YEMOJA = Mother of Waters

                  “The Mother Whose Children Are The Fish.”

Yemoja 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, as the flood waters of turbulent rivers. Yemoja  is often depicted as a mermaid, and is associated with the moon, water, and feminine mysteries. She is the protector of Women. She governs everything pertaining Women; childbirth, conception, parenting, child safety, love, and healing. She oversees deep secrets, ancient wisdom, the moon, sea shells, and the collective unconscious. According to myth, when her waters broke, it caused a great flood creating rivers and streams and the first mortal humans were created from her womb.

In traditional Yoruba culture and spirituality,  Yemoja is a mother spirit; patron spirit of Women, especially pregnant Women; She is the patron deity of the Ogun river but she is also worshiped at streams, creeks, springs in addition to wells and run-offs. This represents the vastness of her motherhood, her fecundity, and her reign over all living things. In West Africa,  Yemoja is worshiped as a high-ranking river deity, but in Brazil and Cuba she is worshiped mainly as a sea/ocean goddess. River deities in Yoruba land include  Yemoja,  Oshun, Erinle, Oba, Yewa, etc. It is Olokun that fills the role of sea deity in Yoruba land, while   Yemoja is a leader of the other river deities. The river deity Yemoja is often portrayed as a mermaid, even in West Africa, and she can visit all other bodies of water, including lakes, lagoons, and the sea, but her home and the realm she owns are the rivers and streams, especially the Ogun River in Nigeria.

In mythology, the West African and Caribbean Goddess of creation, the sea, moon, ocean and healing is  Yemoja. She is considered to be a guardian of Women and keeper of our mysteries. 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.

  Yemoja = Yemaya is one of the most powerful Orishas in Santeria. She is the mother of all living things, rules over motherhood and owns all the waters of the Earth. She gave birth to the stars, the moon, the sun and most of the Orishas. Yemaya makes her residence in life-giving portion of the ocean – although some of her roads can be found in lagoons or lakes in the forest. Yemoja’s Ase is nurturing, protective and fruitful. Yemaya is just as much a loving mother Orisha as she is a fierce warrior that kills anyone who threatens her children.

 Yemoja can be found in all the waters of the world, and because of this she has many aspects of roads, each reflecting the nature of different bodies of water. Contrary to popular belief she is not just a loving mother. Some of  Yemoja’s roads are fierce warriors who fight with sabers or machetes and bathe in the blood of fallen enemies. Other roads are masterful diviners that have been through marriage, divorce and back again. Some roads of  Yemoja have been rape survivors, while other roads betrayed her sisters out of jealousy and spite. No matter what road of  Yemoja, all are powerful female Orishas and fiercely protective mothers.

Some followers of Santeria say Yemaya is Shango’s mother. The two of them eat together and Shango shares his wealth with Yemaya. She is one of the four pillars of the Santeria religion along with Obatala, Oshun and Shango. Therefore every initiated Olorisa will receive her mysteries at initiation.  Yemaya energy is most present in people who are warm, giving, sensitive and kind. However, the Orisha also exudes a strong sense of mystery, as all of its secrets cannot be comprehended.

Goddess  Yemoja domain is water, rivers, and what is often considered the birthplace of all of life on earth – the oceans and the seas.  She is specifically associated with the upper part of the ocean, which contains the most life.  Her first gift was a shell so that her people would always be able to hear her voice. Her name Mother Whose Children are the Fish, denotes that her children are countless and further relates her infinite and all encompassing life giving aspect. Yemoja  also lovingly assists and supports the rebirth  process, cleansing and purifying the old energy, releasing that which has served its purpose, allowing for renewal and new beginnings.

 Iyemonja-Mojelewi Ayaba Ogun-Okere

 Most Yoruba myths of origin can be found in the divination narratives knows at Odu Ifa which contains a number of poems called Ese Ifa. An Ese Ifa explains the origins of Gelede as beginning with Yemoja , “The Mother of all the Deities and all living things.”  Yewajobi –   Yemoja could not have children and consulted an Ifa oracle, who advised her to offer sacrifices and to dance with wooden images on her head and metal anklets on her feet. After performing this ritual, she became pregnant. Her first child was a boy, nicknamed “Efe” (the humorist); the Efe mask emphasizes song and jests because of the personality of its namesake.   Yewajobi – Yemoja ‘s second child was a girl, nicknamed “Gelede” because she was obese like her mother. Also like her mother, Gelede loved dancing.

IYEMONJA: Goddess of Beginnings, Mother of Waters…   

After getting married themselves, neither Gelede or Efe’s partner could have children. The Ifa oracle suggested they try the same ritual that had worked for their mother. No sooner than Efe and Gelede performed these rituals- dancing with wooden images on their heads and metal anklets on their feet- they started having children. These rituals developed into the Gelede masked dance and was perpetuated by the descendants of Efe and Gelede.

The commonality between them all is relatively brief.  She rules the waters and oceans.  She takes the form of a woman with long, black hair, and appears either wearing a flowing blue dress, a flowing white dress, or a flowing blue and white dress.  She wears a type of veil with beaded fringes that hide her face, and holds a mirror in one hand representing her beauty.  Her colors are, as you might imagine, blue and white. She’s always represented as one of the superior divinities, and associated with femininity and fertility, but her exact station changes with the person talking about her.

At the same time though, she is seen as the loving and protective mother of mankind.  She cares deeply for all her children, comforting them and cleansing them of sorrow.  She does not easily lose her temper, but when angry she can be like the Sea in a storm—wildly and indiscriminately violent and destructive. However, this aspect of strength that she possesses is as much a part of her character as her role as a mother.  In total, she is the main Feminine Principle of Candomblé, Yoruba, and Santeria, and all that that entails.

**Yemoja is the matron divinity of Ogun river, the river that originated in Shaki an Ancient City in Oyo State and flow through Ogun state into Lagos Lagoon. Yemoja was said to be the wife of Okere (name of Saki ruler) of Saki’ who bless the barren, cure the sick, Protect the Orphans and cleanse the land.
But Yemoja has the biggest and most succulent breast in the history of humanity, hence she was nick named Olomu Oru Potlike~breast she warned her husband the Oba and the rest of the Community not to ever abuse her with the breast. On a faithful day Yemoja departed to river to fetch water as her daily ritual, carrying a Pot on her head while returning from the river, One of the other Jealous wife of her husband Iwinlade hid herself in the bush beside the road and called her the forbidden name Olomu Oru Yemoja turned in anger and unleash her Divine Ase on Iwinlade who immediately turned to stone, right on the spot water started rushing out from the pot Yemoja is carrying , then all her body turned to the source of water, continuous gushing out of water turned to river called ‘the river of herbs’ Odo Ogun. This river was the first to breed fishes. This exact image became the Natural posture of consecrating Yemoja carved from precious stones, wood or Mold, anything less is uncivilized, this story Originated from ‘Ofun Meji’ the same Odu that doubled as Yemoja birth Odu and consecration channel. 

She is also listed among the rivers that descended with Orunmila during his second coming Yemoja Nourish the land for the farmers she blesses abundantly. She is worshipped in some area Ogun state and some part of Lagos as ‘Yewa’. Yemoja can visit any form of water ranging from rivers, streams, sea, or ocean, all these could be used as nexus of connection to invoke Yemoja. She is the Queen of the river.

Her dance movements represent the sea’s tumbling waves, these moves resemble the art of sewing nets, but also commonly represent a story line.  Her ocean dancing represents the salty water cleansing the distressed soul, or a newborn. She usually dances with a silver blue dress and something which resembles a fishing net, so as to represent herself as both fetus and fish.  Her metals are lead and silver, and her colors are blue hues and whites.

Reference Sources: Google Search/Photo = Wikipedia = Iya Ifabunmi Omo Yemi Akinyele Aworeni

7 thoughts on “YEMOJA = Mother of Waters”

  1. Dare Oladapo Oluwashakin: Àse Baba!!!it is a privilege to read your posts,may the Orishas increase your knowledge.

    Marsea Marquis: Beautiful website Baba, such a gift to humanity. Thank you! Asè, Axè, Ashè, Achè

  2. Once again, beautiful commentary that bridges our understanding among and between our respective traditions. As Yemonja’s gifts are many, may your insights and growth in service through our traditions remain boundless. Aboru, aboye, abosise.

  3. Aboru aboye abosise, This post of Yemoja is beautiful thought provoking and informative, however I would like to discuss in greater detail the sources of this content…In Peace,

    1. Àdupwé oooo Baba. Aboru abuye abosise. The article was very informative. For me the article clarified the spiritual connectedness of the water sources of our planet. Now I fully undertand why I always felt that same kind of energy at the rivers and streams that I do at the ocean and the sea when I do Ebo. Àşé oooo

  4. Why is it said that Oshun is the most powerful female Orisha because she is side by side with Orumila who is like the prophet of God Oludomare.

  5. Babá, parabéns pelo excelente blog , e obrigado por compartilhar conosco sua sabedoria. Sua abenção. PS.: Quando puder, gostaria que o senhor nomear-se e descreve as fotos que estão a ilustrar os textos. São muito interessantes, mas ficamos sem saber o seu significado.

  6. Both Afro-Brazilians & Yorubas traditionally agree about the first 5 points concerning Yemoja’s attributes. Yemoja is 1) “the metaphysical mother of all orishas”, 2) she is the orisha of water in general especially rivers such as the Ogun river – the largest river of Yoruba Land, 3) she is the orisha of motherhood, the fetus(developing baby/babies in the mother’s womb), 4) she is the Orisha of amniotic fluid, & 5) she is the “counterpart” of Olokun. It seems that she is also sometimes referred to as the “giver of life”, in Yoruba land. Her name roughly translates in Yoruba to English as being “Mother whose children are the fish”.
    What is “unique” about traditional Yemoja (Yemaya) recognition in Latin America, from Brazil to Cuba, is Yemoja as being the “orisha of the oceans/seas”. Throughout South America & the Caribbean Yemaya is recognized as being the ruler of “ocean/sea levels closest to the sun’s light, thus areas that have the most life” ex: coral reefs, schools of fish, shores, kelp forests, dolphins etc. Yemoja is often depicted in the Americas as walking on the oceans/seas. As Olokun wasn’t forgotten & within the Ifa traditions of Latin America he remains the ruler of the dark depths of the oceans/seas” with the “least amount of life”, that hold “secrets” beyond humanity’s comprehension. Though Yemoja can easily traverse the ocean/sea depths too, apparently she doesn’t like the salt. lol. Yemoja is said to have followed the cries of chattel-enslaved Africans who called her name, being sent to South America & the Caribbean in bloody race-based bondage.
    The Itan myths concerning Yemoja’s creation vary (as is the case for a number of old &/or popular Orishas). In some traditional myths, Yemoja is a “primordial orisha” being one of the first Orishas created by Olodumare, in other myths she was created from the body of Olokun, & in other myths she is the daughter of Oduduwa (female) & Obatala (male form)…. I hope this helped.

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