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  • Jo-Anne Blanco

Goddess of the Week - Kadita, the Mermaid Goddess

Kadita was the beautiful princess of the Pajajaran kingdom in West Java, who, as the only

daughter of the king, was destined to become queen, even though at the time it was strictly forbidden for women to inherit the throne. But Kadita’s destiny was to become a queen of a very different kind. In one version of this Sundanese folk tale, Kadita is cursed by a jealous rival in her father’s palace, who uses black magic to inflict upon her a terrible skin disease. Kadita runs away from the palace and leaps into the storm-tossed waves of the ocean, where she is cured and her beauty is restored. Sea spirits and demons alike crown her the Spirit- Queen of the South Sea.

Another version of the story tells how the king, in order to prevent his daughter from

inheriting his throne, marries again in the hope of fathering a son. His new queen falls

pregnant and becomes fiercely jealous of Kadita, forcing her husband to choose between his wife and his daughter. The queen tells him that if he chooses his daughter, he will lose his wife and their child, and thus have no male heir. If he chooses his wife, his daughter must be exiled forever and his son must become king. As an excuse to send Kadita away, the king orders a witch to give his daughter a dreadful skin disease that will make all who see her be repulsed by her and reject her. After being cursed and exiled from the palace, alone and abandoned in the wilderness, the sick and heartbroken Kadita hears a mysterious voice urging her to go down to the sea at midnight for her disease to be cured. She does so and disappears, presumed drowned. But from the ocean where she vanishes emerges Nyai Loro Kidul, goddess and Queen of the Southern Sea (the Indian Ocean) also known as Ratu Laut Setalan, Queen of the South Sea.

The former Princess Kadita dwells at the heart of the Indian Ocean, the ruler of an

underwater empire and mistress of the sea’s turbulent waves. She is frequently depicted as a mermaid, with the upper body of a woman, the lower body of a fish, and a tail, though she is also referred to as a “naga”, a mythical snake. Kadita’s disease is thought to have been leprosy, suggesting that the “cure” may have been akin to the shedding of a snake’s skin, or the casting off of the diseased mortal skin for the perfection and immortality of the inner divine spirit. Equally revered and feared, Nyai Loro Kadul can take away the soul of anyone she wishes (usually fishermen and beach-bathers, and preferably handsome men!) and she shape-shifts several times a day. The colour aqua green is her favourite and is sacred to her; because of this, it is forbidden to wear this colour on the southern coast of Java. The Javanese word “loro” means “two” and Nyai Loro Kadul is a dual deity, manifesting alternately as a beautiful young woman and a venerable old woman.

Kadita’s identity has not yet been revealed in the Fata Morgana books; to do so now would spoil it!

Discover the books.

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