Folklore & Myth Thursday – Week 13 – M

Welcome to another Folklore and Myth Thusday post! In this thirteenth post I’ll focus on some folkloric and mythological elements that begin with the letter ‘m’. If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, or would like to find some more resources, you’ll find some links at the end of the post.

This week I’ll focus on Mahakala, Mahisha, Mami Wata and Miengu, Mael Dúin, Minia, and Mokosh.


Last week I had a look at Palden Lhamo. Like Palden Lhamo, Mahakala is also one of the Dharmapalas. Mahakala is “[blue-black] in color, with six arms” (Rosen, 2008:354) and is “a wrathful manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion” (Rosen, 2008:354).

“Mahakala’s complexion – the color of the night sky – symbolizes the spaciousness of enlightened mind” (Rosen, 2008:354). His six arms symbolizes the mastery of the six perfect activities – generosity, patience, morality, enthusiasm, concentration, and wisdom (Rosen, 2008:354). Mahakala’s three eyes represents knowledge of the past, present, and future, while the tiger skin he wears symbolizes purification of desire and the snake he carries symbolizes the purification of anger (see Rosen, 2008:354).

Mahakala Bernakchen.jpg
By Klaus Schaarschmidt – Diamondway Picture Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


“Mahisha is the buffalo-headed demon defeated by the Hindu warrior goddess Durga” (Rosen, 2008:78). Rosen tells that “Mahisha was threatening the cosmic order, stomping across the three worlds, polluting the Earth and sea” (Rosen, 2008:78). Durga then came into being to fight Mahisha, but he sent her a marriage proposal (Rosen, 2008:78); to which Durga replied: “I shall marry only he that defeats me in battle” (Rosen, 2008:78).

“An epic conflict began. Mountains shook and oceans trembled as Mahisha attacked. Armed with Shiva’s trident and Vishnu’s discus, the goddess battled back” (Rosen, 2008:78).

Mahisha changes first into a lion and then an elephant, but each time durga defeats it (see Rosen, 2008:78). At last Durga “plunged the trident into his heart (Rosen, 2008:78).

“Her victory is celebrated in Bengal each year during the festival of Durgapuja” (Rosen, 2008:78).

Durga Mahisasuramardini.JPG
By Unknown – picture of the “Guler School”,, Public Domain, Link

Mami Wata and Miengu

Mami Wata and the Miengu (singular Jengu) are “female water spirits honored in Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of North and South America” (Rosen, 2008:134).

“In the oldest versions of her mythology, Mami Wata is a Mermaid with the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a fish or reptile. When she appears as a human woman, she is elegant and exceptionally beautiful, with brilliant eyes, a lighter than normal complexion, attractive clothes in the latest fashion, and abundance of shiny jewelry, and excessively long hair that she is fond of brushing back with a golden comb” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Rosen (2008:134) also notes that she is often accompanied by a large snake (which is “a symbol of psychic power and divinity in many African cultures” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Legends about Mami Wata tell of how she “may kidnap swimmers and take them to her underwater realm, releasing them when they promise fidelity to her cult” (Rosen, 2008:134). She “is also believed to gift her followers with material wealth and spiritual accomplishments” (Rosen, 2008:134).

For more about Mami Wata, see Rosen, 2008:134.

The Miengu are also mermaid-like creatures which inhabit rivers and the sea and are honored in Cameroon (Rosen, 2008:134). “Believed to be beneficient, they carry messenges between the people who honor them and the world of the spirits” (Rosen, 2008:134). The Miengu may further “cure illnesses and bless their devotees with good luck, protection from epidemics, victory in competitions, and fair weather” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Mael Dúin

Mael Dúin is an Irish hero who “sailed away to kill the man who had slain his father (Tresidder, 2004:299). However, he takes more men than a druid advised and his ship gets blown off course. “They [encounter] many fabulous lands and monsters, including ants the size of foals … vanishing maidens and the Land of Women [and] an island of perpetual feasting and pleasure where old age was unknown” (Tresidder, 2004:299) before they returned to Ireland.


Minia is a “cosmic serpent of northern African mythology” (Tresidder, 2004:318), and, in the Sahara and Sahel it is believed that Minia was the first thing the divine creator created (Tresidder, 2004:318).

“The serpent’s head was in the sky and its tail was in the waters beneath the earth. Its body was divided into seven parts [and these were used to] form the world and all life” (Tresidder, 2004:318).


Mokosh (or Makosh) “was the centre of a fertility cult that was widespread among the eastern Slav peoples” (Tresidder, 2004:300) and is the goddess of “fertility, abundance and moisture” (Tresidder, 2004:300). Mokosh is also the protector of maidens and of women’s work (see also Tresidder, 2004:300).

Obec Mokošín- Bohyně Mokoš.jpg
By Mido mokomidoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sources and more:

Read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Check out The Folklore Podcast – Fairies! Slenderman! Awesomeness! And more!

Also be sure to stop by Ronel’s blog for her folklore and fiction posts!


Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Carin 🙂 Mami Wata is actually one of the characters in my NaNoWriMo project – it’s interesting how the folklore surrounding her varies slightly from Africa to the Americas.


  2. Loved reading about so many different folklores. I’m only familiar with Mahisha (we call him Mahishasur in India). I loved reading about the rest. I’ll take a look at the podcast as well.


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