The goddess of the rivers of Natal in south-east Africa, Mamalambo’s name means ‘The River Mother’ and at times she appeared in the form of a snake. She was particularly helpful to those who brewed beer. In the old days, this was a job mainly undertaken by women; the following story, told to Jan Knappert and recorded in his book African Mythology, illustrates this.

One day a woman who ran the local beer shop decided she lacked customers, so she went to the bank of the river Umgeni, near Durban, and performed a ceremony to call upon the River Mother to bless her beer. She watched carefully and after a time found a piece of wood no bigger than a matchstick floating on the water. This she knew to be the River Mother.

She took the piece of wood home and placed it in the bottom of the barrel in which she kept her beer. Then she made a fresh brew and poured it into the barrel. From that time onward, her shop was always full of customers and the legendary fame of her beer spread far and wide. This attracted the attention of the police, and since brewing beer without a licence was illegal, the police invaded the premises to search for the illicit brew.

They found the barrel and opened it, but all they found was a long snake that hissed at them. It was Mamalambo, protecting the woman and her customers. When everyone returned after the police had left, the beer barrel was found to be full again and the drink even better than before.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: The Ultimate A—Z of Fantastic Beings From Myth and Magic

John & Caitlín Matthews

(via fuckyeahstrangemythology)


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