Also known as: Yemalla; Yemoja; Yemalia; Yemaja; Iemanja
Yemaya, Queen of the Sea, epitomizes motherhood and rules all issues pertaining to women. The translation of her name, “The Mother Whose Children are Fish” has dual implications:
Yemaya’s children are innumerable: she is the mother of most of the orishas.
Her generosity and benevolence have also garnered her countless human devotees, equivalent to the innumerable fish of the sea.
Yemaya has profound associations with the sea and saltwater. She resides in the sea, she is the spirit of the sea, and she is the sea, literally present in ocean water. Her nature resembles that of the sea: profound, beautiful, filled with treasure and generosity but also potentially tempestuous. Yemaya generously bestows abundance, wealth, healing, love, and fertility, but she is also the essence of tidal waves and rip currents.
Yemaya, a profoundly powerful orisha, may be petitioned for: Anything possibly considered a “woman’s issue”, Fertility and reproductive issues, Protection when traveling over the sea. However, those who develop an especially close relationship with Yemaya must be extra cautious when actually near the sea. Communicate with her constantly when in the water or beside it. Remind her that you are human and must live on land. Yemaya doesn’t intend to cause harm but likes to keep everything she loves, her treasure, near her.
Once upon a time, Yemaya lived in the cemetery and Oya in the sea. Yemaya tricked Oya into permanently trading places. Oya has never entirely forgiven her. Do not feed or venerate them side by side. Leave some distance between these two powerful orishas.
Manifestations: Whether manifesting as woman or mermaid, Yemaya is always spectacularly beautiful. She can be sexually provocative with a rolling, hip-swaying walk that evokes the sea. Her traditional costume includes seven skirts. Her hair, clothes, and body may be ornamented with crystals, pearls, coral or tiny bells.
Attributes: Seashells, marine motifs
Emblem: Star and half moon. Yemaya is the only orisha associated with two heavenly bodies.
Colors: Blue, white
Birds: Doves, ducks, peacocks
Creatures: All sea creatures
Planet: Moon, which controls the sea
Plants: Indigo, seaweed, water hyacinth
Minerals: Quartz crystal, pearls, coral
Places: Originally the spirit of Nigeria’s Ogun River, her profound associations with the ocean may have coincided with the African slave trade.
Time: 2 February. Summer Solstice, 15 August (Brazil), 7 September (Cuba) and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Midnight, the threshold between years, is her power moment.
Altar: Devotees traditionally visit her at the ocean, bearing gifts. Alternatively, create an altar for Yemaya featuring saltwater and ocean motifs at home. Yemaya’s shrine should evoke the sea. Decorate it with nets, seashells, sea stars, and sea horses. Add salted water to a crystal glass containing small seashells.
Offerings: Jewelry, perfume, brand new scented soap, flowers, especially white roses. Yemaya’s favorite food offerings include wet seedy fruits like pomegranates and watermelon, fish, duck and lamb dishes. She likes to snack on pork cracklings, plantain or banana chips and pound or coconut cake. Garnish everything with generous libations of molasses. Gifts on behalf of the marine environment and sea creatures may also please her.
HOW TO PETITION YEMAYA: Summon her with a gourd rattle. Petition her at the beach. Can’t get to the beach? Yemaya’s fellow water spirit, Oshun, spirit of sweet waters, will accept offerings on her behalf. Deposit gifts for Yemaya in flowing streams or rivers. Nothing is free, however: if utilizing Oshun’s services, be sure to speak to her first, explaining that you would like her to deliver your offering to Yemaya. Bring Oshun an appropriate gift too.
YEMAYA CLEANSING SPELL
Re-create the sea: add sea salt to spring water.
• Murmur over it. Tell the water your goals and what you seek. Invoke, petition, or pray to Yemaya.
• Sprinkle the water over your naked body from head to toe using your fingers or a rosemary branch.
• Let the water remain on your body for a little while, and then gently pat yourself dry with a brand-new clean white towel or cloth.
• Put on clean clothes.
• Take the cloth to the sea with seven white roses; place everything in the water.
• Walk away and don’t look back.
Although there is one Yemaya, she also has multiple paths, which may be venerated independently. Alternatively they may be understood as different facets of one extremely complex, profound goddess. Yemaya’s different paths are symbolized by different shades of blue. The particular hue represents each path’s specific nature and home. Thus the aspects of Yemaya who live closest to land or the water’s surface are represented by paler shades than those dwelling in the depths. Aggressive, violent aspects of Yemaya also claim the color red.