Mermaids in the Karoo

2012-04-30 09:49

While the idea of mermaids in the Karoo may sound completely ridiculous, it is something that is firmly believed by locals.

Many Klein-Karoo residents have reported seeing a mysterious woman with blue eyes, pink cheeks and a fish-tail, lounging beside deep mountain pools. She simply sits and combs her long, death black hair before disappearing and leaving you to questioning your sanity.

Is the Karoo Mermaid just another myth like all the others that surround the ancient continent of Africa? Or is there something to the stories of a beautiful fish-tailed woman haunting this arid region?

Where she came from

As with all myths, the origin of the Karoo Mermaid is open to both interpretation and embellishment. Just over 250 million years ago, the Klein Karoo was not the desert that it is today - but rather a world that existed under the sea. Receding waters left us with the Cango Caves and the legend of a Mermaid. Is she a remnant of this bygone aquatic era left behind to remind us of another time?

In 1875, a farmer named Mr D Ballot from Molensrivier recorded a story told to him by an elderly bushman. This bushman spoke of spirits that lived under the water at Eseljagtspoort near Oudtshoorn and took the form of women or animals and were believed to grab anyone who passed by and drown them in the watery abyss. Is the Karoo Mermaid a figment of African folklore that still survives into the 21st Century?

Two centuries after the first discovery of the Cango Caves, a flood desecrated the Klein Karoo area. In a few traumatic days in 1996, everything from cattle to crocodiles were flushed out the desert and sent back to the Indian Ocean. Is this elusive Mermaid a flood victim left stranded in the desert once the waters ran dry?

Is she real?

The sceptics...

San rock paintings located in the driest of Karoo areas depict Mermaid-like creatures, suggesting that she has been around for longer than any of us can comprehend.

Sceptics argue that the San paintings are rather images depicting a ritual that a Shaman conducts to ask for relief from a drought. The so-called Mermaids are actually Swallows that have long been associated with rain.

Other people argue that the Karoo Mermaid is simply a variant on a Western myth that infiltrated African culture to protect children from drowning. The Mermaid has always been a warning - especially to sailors - to forgo temptation. Stories of Mermaids drowning young children in deep, bottomless ponds ensured that children would resist temptation and stay away from dangerous waters.

The convinced...

Many other people point out that the San people were known for directly depicting what they saw - not interpretive rituals. The Mermaid/Swallow images were also often shown to be holding something, convincing many that they had arms and not wings - implying that these were creatures encountered and recorded by the San people. 

Other people say that the Karoo Mermaid is a reminder to our scientific age of the importance of water. Traditionally Mermaids have been symbolic of the power of the feminine and their mirrors a reflection into the soul. Their less sinister role was to encourage sailors to explore the realm of the unconscious and reach a higher state of consciousness.

Today, this ancient water spirit is argued to be re-emerging to return us to that state of higher consciousness. The Karoo Mermaid now exists to rejoin us with the Earth and give us the courage to save our own planet - defying scientific explanation in the process.

Have you seen the Karoo Mermaid? Do you believe? Let us know in the comment section below.


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