Yemaya

Yemaya

Holy Queen Sea

Also known as: Yemalla; Yemoja; Yemalia; Yemaja; Iemanja

Origin: Yoruba (Nigeria)

Classifications: Orisha; Mermaid

Yemaya, Queen of the Sea, epitomizes motherhood and rules all issues pertaining to women. She is among the most powerful and beloved of the Seven African Powers, the sexy matriarch of the Yoruba spirits known as orishas. The translation of her name, “The Mother Whose Children are Fish” has dual implications:

• Yemaya’s children are innumerable: she is the mother of most of the orishas.

• Her generosity and benevolence have also garnered her countless human devotees, equivalent to the innumerable fish of the sea.

Yemaya has profound associations with the sea and saltwater. She resides in the sea, she is the spirit of the sea, and she is the sea, literally present in ocean water. Her nature resembles that of the sea: profound, beautiful, filled with treasure and generosity but also potentially tempestuous. Yemaya generously bestows abundance, wealth, healing, love, and fertility, but she is also the essence of tidal waves and rip currents.

Yemaya, a profoundly powerful orisha, may be petitioned for:

• Anything possibly considered a “woman’s issue”

• Fertility and reproductive issues

• Protection from domestic violence, which she despises

• Protection when traveling over the sea

However, those who develop an especially close relationship with Yemaya must be extra cautious when actually near the sea. Communicate with her constantly when in the water or beside it. Remind her that you are human and must live on land. Yemaya doesn’t intend to cause harm but likes to keep everything she loves—her treasures—near her.

Once upon a time, Yemaya lived in the cemetery and Oya in the sea. Yemaya tricked Oya into permanently trading places. Oya has never entirely forgiven her. Do not feed or venerate them side by side. Leave some distance between these two powerful orishas.

Yemaya is syncretized to the Stella Maris and the Black Madonna of Regla.

Favored people: Anyone of African descent whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage to the West may consider their connection to Yemaya established. It is traditionally believed that anyone who survived did so through her grace, while those who did not survive were received into her body.

Yemaya also protects:

• Women and children

• Practitioners of the occult

• Those born under water signs, especially Cancers

Manifestations: Whether manifesting as woman or mermaid, Yemaya is always spectacularly beautiful. She can be sexually provocative with a rolling, hip-swaying walk that evokes the sea. Her traditional costume includes seven skirts. Her hair, clothes, and body may be ornamented with crystals, pearls, coral, or tiny bells.

Attributes: Seashells, marine motifs

Emblem: Star and half moon; Yemaya is the only orisha associated with two heavenly bodies—one isn’t sufficient to represent her beauty.

Colors: Blue, white

Birds: Doves, ducks, peacocks

Creatures: Fish, all sea creatures

Element: Water

Metal: Silver

Number: 7

Planet: Moon, which controls the sea

Plants: Indigo, seaweed, water hyacinth

Minerals: Quartz crystal, pearls, coral

Places: Originally the spirit of Nigeria’s Ogun River, her profound associations with the ocean may have coincided with the African slave trade.

Day: Saturday

Time:

• 2 February

• Summer Solstice •15 August (Brazil)

• 7 September (Cuba)

• New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Midnight, the threshold between years, is her power moment.

Altar: Devotees traditionally visit her at the ocean, bearing gifts. Alternatively, create an altar for Yemaya featuring saltwater and ocean motifs at home. Yemaya’s shrine should evoke the sea. Decorate it with nets, seashells, sea stars, and sea horses. Add salted water to a crystal glass containing small seashells.

Offerings: Jewelry, perfume, brand new scented soap still in its wrapper; flowers, especially white roses. Yemaya’s favorite food offerings include wet seedy fruits like pomegranates and watermelon plus fish, duck, and lamb dishes. She likes to snack on pork cracklings, plantain or banana chips and pound or coconut cake. Garnish everything with generous libations of molasses. Gifts on behalf of the marine environment and sea creatures may also please her.

HOW TO PETITION YEMAYA

• Summon her with a gourd rattle.

• Petition her at the beach.

• Can’t get to the beach? Yemaya’s fellow water spirit, Oshun, spirit of sweet waters, will accept offerings on her behalf. Deposit gifts for Yemaya in flowing streams or rivers. Nothing is free, however: if utilizing Oshun’s services, be sure to speak to her first, explaining that you would like her to deliver your offering to Yemaya. Bring Oshun an appropriate gift, too.

YEMAYA CLEANSING SPELL

Re-create the sea: add sea salt to spring water.

• Murmur over it. Tell the water your goals and what you seek. Invoke, petition, or pray to Yemaya.

• Sprinkle the water over your naked body from head to toe using your fingers or a roseMary branch.

• Let the water remain on your body for a little while, and then gently pat yourself dry with a brand-new clean white towel or cloth.

• Put on clean clothes.

• Take the cloth to the sea with seven white roses; throw everything in the water.

• Walk away and don’t look back.

Although there is one Yemaya, she also has multiple paths, which may be venerated independently. Alternatively they may be understood as different facets of one extremely complex, profound goddess. Yemaya’s different paths are symbolized by different shades of blue (and sometimes by unique attributes). The particular hue represents each path’s specific natureand home. Thus the aspects of Yemaya who live closest to land or the water’s surface are represented by paler shades than those dwelling in the depths. Aggressive, violent aspects of Yemaya also claim the color red.

The following are but a few of her many aspects:

YEMAYA ASESUN

Yemaya Asesun, an ancient path of Yemaya, is Queen of Water Birds including ducks, geese, and swans. She rules the springs that gush forth from Earth, especially in deep forests. Color: Light blue

YEMAYA ASHAGBA

Yemaya Ashagba, “The Chain,” is Olokun’s first child and may be the oldest, most primordial aspect of Yemaya. (See Yembo below.) Queen of the Anchor, Yemaya Ashagba connects the bottom of the sea with the top. She is a spirit of divination and healing. When angered, floods, and tidal waves are her weapons.

Attribute: Anchor

Color: Light blue

YEMAYA ATAREMAWA

Yemaya Ataremawa, the queen who is ever so important, owns all treasures of the sea. She has a home in the forest. Color: Light blue

YEMAYA IBU AGANA

Yemaya Ibu Agana is a wrathful aspect of Yemaya who lives at the bottom of the sea where she churns destruction.

Color: Deep blue

YEMAYA IBU ARO

Yemaya Ibu Aro distributes treasure. She controls trade routes and markets.

Colors: Indigo blue, red coral

YEMAYA MAYALEWO

Yemaya Mayalewo, Queen of the Harbor, the One Who Tends to Commerce and Trade, lives at the bay’s entrance. She is queen of the marketplace, Oya’s prime competitor.

Color: Light blue, teal

YEMAYA OGUNTé

Yemaya Ogunté is Warrior Yemaya: the courageous, fearless warrior who fights alongside Ogun. She lives on rocky, treacherous coastlines and wears a crown of seven machetes.

Color: Midnight blue, red

YEMAYA OKOTO

Yemaya Okoto, the Pirate Queen, causes shipwrecks and drags ships and treasure down to the ocean floor. Her name means “the one who lives amongst the seashells.” Her crown is a shark’s jawbone. She clenches a dagger between her teeth. She rules all predatory marine creatures who serve as her messengers and servants, possibly including human pirates. Yemaya Okoto fills the sea with blood. The Red Sea is her official hideout, but she sails where she chooses. (To complicate matters further, Yemaya and her daughter, love goddess Oshun, may be alter-egos of Lady Asherah, another Red Sea Queen and her daughter, love goddess Astarte.) She is also known as Yemaya Ibu Okoto.

Color: Indigo, navy blue, blood red

Altar: Decorate with Jolly Rogers and pirate flags

YEMBO

Yembo may be Yemaya’s mother or the oldest form of Yemaya. Yembo may be the mother of the orishas. Because Ogun allegedly raped her, metal knives are not permitted in her presence or used in her offerings. Substitute crystal, stone, or wood.

See also:

  • Aganyu
  • Asherah of the Sea, Lady
  • Astarte
  • Bahlindjo
  • Black Madonna of Regla
  • Dandalunda
  • Iemanja
  • Janaina
  • Maria Lionza
  • Mermaid
  • Nana Buruku
  • Ogun
  • Olokun
  • Oshun
  • Oya
  • Seven African Powers
  • Shango
  • Stella Maris
  • Swan Goddesses

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From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.