Yemaja

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Yemal by Sallie Ann Glassman

Yemanja is an orisha, originally of the Yoruba religion, who has become prominent in many Afro-American religions. Yoruba people, from what is now called Yorubaland, brought Yemaya/Yemoja and a host of other deities/energy forces in nature with them when they were brought to the shores of the Americas as captives. She is the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a fierce protector of children.

Name variants[edit]

Because the Afro-American religions were transmitted as part of a long oral tradition, there are many regional variations on the goddess's name. She is represented with Our lady of Regla and Stella Maris.

In some places, Yemaja is syncretized with other deities:

Yemaja is said to be the mother of all orisha. She also is the spirit of water, and her favorite number is 7.

Africa[edit]

In Yorùbá mythology, Yemoja is a mother goddess; patron deity of women, especially pregnant women; and the Ogun river. Her parents are Oduduwa and Obatala. There are many stories as to how she became the mother of all saints. She was married to Aganju and had one son, Orungan, and fifteen Orishas came forth from her. They include Ogun, Olokun, Shopona and Shango. Other stories would say that Yemaya was always there in the beginning and all life came from her, including all of the orishas.

Her name is a contraction of Yoruba words: "Yeye omo eja" that mean "Mother whose children are like fish." This represents the vastness of her motherhood, her fecundity and her reign over all living things.

Yemaya is celebrated in Ifá tradition as Yemoja. As Iemanja Nana Borocum, or Nana Burku, she is pictured as a very old woman, dressed in black and mauve, connected to mud, swamps, earth. Nana Buluku is an ancient god in Dahomey mythology.

In the Igbo language of south eastern Nigeria , Yemanja is called Mmuommiri ,which could be translated by the water spirit.

Brazil[edit]

Image of lemanjá, Brazil
Offerings for lemanjá in Salvador, Brazil. The culture of various areas in Brazil is a syncretization over centuries of African elements brought by slaves and Brazilian modes of living

The goddess is known as Iemanjá or Janaína in Brazilian Candomblé and Umbanda religions.

The Umbanda religion worships Iemanjá as one of the seven orixás of the African Pantheon. She is the Queen of the Ocean, the patron deity of the fishermen and the survivors of shipwrecks, the feminine principle of creation and the spirit of moonlight. A syncretism happens between the catholic Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (Our Lady of the Seafaring) and the orixá Iemanjá of the African Mythology. Sometimes, a feast can honor both.

In Salvador, Bahia, Iemanjá is celebrated by Candomblé on the very same day consecrated by the Catholic Church to Our Lady of Seafaring (Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes).[1][2] Every February 2, thousands of people line up at dawn to leave their offerings at her shrine in Rio Vermelho. Gifts for Iemanjá usually include flowers and objects of female vanity (perfume, jewelry, combs, lipsticks, mirrors). These are gathered in large baskets and taken out to the sea by local fishermen. Afterwards a massive street party ensues.

Yemanjá is also celebrated every December 8 in Salvador, Bahia. The Festa da Conceição da Praia (Feast to Our Lady of Conception of the church at the beach) is a city holiday dedicated to the Catholic saint and also to Yemanjá. Another feast occurs on this day in the Pedra Furada, Monte Serrat in Salvador, Bahia, called the Gift to Yemanjá, when fishermen celebrate their devotion to the Queen of the Ocean.

Outside Bahia State, Iemanjá is celebrated mainly by followers of the Umbanda religion.

On New Year's Eve in Rio de Janeiro, millions of cariocas, of all religions, dressed in white gather on Copacabana beach to greet the New Year, watch fireworks, and throw (white) flowers and other offerings into the sea for the goddess in the hopes that she will grant them their requests for the coming year. Some send their gifts to lemanjá in wooden toy boats. Paintings of lemanjá are sold in Rio shops, next to paintings of Jesus and other Catholic saints. They portray her as a woman rising out of the sea. Small offerings of flowers and floating candles are left in the sea on many nights at Copacabana.

In São Paulo State, Iemanjá is celebrated in the two first weekends of December on the shores of Praia Grande city. During these days many vehicles garnished with Iemanjá icons and colors (white and blue) roam from the São Paulo mountains to the sea littoral, some of them traveling hundreds of miles. Thousands of people rally near Iemanjá's statue in Praia Grande beach.

In Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul State, on February 2, the image of Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes is carried to the port of Pelotas. Before the closing of the catholic feast, the boats stop and host the Umbanda followers that carry the image of Iemanjá, in a syncretic meeting that is watched by thousand of people on the shore.[3]

Cuba and Haiti[edit]

She is venerated in Vodou as LaSiren.

In Santería, Yemayá is seen as the mother of all living things as well as the owner of all waters. Her number is 7 (a tie into the seven seas), her colors are blue and white (representing water), and her favorite offerings include melons, molasses ("melaço" is sugar cane syrup), whole fried fishes and pork rinds. She has been syncretized with Our Lady of Regla.

Yemaja has several caminos (paths).[4] At the initiation ceremony known as kariocha, or simply ocha, the exact path is determined through divination. Her paths in Voodoo/Candomble include:

In the Congo religions, such as Palo Mayombe, Palo Monte, Kimbisa and Briumba, she is known as Kalunga, Mà Lango or Madré D'Agua—Mother of Waters.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mother of the Waters" (1988) a film by Elisa Tesser offers a poetic evocation of this ceremony with interviews in which devotees describe their relationship to the goddess and how she has appeared to them.
  2. ^ pt:Iemanjá#Brasil
  3. ^ Pelo Rio Grande - Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes é homenageada com procissões
  4. ^ A. De LA Torre, Miguel; La Torre, Miguel A., De (2004). Santería: the beliefs and rituals of a growing religion in America. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-8028-4973-3. 
  5. ^ "A&M Corner: Ye-Me-Le lyrics (2007)". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 

External links[edit]