Yemeya

“A religion without a goddess is halfway to atheism.”
― Dion Fortune

yeemaya

Yemeya

Goddess of the Sea. Mother of the Sea. Mother of Pearl. Mother of Dreams & Secrets. Empress of the Seven Oceans. Orisha of the Oceans. Womb of Creation. Constantly Coming Woman. Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Mama Watta (Mother Water). Truly, THE Mother of All. Her name is spelled in many different ways depending on where one resides: Yemeya, Yemaya, Ymoja, Yemaja, Iemanja, Yemalla, Yemalia, Yemonja, Yemana, Balianna.

In Yoroba land, from where this Goddess originates, Yeye Omo Eja means The Mother Whose Children Are Fish. We begin as fish-like fetuses in the waters of our mothers’ wombs, we must traverse those early embryonic fluids and evolve to our human baby form. Both modern-day science and ancient cultures have an understanding that all life originated from the sea. And, one day, it is to these waters and the earth itself that we shall again return.

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In the oral tradition of the Yoruba tribe of West Africa, originally Yemeya was the river goddess of their largest tributary, Ogun River, which was well-known to bring fertility. She resided far away from any ocean. She was an Orisha, a powerful force of nature. Yemeya was married to Aganyu, both were mortal god-humans, children of other mortal god-humans, created by Olodumare, the God Almighty.

Together, Yemeya and Aganyu had a son named Orungun. When Orungun became a teenager, he rebelled against his Father by raping his Mother. When Orungun attempted to rape his Mother a second time, she escaped to the highest mountaintop, the Chappal Waddi also known as the Mountain of Death, where she evoked all manner of retribution and justice by cursing her son until he died. Soon after, Yemeya found herself pregnant for her son, thus it came to pass, on that majestic mountaintop, 7900 feet above sea level, that she gave birth to 14 powerful nature spirits called Orishas. As her uterine waters spilled forth, a Great Flood ensued, which in turn created our world’s seven oceans. In her deep and regretful sorrow, Yemeya decided to take her life. Much later her bones birthed the first mortal man and woman, hence, Yemoja is called the Mother of All.

When her people were brutally captured and hoarded onto the slave ships, Yemaya had no choice but to gather her Spirit and go on this frightful journey, to protect and to guide the lives of her tribe, granting as many as possible safe passage to the New World. Africans, from this area, having never experience the expansive salty waterways, and under severe distress, naturally elevated Yemeya to the Goddess of the Ocean. The African diaspora brought Yemeya to a new land where she was to be worshiped by West Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Brazilians alike for many purposes… fisherman pray to her for fish and prosperity, travelers and sailors pray to her for safe passage and calm seas, mothers pray to her for protection and guidance, maidens & women with empty wombs pray to her for fertility, all manners of people pray to her for seductive prowess and wealth, inhabitants of the coastal terrains pray to her for benevolent waves and gentle storms, and, of course, in those early slave days, Africans and their offspring simply prayed to survive.

Dedicated to slaves thrown over during Middle Passage!

Dedicated to slaves thrown over during Middle Passage!

According to legend, Yemaya’s first gift to the Africans of the New World was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day we honor Yemaya when we hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the ocean. Listen!

conch

I met Yemeya while living on the islands of Belize. She taught me how to float, how to surrender and definitely how to play in her waters. She reminded me to take time to replenish, to nurture and to nourish myself. She brought me coral, conch pearls and all manner of conch jewelry in which to beautify my body. She bewitched the fisherman on my behalf ensuring a constant supply of good seafood to my home and restaurant. She protected my young boys as they traversed the Caribbean Sea, learning to swim, to snorkel, to dive, to haul lobster, to spearfish and to play. She saved my life one stormy day on the sea while I was drowning by sending me her most treasured consort, Old Man of the Sea, Juni Zladivar. She entertained me with dolphins, turtles, manatees and many more sea creatures. She magically enlivened my life with her incandescent colors on the early morning seascapes. She healed my aches and pains with her salty waters. She comforted me when life seemed like it offered more than I could bear. She is my unwavering, most trustworthy friend. She continues to be my benefactor!

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Yemeya embodies all aspects of a balanced, healthy Mother archetype… Deeply caring, kind, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, protective, comforting, empowered, abundant, providing, resplendent, nurturing, creative, merciful, generous, forbidding, powerful and stern.

“Invoke Yemeya for blessings, compassion, wisdom, fertility, creation, riches, inspiration, mother hood, female power, natural wealth, love spells, white magic, sea spells, fertility rituals, water magic, women’s issues, childbirth, sustaining life, washing away sorrows, revealing mysteries, acquiring ancient wisdom, protecting the home, learning not to give 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.” (https://broomcloset.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/yemaya-african-ocean-goddess/)

Consider this when building an altar to her…

yemaya

Yemeya is worshiped by crescent or full moons and on February 2nd as well as the Eve of Summer Solstice. Her lucky number is seven, like the seven seas. Her favorite day of the week is Saturday. Don the colors of blue, white or silver. She loves the smell of raspberry and cinnamon. Her coveted Gems are lapis lazuli, quartz crystals, pearls, mother of pearl, coral, moonstone, aquamarine, and turquoise. Naturally, she loves fish and all the creatures of the sea including ducks, as well as doves, but especially peacocks as they have her favorite colors. Her most coveted food and flower objects are oranges, tropical flowers, watermelons, yams, grains, seaweeds and other plants growing in the sea. Bring additional offerings of melons, molasses, whole fried fish and/or pork rinds to gain her favor.

Yemaya has graced my presence to grant me her energies: a woman who has been uprooted, relocated and challenged to unbearable extremes. A mother who has created, birthed, loved, cared, and tended her child only to lose that cherished baby. An empress who has been adored, worshiped and exalted and then quite suddenly, deviled, denied and enslaved only then to rise again to her rightful and truthful position and station in life.

As I call upon the sacred energies of the Mt. Shasta glaciers, high up in the Northern California Cascade ranges, galaxies away from West Africa, I hear Yemaya… she shows me the drought conditions of the once abundant Sacramento headwaters, she turns my attention to the polluted, rapidly declining state of our Seven Seas, she holds me (and all of us Wo/Men) accountable for this imbalance.

The Goddess speaks…”Until the Mother is worshiped and returned to her rightful place as the eternal creative force of this Earth, your world will remain in turmoil and the balance of your eco-systems will continue to deteriorate. Until the Goddess is exalted and revered for the never-ending source of everything she provides, human existence itself stands threatened. It is time now to carefully listen as the Mother is calling!”

“Only women who are enabled to sense a female divinity within their own spirit can bring about the profound changes that need to be made if humanity is to last much longer as one of earth’s life forms. The survival of any species depends on the nurturing behavior of its females, not the aggressive behavior of its males. It seems clear that the best hope for humanity is to return to its pre-patriarchal ethic of male submission to the Goddess spirit, not in the hierarchical sense that men understand as power-over.” Barbara G. Walker from Restoring the Goddess

An Altar for the Ancestors!

day of dead

“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” -Linda Hogan, Native American Writer

My ancestral worship began early this year, at the end of August actually. I was fortunate enough to be invited into a wonderful circle of women for an in-depth story telling ritual. Our commitment was to hear each others life stories, in full, with complete attention & awareness, without judgement or critique, hopefully, with love & compassion. There were six of us and the process took approximately 7 non consecutive weeks of meeting with one another for a three-hour period. I didn’t know these women well, it was definitely a stretch to share brutal truths amongst strangers and yet, from the very beginning, it was clear to me that the ancestors had been summoned and were indeed intrigued and listening…

Maybe it’s because the intention was to tell our stories from the beginning, from our births and ancestry to present day. Imagine! How would you be able to fully tell ones life story without an inadvertent homage to all those who have come before you? Thus, we wove our tales, week after week, outdoors, by a gentle creek, with the sound of bubbling and moving water, with benevolent breezes and more oft than not, the summer’s heat. In witnessing, hearing and holding each other stories, there were tears, there were sighs, there were gasps, there was outrage, there was shock, there was compassion, there was respect and most of all there was acknowledgement for six wild women and their passionate life journey’s.

In completion, we decided to build an ancestral altar thereby introducing our ancestors to each other. Afterall, we had just heard the guts and the glory of all these family lineages. We had opened closets, pulled out skeletons, called on ghosts all while declaring our sovereignty from lineage traumas, challenges, patterns, addictions and other inflicted pains. We had stated our truths to the four corners of the universe and we were ready to release and celebrate all that we had been through, in our time together as a woman’s circle, and in our lifetimes of collected stories.

altar

We began by laying a red velvet clothe on the ground at the base of a tree, perhaps it was symbolic of a world tree. We topped the red with a sacred & pure white clothe. We began placing our photos & memorabilia, items such as a Jewish star, A Cherokee poem, a Catholic rosary decorated the altar, which also included candles, incense, alcohol, chocolate, fruit, toys, clothes, crystals, bowls, feathers, jewelry, essential oils, flowers. We collectively adorned a space filled with beauty, with heartfelt prayers, in deep reverence, we built our group ancestral altar and we allowed that sacred space to sit under the tree for 9 long days and nights.

I imagine that our ancestors spoke, while they laughed, and drank, possibly they smoked, maybe they even gambled, they definitely danced and celebrated in a joyous manner. They were remembered! When the six of us eventually returned to break down the altar, it was a solemn affair, a drum beat sounded, the wind rustled around our feet, we made our goodbyes, like a quiet dawn of a new morning, we took our ancestral talismans home, and this ritual was declared complete.

“No one can be free who has a thousand ancestors” -LM Montgomery

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It is that time of the year now, Halloween, when the veils are thinning, that I consciously, purposefully and willingly acknowledge my ancestors. From All Hallows Eve through All Saints Day to All Souls Day (October 31- November 2), I celebrate all three days of Day of the Dead. I have written in great length and detail on this topic before, so as not to repeat myself, this Samhein season, I will simply share my process in building an ancestral altar.

Begin by clearing a space in your home or garden to create an altar, quite often a designated table top will do just fine. I like to ritually clean it with white vinegar prior to spreading a beautiful piece of ceremonial clothe atop your chosen altar space (this varies from tradition to tradition, some require white or red clothes, some require clothe with fringe… in all matters of the esoteric world, do what feels correct to you). Next, it is important to maintain a clean & clear space, free of clutter, thus malignant or unwanted spiritual forces will not be attracted to your home. Afterall, we wouldn’t invite Great Gram over to a dirty house. Before I bring anything to the altar, I clear my home with a strong smudging ritual of Belizean copal… I begin with black copal to dispel any darkness, then I end with the white copal, which welcomes the heavenly & angelic presence of my ancestors. (Note: any smudge of your preference will do… sage, sweatgrass, cedar, etc…).

copal

Now, consecrate your space with a prayer. Because I follow a Native American path blended with some old school pagaen worship… I welcome in the four directions by turning to the east with an offering of AIR (a feather) and say, “I show honor and respect to the ancestors of my mother’s side.” I turn to the west with an offering of water (a glass) and say, “I show honor and respect to the ancestors of my father’s side.” I turn to the north with an offering of earth (a crystal) and say, “I show honor and respect to the spirits that are known to me.” Finally, I turn to the south with an offering of fire (a candle) and say, “I show honor and respect to the spirits that are unknown to me.”

“To my ancestors, all those remembered, I honor you. To my ancestors, all those whose names have been forgotten, I honor you. To my ancestors, those who dust is scattered to the four winds, I honor you. To my ancestors, those whose bones lie within the Earth. I honor you”.. http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=2775.0;wap2-

It is now time to conjure up your ancestors and decorate the altar. Contemplate who you are inviting to the altar this year. If you are not adept in this sort of ritual, please use extreme caution in inviting any deceased family members who committed suicide or who died a traumatic death, or anyone who was emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive and/or those who had an unresolved substance abuse. These characters tend to bring disruptive energies to your life if they have not been assisted in an elevated crossing. Pets? Yes, you can welcome deceased pets. Living people with who you are disenfranchised? No, do not put a picture of a living person on the altar lest your bring some harm to their lives.

Old photographs, objects of memorabilia, flags, stones from their birth country, dirt from a graveyard, jewelry, names written on paper, official documents, alcohol for the drinkers, tobacco for the smokers, family heirlooms, money, food, fruit, candy and lastly, flowers are a MUST. Some traditions insist on white flowers, white candles and white everything! Being from Caribbean ethnicity, I use lots of color!

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Prostrate yourself in front of this beautiful creation with a commitment to communicate with these wonderful relatives over the next days (or whatever time frame you deccide on, I leave my altar up til after the Winter Solstice holidays). Bring them food, refresh their water, direct prayers at them, share their stories with your living relatives. They are pleased to be called on, they would love to assist you in the current dilemmas of your life. Celebrate them! Remember them! Honor them! They are the road map that has led you to the place you currently find yourself in your own life.

We all will die, maybe we will be remembered, by a future ancestor, possibly our story will be told!

Death

Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps. Continue reading