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Mami Wata

The veneration of serpents and the worship of female water deities were significant parts of the cultures of the Igbo communities in the lower Niger region. Communities in this riverine area revered certain rivers and lakes in the belief that they were home to water goddesses (known in Igbo as "Nne Nmiri" and "Owu Nmiri" and in English as "Mami Wata") which often manifested as pythons or beautiful maidens.

Being totem animals, pythons were treated as sacred beings and were allowed to roam about freely. Villagers would offer sacrifices to these benevolent creatures, and in exchange pythons would bring them good fortune and favor. Killing a python would be seen as an abomination and the perpetrator would be required to give the dead serpent a lavish and expensive burial (much like that which would be given to a human) lest he face the wrath of the water goddess. Some famous Igbo water deities are Idemili and Njaba.


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