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IT was a ceremony that never was for a Chipinge family in Manicaland Province after a 16-year-old girl believed to have been abducted by a mermaid in the mighty Save River could not be released seven months after her assumed abduction.She is now feared dead, and the family has been shuttling between traditional healers in a desperate bid to retrieve her from the part of a river where the mermaid reportedly lives.
The girl identified as Tariro Tapomwa is said to have been abducted at a river canal, where the Save River flows through Chipinge.
Her family, that initially believed she was to be initiated into the art of traditional healing, wore sorrowful faces and one could read traces of distress as they feared their daughter dead.
And coming from Chipinge where the tradition is prevalent, the family said they never bothered to report the case of a missing person to the police as they were advised that it would compromise the girl’s life.
Tariro, who was supposed to sit for her O-level exams this year, is said to have disappeared towards the end of last year.
She is said to have disappeared at a river in the Chatambudzaarea in Chipinge, while fetching water in the evening.
The area in which she went missing is strongly believed by villagers, to be infested by mermaids, and they claimed that a number of people had been abducted by mermaids, with some returning after some time while others disappeared forever.
Last week Sunday Leisure had a rather rare opportunity to witness the phenomenal ritual, carried out to request the mermaid to return the girl.
The ritual began at 9pm. The Sunday Leisure crew arrived in the area around 1am.
Family members and villagers gathered at the river bank — the site where Tariro is believed to have been abducted.
Some of the family members and traditional leaders were clad in black and red traditional garments, which are said to signify respect for the mermaid spirits in the river.
During the ceremony, traditionalists chanted incantations to summon the spirits, while others beat drums, which are believed to provide a gateway to earth from the water world for the abducted person.
The ritual was only attended by Tariro’s immediate family, elderly spirit mediums, traditional leaders and a traditional healer who was hired to oversee and allegedly pull her out of the river.
As they beat the drums reciting incantations, others poured opaque beer, which had been prepared for the ritual into the river, perhaps to appease the mermaid spirit while others were drinking.
Initially, the family had hired the services of a local traditional healer Eddington Virimayi popularly known as SaManyika but could not agree on the charges.
They then hired the services of a “cheaper” traditional healer from Mozambique.
SaManyika said he had charged the family $500 and two cows, while the Mozambican traditional healer’s charges could not be established.
“The family had initially hired me but I was surprised to find that they had decided to hire the services of another traditional healer. It is possible that the girl is dead now because the family has taken way too long to do the rituals for her. Also they haven’t followed the right procedure as they have been advised not to include women that still go on their monthly periods and those that still seek the warmth of men.
“The rules of the aquatic realm are very delicate and need to be followed precisely,” he said.
Sunday Leisure only observed the rituals from a distance as they were barred from getting close to the ceremony by traditional leaders. They also barred the crew from recording the proceedings, saying it was taboo and that “outsiders” would negatively affect the ritual.
Questioned on why the ritual had to be carried out during the dead of the night, SaManyika said mermaid spirits were much more active at night than during the day.
“There are different realms in the world, whether you believe it or not. The reason for the ceremony to be held at night is because time varies in these worlds. I would have gone into the river at around 3am to retrieve her but since they have hired another healer it is no longer my concern,” he said.
The ritual took a break at around 4am. The following morning, relatives who go to SDA church, who said they believed in both Christianity and tradition were at the site.
“While the masses do not believe in mermaids, we will not meddle in the traditional beliefs of others. Christianity doesn’t allow us to believe in traditional issues such as this, but Tariro is family and we have no option but to assist with prayers. Perhaps what they say is true and a miracle may just happen,” said a family member who identified himself as Thodlana.
The church members, however, seemed slightly unwelcome but were entertained either way.
They too, like the traditionalists, held a prayer session, which ran from around 10am to about mid-day, before leaving after their attempts at bringing back the girl were futile.
Efforts to get a clearer picture and insight into the ritual from family or traditional leaders were futile, as they maintained that it was taboo to openly speak about it to strangers.
There have been many stories told around Zimbabwe of people being abducted by mermaids, with most of them being dismissed as fables.
However, International Traditional Healers Association (ITHA) president, David Mhabinyana Ngwenya, said the family should have reported the matter to the police.
“They should have reported the matter to the police. They should have also reported the issue to traditional leaders as well so that they are made aware of such incidents,” he said.
Ngwenya said the ritual could have been compromised as in normal circumstances and according to traditional beliefs; a person abducted by mermaids normally comes out of the river or dam by themselves and is not assisted by anyone.
“Such people are not to be retrieved by anyone. They come out by themselves and at their own time. You cannot determine how long they can stay underwater. Some can go for as long as two years, while others for as little as four months,” he said.
Ngwenya noted that if such rituals were done before the right time the person could remain underwater forever.
“These are very rare occurrences but they do happen. Such people prove to be very powerful healers,” he said.
Ngwenya went on to dispute the issue of payment, saying that the person who had been abducted was the one to determine what to pay.
“Traditional healing is not commercial. If it is done in that manner then it is a huge mistake. There are a lot of people out to enrich themselves nowadays and those that do so have lost the plot. That is not the right way of doing things,” he said.
Ngwenya again said the ritual was very delicate, stating that even the slightest mistake could spell disaster if there were hopes of ever seeing the girl.
“From the look of things, the ritual was flawed and this could have compromised this girl’s life. It is possible she may never be seen again or she can come in a dream and give her family instructions as how to conduct the ritual. This is a traditional ritual and the church has no room here,” he added.
The belief in mermaids and other mythical creatures is widespread in Zimbabwe, where many people combine a Christian faith with traditional beliefs.
Mermaids are said to be creatures that are half human, half fish and dwell under water. But are they real? There isn’t any proof that earth’s waters are occupied by the mythical creatures, yet believers continue to find “proof” of their existence.
No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. by Peter Matika. Source: sundaynews.ave river-zimmail