mumma has been passed down through stories from generations to generations, as well as through art. 

Nature and Supernatural Nature
Jamaica Observer

Featured image by
Gavmazing Adventures