Yemaja is an orisha, originally of the Yoruba religion, who has become prominent in many Afro-American religion. Africans from what is now called Yorubaland brought Yemaya 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 protector of children.

Name variants

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

* Africa: Yemoja, Ymoja, Iemanja Nana Borocum, Iemanja Bomi, Iemanja Boci
* Brazil: Yemanjá, Iemanjá, Janaina
* Cuba: Yemaya, Yemayah, Iemanya
* Haiti: La Sirène, LaSiren (in Vodou)
* USA (New Orleans Voodoo): Yemalla, Yemana

In some places, Yemaja is syncretized with other deities:
* Mami Wata
* Nana Buluku
* Nanã
* La Diosa del Mar


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 Agayu 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 emo eja" that mean "Mother whose children are like fishes". This represents the vastness of her motherhood, her fecundity and her reign over all living things.

Yemaya is celebrated in Ifá tradition as Yemoja. [ [ Yemoja in Ifa tradition] ] 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 Buruku in Ifa tradition] ] Nana Buluku is an ancient god in Dahomey mythology.


The goddess is known as Yemanjá, Iemanjá or Janaína in Brazilian Candomblé [ [ Iemanja cult in Brazil] ] 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 Mithology. Sometimes, a feast can honor both [ [ N. Sra. dos Navegantes ] ] [ [ Religião - Iemanjá e Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes são homenageadas no sul do Estado ] ] .

In Salvador, Bahia, Iemanjá is celebrated by Candomblé in the very day consecrated by the Catholic church to Our Lady of Seafaring (Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes) [ [] ] . 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.

Iemanjá 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 Iemanjá. Another feast occur this day in the Pedra Furada, Monte Serrat in Salvador, Bahia, called the "Gift to Iemanjá", when fishermen celebrate their devotion to the Queen of the Ocean.

Outside Bahia State, Iemanjá is elebrated mainly by Umbanda religion.

On New Year's Eve in Rio de Janeiro, millions of cariocas dressed in white gather on Copacabana beach to greet the New Year, watch fireworks, and throw 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 Iemanjá in wood toy boats. Paintings of Iemanjá are for sale in Rio shops, next to painting of Jesus and other catholica 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 in the shores of Praia Grande city. During these days many vehicles garnished with Iemanjá icons and colors roam from the São Paulo mountains to the sea littoral, some of them traveling hundreds of miles. Thousands of people rally near iemanjá statue in Praia Grande beach.

In Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul State, at 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 in the shores [ [ Pelo Rio Grande - Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes é homenageada com procissões ] ] .

Cuba and Haiti

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 7 seas), her colors are blue and white (representing water), and her favorite offerings include melons, molasses ("melaço" - sugar cane syrup), whole fried fishes and pork rinds. She has been syncretized with Our Lady of Regla.

Yemaja has several caminos (paths). At the initiation ceremony known as kariocha, or simply ocha, the exact path is determined through divination. Her paths include:
* Ogunte: In this path, she is a warrior, with a belt of iron weapons like Ogun. This path lives by the rocky coastliness. Her colors are crystal, dark blue and some red.
* Asesu: This path is very old. She is said to be deaf and answers her patrons slowly. She is associated with ducks and still or stagnant waters. Her colors are pale blue and coral.
* Okoto: This path is known as the underwater assassin. Her colors are indigo and blood red and her symbolism includes that of pirates.
* Majalewo: This path lives in the forest with the herbalist orisha, Osanyin. She is associated with the marketplace and her shrines are decorated with 21 plates. Her colors are teals and turquoises.
* Ibu Aro: This path is similar to Majalewo in that she is associated with markets, commerce and her shrines are decorated with plates. Her colors are darker; indigo, crystal and red coral. Her crown (and husband) is the orisha Oshumare, the rainbow.
* Ashaba: This path is said to be so beautiful that no human can look at her directly.

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

In popular culture

books and songs make references to Yemaja, inspired by Amado's work (see Hebrew Wikipedia page [] ).

In 1994, A House Music track was produced, arranged and written by Little Louie Vega and his wife at the time, La India, called "Love & Happiness (Yemaya Y Ochún)" which features a Cuban chant/prayer dedicated Yemaya and her sister Ochún. It is considered a House music classic by many critics, and is always very well received. The song can be found on Cream Classics Volume 2, or Renaissance: The Mix Collection [Disc 1] .

As "Yemanja", the goddess is also a very prominent subject of veneration by a Brazilian chef in the 2000 romantic comedy Woman on Top.


External links

* [ Yemaya - The Great Mother]
* [ Photos of the celebration on flickr]
* [ Yemanja, goddess of the sea - Brazilian relationship to oceans]
* [ Yemaya - ICSF's Newsletter on Gender and Fisheries]
* [] Baba'Awo Ifaloju, showcasing Ifa using web media 2.0 (blogs, podcasting, video & photocasting)

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Look at other dictionaries:

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