“ they kissed the ground and said Oh My Yemaya, thank you.”
Legend has it that when slaves were taken from their homelands in Africa and forcibly placed on ships, they believed that the ocean would swallow them up, and they prayed to Yemaya to save their lives. When they finally reached land they kissed the ground and said Oh My Yemaya, thank you.
Yemaya is an Orisha, a mother goddess, a goddess of the sea. For many she is also a goddess of the moon. She is worshiped in the religions of Ifa, La Regla Lucumi (Santeria,) Candomble, and to some extent also in New Orleans Voodoo. Yemaya is a welcoming and compassionate goddess and very often it is her who makes herself known to people outside of the religion. She is said to control all the oceans and the life that lives in them. The Virgin of Regla is the Catholic saint most often syncretized with her, but she is also represented by images of Diosa del Mar, with stars falling from her hands. Yemaya’s sacred number is seven, and accordingly her ritual necklace or eleke is most often made up of seven blue beads alternating with seven crystal ones. As with most Orisha there are several paths or faces of this divinity. One path of Yemaya is said to be the sister of Oshun, and lives with her in the river. Another path is said to be an “ocean of blood” and is in charge of all the shipwreck victims, while yet another oversees all the buried treasure that lies at the bottom of the ocean.
There are many ritual stories, or patakis, for Yemaya that illustrate these different paths. One story tells of her temporarily changing herself into the river in order to flee an angry mate and escape back to the ocean. She is a divine woman of many names: Yemaya, Iemanja, and Yemonja. Her traditional feast day in La Regla Lucumi (Santeria) is celebrated on September 7th. In Brazil celebrations for Iemanja occur on December 31st and are combined with the New Year’s Eve festivities to make quite a show. Some spiritual houses associate Yemaya with Our Lady of Candlearia and thusly use the feast day of February 2, while some people just associate her with Mother’s Day.
Offerings for Yemaya
Black Eyed Peas
Watermelon – uncut
Herbs and Botanicals for Yemaya
Ritual Tools (crafted in silver or lead) and Altar Items
Sea Turtle shells
More Resources to Check Out!
Pataki of Orisa by Ota Omi Olo Oshun. This is a great resource for more pataki.
Santeria by Luis Nunez. Great beginning text covering most elements of the religion. Written by my late friend Luis Nunez.
55 Ways to Connect to Goddess by Lilith Dorsey. Please check out my new book giving you loads of ways to connect not only to Yemaya, but all the great cosmic feminine forces in the universe.