Ratu Rara Kidul

'Kanjeng Ibu Ratu Kidul in Green', by Darwyn Tse

Known as the ‘Queen of the South Seas’ Ratu Rara Kidul is a Javanese mermaid goddess of Indonesia and a presence very much alive, acknowledged and respected in that culture. People to this day report sightings of Her Royal Highness emerging from her palace below the ocean and strolling on to the beach. Her favourite colour is green; no one can sport any garment of that colour while on the shore, for fear of insulting the Queen. Ratu Rara Kidul can be called on to assist in affairs of the heart and has a cycle of renewal that is connected to the cycles of the moon – a perfect mermaid for lunar magic.

Married to the fifteenth century historical sultan of Yogyakarta and Solo, Senopati, Rara Kidul is still treated, even today, as a venerated member of the family. In the pantheon of Javanese mythology, which originated in India, Rara Kidul is sometimes associated with the Hindu goddess Kali’s aspects of time, death and regeneration. Rara Kidul will appear as a beautiful young woman when the moon journeys from new to full and as a wise old woman when the moon goes from full to dark. She is worshiped by fishermen as an ocean goddess and by farmers as a rain and storm goddess, alike.

The night before the opening of the Samudra Beach Hotel in 1966 on the Javanese southern coast, Rara Kidul’s territory, Sultan Buwono, member of the ruling house and one of Rara Kidul’s descendants, was staying there as an invited guest. Much to his surprise, he was entreated for an audience by a local village headman. When granted, the man told him he had a dream in which a beautiful woman in green appeared and asked for her offerings. The sultan thanked the man, knowing full well he had seen Rara Kidul, and stated that he wouldn’t be able to make the required offerings, because he was attending the opening in an official capacity, not in a spiritual or religious one. The headman, feeling a bit apprehensive, bowed to his sultan’s wishes and left. Within the hour after the meeting, a huge tidal wave hit the hotel, drenching the guests and destroying the buffet table. The Sultan asked for a room for Rara Kidul and went and made the necessary offerings. The sea immediately became docile. To this day the Samudra Beach Hotel keeps that room vacant and in readiness for visits from the Queen.

Excerpt from Mermaid Magic by Amy Sophia Marashinsky (HarperElement, 2005)

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