February 7, 2013

Yemaya: African Ocean Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , at 8:06 am by Babs

Yemaya is the Yoruban Orisha or Goddess of the living ocean, considered the Mother of All.  She is the source of all the waters, including the rivers of Western Africa, especially the River Ogun.  Her name is a contraction of Yey Omo Eja, which mans “Mother Whose Children are the Fish”.  As all life is thought to have begun in the Sea, all life is held to have begun with Yemaya.  She is motherly and strongly protective and cares deeply for all Her children, comforting them and cleansing them of sorrow.  She is said to be able to cure infertility in women, and cowrie shells represent Her wealth.  She does not easily lose Her temper, but when angered She can be quite destructive and violent, just as the Sea in a storm.  Yemaya was brought to the New World with the African Diaspora and She is now worshipped in many cultures besides Her original Africa.  In Brazilian Candomblé, where She is known as Yemanja or Imanje, She is the Sea Mother who brings fish to the fishermen, and the crescent moon is Her sign.  As Yemanja Afodo of Brazil, She protects boats traveling on the Sea and grants safe passage.

In Haitian Voodoo She is worshipped as a Moon-Goddess and is believed to protect mothers and their children.  She is associated with the mermaid spirits of Lasirenn (Herself a form of Erzulie) who brings seduction and wealth, and Labelenn, Her sister the whale.

Yemaya rules over the surface of the ocean, where life is concentrated.  She is associated with the Orisha Olokin (who is variously described as female, male, or hermaphrodite) who represents the depths of the Ocean and the unconscious, and together They form a balance.  She is the sister and wife of Aganju, the God of the soil, and the mother of Oya, Goddess of the winds.

Our Lady of Regla in Brazil may be linked to Her, and She is equated elsewhere in the Americas with the Virgin Mary as the Great Mother.  In parts of Brazil She is honored as the Ocean Goddess at the summer solstice, while in the north-east of the country Her festival is held on February 2nd (a day that is also associated with Her daughter Oya, as well as being the feast day of the Celtic Bride), with offerings of blue and white flowers cast into the Sea.

Yemaya’s colors are blue and white, and She is said to wear a dress with seven skirts that represent the seven seas.  Sacred to Her are peacocks with their beautiful blue/green iridescence, and ducks.  The number seven is Hers, also for the seven seas.


Achabba, in Her strict aspect; Oqqutte in Her violent aspect: Atarmagwa, the wealthy queen of the sea; Olokun or Olokum as Goddess of dreams.

She is also called Mama Watta “Mother of the Waves”, Mother Water, Star of the Seas, and is the protector of women.  Her healing powers are carried in the great waters, her energy powerful during the ebb and flow of life challenges.  Alternate spelling of her name is Yemanja, Yemoja, Yemonja, Yemalla, Yemana, Ymoja, Iamanje, Iemonja, and Imanje.

Suggested Mantra: Nourishment

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I voice my needs
  • Freedom is a birthright I enjoy
  • It is easy to articulate my feelings
  • I am freed through communication
  • I release my anger, I embrace joy
  • Others recognize my needs and honor them
  • I connect with my needs and let them be known


  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Aquamarine
  • Turquoise (light blue stones)
  • Pearl
  • Coral
  • Mother of Pearl (ocean sourced)
  • Crystal Beads
  • Cowrie Shells

Emblems:  Fans, sea shells and ornaments made of silver.

Animals: Ducks, sea birds, peacocks, fish and goats.

Yemaya’s Number: Seven (representative of the seven seas)

Feast Day: February 2nd, June 22nd (eve of the Summer Solstice), September 7th & 9th, October 26th, and December 31st.

Day of the Week: Saturday

West African, Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean Goddess Yemaya is Mother Water, Orisha of the Oceans.  She represents mother love and the affairs of women such as fertility, children, birthing, the home and family.  She is the merciful goddess of creation and protector of women during conception and childbirth and of children during their childhood.  She is the deep ocean of comfort for those in need.

African deities (Orishas) are usually represented by flowing, swirling images of color and movement, depicting the elemental energies rather than an anthropomorphasized image.  Yemaya’s energy is depicted with sky blue, white and silver swirling color.  In other images, she is a mermaid of a beautiful woman.

Yemaya brings forth and protects life through all the highs and lows, even during the worst atrocities that can be suffered.  She reminds women to take time out for themselves, to nurture their own needs and to respect their deserved position in life.

She is the mother archetype and the provider of wealth.  As the one who gives life and sustains the Earth, she is extremely generous and giving.  She is the nurturing energy that sustains the Earth, she is extremely generous and giving.  She is the nurturing energy that soothes anyone.  But like the ocean, when she is angry, she can be implacable.  Therefore, she represents the mother who gives love, but does not give her power away.  Yemaya is also the owner of the collective subconscious and ancient wisdom, since she holds the secrets tha are  hidden in the sea.  She is often invoked in fertility rituals for women and in any ritual concerning women’s issues.

As a creation goddess, Yemaya’s womb spilled forth the fourteen Yoruba goddesses and gods, and the breaking of her uterine waters caused the great flood, which created the oceans.  From her body the first human woman and man, who became the parents of all mortal beings on earth, were born.

Yemaya’s wisdom: I nurture, heal, touch, bless, comfort and make whole that which is incomplete.  I am within you and you need only look inside yourself to find my eternal presence.  She rules the sea, the moon, dreams, deep secrets, sea shells, ancient wisdom, salt water, fresh water, ocean secrets, the collective unconscious, and the surface of te ocean, seas and lakes.  Her many titles include Queen of Witches, Mother of Fishes, The Constantly Coming Woman, The Ocean Mother, Mother of Dreams and Secrets, Mother of All, Mother of the Sea, Holy Queen Sea, The Womb of Creation, Mother of Pear, Stella Maris (star of the sea), and Yeye Omo Eja, Mother Whose Children Are the Fish.  In Africa she is Mama Watta, Mother of Waters.

The African diaspora spread Yemaya’s worship to the New World, where she was syncretized with Mary as Our Lady of Regla (Virgin of Madrid), and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  In Cuba she is Yemaya, Yemaya Acabba (stern aspect) and Yemaya Oqqutte (violent aspect), Yemaya Olokun (powerful dream aspect), and Yemaya Ataramagwa – Queen of the Sea.  In Trinidad she is Emanjah, a river goddess.  In Brazil, she is an ocean goddess called Yemanja and Imanje.  In Haiti her name is Agwe, Mother of the Sea, and in New Orleans she is called La Balianne.

On the eve of the Summer Solstice devotees cast flowers and votive boats into the water.   There is a Brazilian tradition of the candelaria on December 31st, lighting candles on the beach at midnight for Yemanje.  Votive boats made from blowers are cast into the sea.  It is a good omen for the coming year if she accepts your boat and carries it out to sea.  It is a bad omen if your offering is refused, and your boat is washed back upon the shore.

Invoke Yemaya for blessings, compassion, wisdom, fertility, creation, riches, inspiration, mother hood, femal power, natural wealth, love spells, with magic, sea spells, fertility rituals, water magic, womens issues, having children, sustaining life, wahing away sorrow, revealing mysteries, acquiring ancient wisdom, protecting the home, learning not to gie your power away, and comforting children in crisis.  Invoke her as Erzukie for beauty, good fortune, and good health.  Invoke her as Yemoja to cure infertility, as Yemana for rain, as Emanjah for teaching children, as Yemaya Olokun for dream magic and protecting babies in the womb; and as Yemaya Atarmagwa for money spells.  Invoke Yemaya as Agwe for affection and blessings.

Yams, grain, soap, perfume, jewelry, and fabric are all traditional offerings to Yemaya, thrown into the sea.  Her foods are watermelon, molasses, black-eyed peas and fried port rinds.  Rams are also sacrificed to her.  Wear pearls or crystal beads to invoke her.  To ask Yemaya to grant a wish or bestow a blessing, write her a letter and cast it into the sea.

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