I am the force that swirls beneath the surface,
She who connects Sea and Sky,
the Infinite Mother who reclaims you.
Feel the sand beneath your feet, hold the conch to your ear,
gaze upon My Blue,
and you know Me.
Submit your troubles upon Me,
cast your cares into the heart of the ocean that is Me.
I will nurture you,
wipe your tears,
soothe the anger,
and shelter you from the coming storms.
In your surrender, I become your voice.
In the giving over, I become your freedom.
Daughter, come home, and allow Me
to make whole
that which is incomplete.
– Priestess Brandi Auset
On a Full Moon, we gathered at the shore of the ocean. It was only slightly cool on the South Florida winter night and the ocean had barely a ripple, seeming more like a lake than the sea. The guys stayed further up the beach and drummed for us, while all of the women sat with watermelons between our legs and carved spaces in the melon to insert candles. One of the women was a Daughter of Yemaya (Orisha and Mother of Oceans) and she instructed us on the proper preparation. We breathed our prayers and requests for blessings into the watermelons, anointed them with molasses, and lit the candles. Wading into the ocean with our melons, we chanted “YEMAYA ASSESSU, ASSESSU YEMAYA, YEMAYA OLODO, OLODO YEMAYA”. When the water reached chest level, we released our offerings to Yemaya and watched them float away. We continued the chant as we came out of the water and stood with our arms wrapped around each other. It was a profound and powerful moment that united all of us in the primordial energy of Goddess and Woman Ritual.
Orisha is the generic Yoruban word for “god”. Many of the Orishas were regional African deities who traveled with the slaves to the Caribbean and sparked the variations of Afro-Caribbean worship, like Santeria and Lukumi. Yoruba tradition says that before souls are born, they choose an Orisha as a guardian for their human life. A portion of that Orisha’s cosmic essence lives in the human’s head and that is where the phrase “owning a head” comes from. Sons and Daughters of particular Orishas also tend to embody some of the characteristics of the Orisha.
Yemaya is the All Mother Orisha who birthed all of the other Orishas, as well as the Sun and Moon. She is the nurturing Mother that listens to our troubles and washes away our sorrow and she is also the Mother with her hands on her hips that can bring us to proper behavior with a look.
“She is judgement and reason, but she can also be inflexible when she punishes. Majestic Queen of the Oceans, she is presumptuous and haughty. She protects her children in her skirt, feeds them, and raises them with absolute motherly rigor.” (Creole Religions of the Caribbean)
In Africa, her name comes from the Yoruban phrase “Yeye omo eja” that means “Mother whose children are like fish”. Yemaya is the owner of the Ogun River and a lake that is named for her. Her “hidden” aspect, Olokun, is considered to be the owner of Oceans (and in some traditions, Olokun is a separate Orisha from Yemaya). As the African diaspora occurred and Yemaya traveled west with her children to the Americas and Caribbean, the Mother of Waters became more known as Mother of Oceans. Olokun is resides in the deepest depths of the ocean, guarding the source of life and a sacred shrine to the Ancestors. I have always experienced Olokun as a sister of Yemaya, much like Isis and Nepthys, but understand that is my personal opinion and there are many stories that are different, although as an Aborisha in Lukumi, I have received the Orisha Olokun.
Yemaya is primal feminine power – watching over women and their birthing cycles. She is a popular Orisha with many children, one book said that it is possible that as many as 25% of children are of Yemaya. This speaks to her fertility and immense capacity for mothering and dispensing love and compassion to her children. She is alert to those who are in need and applies her motherly tendencies to all who cross her path. Yemaya is strong-willed and independent and her daughters tend to be the same.
Non-initiates are always welcome to approach the Orishas devotionally. I have been worked with and devoted to the Orishas for 18 years before taking formal initiation. For those who are interested in approaching the Orishas and/or are attracted to the African Yoruba practices, I encourage you to do your research. We all carry within us ties to areas of the world and connections to deity that transcend our current place, time, genetic roots and outer rationale. These urges, spiritual “wonderings” or instincts of connection do not always seem explainable to the outsider but they could be a missing piece to your spiritual puzzle.
Orishas have very specific likes (and dislikes in some cases) and Yemaya is no exception. Her favorite colors are blue and white and she is frequently depicted as a mermaid. In Santeria, she is syncretized to Our Lady of Regla and she is the guardian of the Bay of Cuba in that form. Saturday is her day of the week and her number is 7. If you are near the ocean, take 7 copper pennies to leave as an offering for Yemaya, particularly if you take something from the beach like rocks or seashells. Any type of rock or seashell that you find on the beach is a wonderful addition to an altar for the Mother of Oceans. For non-initiates, they will keep a glass bowl for Yemaya with water and all of the things that she likes, including a rubber duck. Add seven pennies to this bowl, change the water frequently, and Yemaya will bring blessings to your home.
Here is a picture of my altar to Yemaya from her Feast Day on September 7:
Yemaya loves watermelons, as well as other tropical fruits, and molasses. Her feast day is September 7 and there are massive ceremonies and celebrations around the world in her honor. Herbs and plants that she favors are marjoram, cilantro, watercress, parsley, lettuce, aloe vera, ferns, lotuses, violets, and vervain. Taking a bath with watercress is said to bring a blessing of health from Yemaya and a bath with parsley invites a blessing of money.
Her tools and symbols include a sword, a fan, a half moon, an anchor, and a silver or white metal sun.
Yemaya is a potent All Mother Goddess and for those in need of nurturing, blessings, healing, and cleansing, she is available.
Oriki Yemaya – a Traditional Prayer to Yemaya:
Ashe o Iya mi Yemoja!
Mother whose children are the fish
Who inhabit the primordial waters
Mother whose salt runs in our veins
Able to give life when ours has drained
Mother who lives in our tears
Revealing yourself in both our darkest and happiest moments
Ashe o Iya mi Yemoja!
Your curves wind like the rivers that sculpt their travels in stone
Even mountains can not stop you on your journey
There is no obstacle you can not circumvent,
Nothing that can block your way
Even the hardest and strongest
Will give way, or be overtaken
Ashe o Iya mi Yemoja!
We can not live
We can not thrive
We can not survive
Ashe o Iya mi Yemoja!
May you provide us with health
May you provide us with wealth
May you provide us with someone to share our lives
May you provide us with children
May you provide us with longevity
May you provide us with wisdom
May you provide us with peace
(the word “ashe” is pronounced “ashay” and is the life-force of the universe – the power to make things happen)
RESOURCES FOR YEMAYA
***Jambalaya by Luisah Teish (this is not only wonderful information on Orishas but also women’s spirituality and a GREAT place to start)
Yemoja / Olokun by Fatunmbi
Powers of the Orishas by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler
Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa by Tobe Melora Correal
Creole Religions of the Caribbean by Margarite Fernandez Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert
GODDESS VENDORS WE LOVE!
- DaughtersOfIsis.com with Gwen Barry – Magical Essential Oil Blends & Incense
- GailJessenDesigns.com with Gail Jessen – Sacred Jewelry Design
- MurphysEssentials.com with Kim Murphy – Healing & Magical Essential Oil Blends & CBD
- Red Priestess with Brandi Auset – Goddess Sprays and Crystals
- SacredWell.com with Yeshe Matthews – Crystal and Treasure Shop
MOTHERHOUSE GODDESS TEMPLE – Goddess Calendar & Free Community Events
© 2020 – 2021 Kimberly F. Moore – MotherHouse of the Goddess. All rights reserved. No part of this course may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief, cited quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please contact us.