"Lasyrenn is connected to Mammy Water, whose shrines are found
throughout West Africa. Some suggest that the mermaid persona, also
common for Mammy Water, was derived from the carved figures on the
bows of the ships of European traders and slavers. Thus the Vodou
lwa Lasyrenn may have roots that connect, like nerves, to the deepest
and most painful parts of the loss of homeland and the trauma of
slavery. It is therefore fitting that she also reconnects people
to Africa and its wisdom. In many stories, people are captured by
Lasyrenn and pulled under the water, down to Ginen. Sometimes these
stories are descriptions of tragic drownings or of suicides. But
as often as not such tales are strategies used by the poor and otherwise
disenfranchised to gain access to the prestigious role of healer.
"The stories have a common pattern. A person, usually a woman,
disappears for a time -- three days, three months, three years.
When she returns, she is a changed person. Her skin has become fairer,
her hair longer and straighter. Most important, she has gained sacred
knowledge. Immediately after her return, she is disoriented, does
not talk, and does not remember what happened to her. But gradually
a story emerges, a story of living for a time 'below the water,'
where the spirits instructed her in the arts of diagnosis and healing."