This article examines folklore concerning water spirits among the Makushi Amerindians in Guyana. Makushi accounts of spirits called ‘water mamas’—twingram or Tuenkaron in Makushi—associate these beings with white people in both past and present. The case is presented here that this folklore reflects Makushi histories and experiences of European contact, colonialism in Dutch and British Guiana, and ongoing relations with Europeans and other outsiders. The themes of abduction, enticement, capricious wealth, and exotic ‘palaces’ found in stories of water mamas relate to these histories and experiences and inscribe them into the present landscape in Guyana. In addition to describing beliefs in water mamas and examining Makushi histories of interaction with Europeans, the article begins to explore the comparative context of this folklore in relation to other beliefs in water spirits across Amazonia and beyond.
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|Published - 2020