Woohoo!  It’s almost summer!  Let’s go SWIMMING! Did you bring your bathing suit?  Oh yeah…um…I totally left it at home…plus you know, I ate less than half an hour ago…I don’t want to get a cramp…

You’re looking decidedly shifty. What’s the real reason you don’t want to go swimming?  Ok, to be honest, it’s because I’ve been doing some reading up on popular African deity Mamy Wata.

Who?  Mamy Wata, which means “Mother Water”.  She’s a water entity worshipped by many people in West, Central and Southern Africa and in the African diaspora around the world.  She’s known for her powers of divination and clairvoyance, and her seductive but protective nature. She also goes by Mamadjo, Maman de l’Eau, La Sirene, Yemanya, Yemoja…I could go on…

What does she look like?  She’s a serpent priestess or mermaid with long, curly black hair who often carries a mirror, comb, or watch.  She can also appear fully human and stroll through the streets and markets.

Why should all this stop you from swimming?  Well, she could abduct me.  She’s very into abducting both her followers and random people while they’re swimming or boating.

Why would she do that?  She would bring me to her realm in the spirit world underwater.  When I returned I’d be completely dried off and I’d have new spiritual understanding.  I might even grow wealthier, more attractive, and more easy-going.

You know what, that doesn’t sound so bad.  Yeah, I guess not!  But she might also haunt my dreams and demand my everlasting faithfulness to her.  Like water itself, she is both good (she can protect you and cure you from your illnesses) and bad (she can be dangerous and cause illness too).  She generally wants her followers to be healthy and well-off but is also associated with fatally strong undertows.

Sounds like I should make sure I keep her happy if I happen to meet up with her.  What kind of gift would she like?  Having emerged and gained popularity during a time of great trade and wealth for Africa, Mamy Wata loves her trinkets and baubles.  She is a real capitalist deity and adores anything shiny, expensive, and modern.  She’ll also happily accept perfume, alcohol, delicious food, Coca Cola, and anything with a designer label.  Her largely matriarchal priesthood and her initiates worship her by dancing feverishly until they fall into a trance, so she might appreciate it if you try your hand at that too. 

I haven’t seen you dancing yourself into another state of being lately.  How did you hear about her?  Her legends were brought to America by slaves.  In fact, her worship was recorded (and outlawed) by Dutch slavers in the 18th century.  But she must surely have seemed to retain her power as the slaves fought back swamp waters on New World plantations. 

Anything else I need to know before I strap on my goggles and flippers?  Just make sure you’re keeping your eyes peeled for her at all times; in southern Africa people believe she can fly around in a tornado, so keeping dry won’t necessarily save you!


Don’t say: Are you a manatee or a mermaid?

Do say: Where can I read more? 

Language Lizard carries Mamy Wata and the Monster in many popular languages.


Time to Celebrate your Dual Language Learners!

by languagelizard March 12, 2014 Uncategorized

It’s snowing – again.  Inside your classroom, the three and four year olds you teach are restless and frustrated.  Their little noses are pressed up against the windows where paper snowflakes, which looked magical in December, now wilt miserably.  “So much snow,” says a little girl who is growing up learning both English and Korean, […]

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Our Personal Shoppers are at Your Service!

by languagelizard March 5, 2014 At Home

We are pleased to announce that Language Lizard is now offering a complimentary Personal Shopper Service to simplify ordering of bilingual books, multilingual posters, and teacher resources. You gave us your feedback, and we heard you!  Many of you are trying to support language learners but don’t have the time to look through our site to select specific titles. […]

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New Year Celebrations Around the World

by languagelizard January 21, 2014 Uncategorized

Looking for a way to beat the winter blahs? Sweep away the cobwebs (literally!) and join in with celebrations for the traditional Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, on January 31st this year! A colorful, festive extravaganza, this holiday is celebrated with the cleaning out of the old to make way for the new, money […]

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Make 2014 your Year of the Strong Woman

by languagelizard January 7, 2014 At Home

  It’s New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and who’s that woman with the big grin leading millions of Americans into 2014?  It’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with a commanding view of her hometown and her hand firmly on that all-important crystal button. Why did organizers choose Justice Sotomayor?  To put it simply, she is an […]

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by languagelizard December 4, 2013 classroom

  Using flash cards and rote learning to teach an additional language is like looking at pictures of a turkey dinner instead of sitting down to eat the wonderful meal.  There are so many more interesting ways to experience learning and using a new language! And bilingual books are a great place to start. In April […]

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by languagelizard November 26, 2013 At Home

    Thanksgiving is one of the only times during the year when we can all come together and celebrate the beauty in our lives that we experience for free.  We can enjoy our friends, neighbors, and families while avoiding the stress of some other holidays.  Best of all, everyone of all faiths and backgrounds […]

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International Folktale Character: Nasreddin Hodja

by languagelizard November 14, 2013 International Folktale Characters

I’ve got a little vacation time coming up and I’d like to use it in July.  Any suggestions?   Sure!  If you’re looking for a vacation spot with a difference, look no further than Akşehir, Turkey, where they hold the International Nasreddin Hodja Fest every July. Sounds great!  Um…What is it?  In honor of this famous […]

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A New Way of Ordering Bilingual Books!

by languagelizard October 17, 2013 classroom

  Language Lizard is thrilled to announce a new way of ordering your bilingual books: we now offer Language Book Sets! Tailored to meet the language needs of teachers and librarians, they make ordering easy and eliminate the work of trawling through our site to find the perfect books for your classroom or library. We’ve hand-selected groups […]

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From Hiccups to Tuk-Tuks: Our Selection of Culturally Appropriate Bilingual Children’s Books

by languagelizard October 1, 2013 Book Reviews

 Picture this: you’ve recently moved to a new country where you are just learning the language, and you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost. One day, a colleague approaches you with something she thinks will remind you of home. It’s a book in English, and it’s all about “American culture”! Excited (and homesick), you […]

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