YEMÒJA


Yemayá, Yemònja or Yemòja is generally regarded as the queen of the water and her body. According to the popular beliefs, all the rivers, lakes and sea flow from her. Ye-mo-ja origins from the name Yeye–Omo-Eja, mother of the fish. The word Omo is used in a generic sense. Currently it is associated with the Ògún River and a cult pays in those areas where the river runs, particularly in Abeokuta. Yemayà was born in the Takua land which is where the Ògún River begins, according to beliefs in Nigeria. It is for this reason that this zone has turn to a place of pilgrimage for countless devotees.

Yemayá is as many other Òrisàs adored in different regions and has often different names or forms e.g. Mayelewo is the one who prevails in Oyo and a myth says that she was a merchandiser in the city of Shaki, She married with Okefe which is the real name of Òòsàoko, but he insulted her, by calling her Somu Gaga (large breast) because of her large breast. Ashamed she submerged in to the river and went to live with Olókun using the name Somu Gaga and she only comes out from the ocean in very few occasions and from different places of the coast.

Yemayà is a deity who is associated with dolls, in Africa she is carved in precious wood and carries secret loads depending on the path she is meant for. When she is on earth she enjoys living in the entrance of the bushes and she is a hard worker, she also trades food, dyed fabrics and makes oil out of melon seeds.

The children of Yemayá are not aloud to eat watercress or a plant called quimbombo because they are the most powerful herbs of Yemayá. She dresses in different colours and shapes, but the principal colours are white, blue and green in all tones, and pink. She loves white roses and her children brings her a basket with white roses to the seashore where they throw the roses in to the water at the same time as they call her name, when their health is at stake. Yemayá was born with the moon as Obàtálá was born with the sun.

The legend says:

Yemayá did not find someone who she cold get married with, but Ògún decided to marry her and out of this union a son called Òrungan was born. It says that Òrungan committed incest with his Mother and she escaped horrified, but her hot son chased her and she fell exhaustive into the ground, Water started to pour from her body and as the water started to transform into a lake the following deities where emanated; Olósà (Goddess of the lake), Olókun (God of the ocean), Dadá (God of the vegetables), Sàngó (God of the lighting), Ògún (God of the iron and war), Oya (Goddess of the Niger River), Osún (Goddess of the Osún River), Obá (Goddess of Oba), Òòsàoko (God of the agriculture), Òsóòsì (God of hunt), Oke (God of the Mountains), Aje Saluga (God of richness), Sòponnà (God of variola), Òrun (Goddess of the sun), Osú (God of the moon).

A fable tells that Yemayá was a very beautiful woman, but she didn’t want to get married because she missed one breast and was afraid that her husband would make fun of her because of this.

One day on her way home from the market afflicted she thought of how sad it was to be alone without children and husband to come home to. Ògún heard this and while he was on the same trail and felt a strong urge to married her, he hugged her and told her; fear not, I know I look fierce and everyone fears me, but I promise not to harm you and protect you ass long as you promise me to never make fun of my bloodshot eyes, Yemayá accepted and asked him to never touch her breast and for a long time they fulfilled these promises and Yemayá gave him many children.

One day Ògún wanted to make something special to Yemayá and started to make her soup, but because of his lack of experience he dropped the pot and it broke in thousand pieces as the food fell to the floor.

Yemayá who was resting woke up and run to the kitchen, when she saw the disaster that Ògún hade made, she yelled; what have you done with my kitchen, you with the bloodshot eyes. Ògún felt ashamed on his knees and reached her to seek consolation, accidentally hi touched her breast and she started to tremble.

At the blink of an eye she became water and disappeared, Ògún became very sad at the disappearances of his beloved wife and thought that the gentleness is not made for him, so he went to continue his agitated life as a warrior.

According to our tradition Yemayá is given a sweep bowl in the colours blue and white with attributes and tools such as; A sun, a full moon, an anchor, a lifesaver, a boat, seven oars, seven bangles, one key, one star and seven silver bangles. This objects can be made in silver, iron, tin or lead, she also gets a ponytail with blue and white beaded handle, maracas which are used to great her and to capture her attention when she is spoken to, one fan with mother with pearl and gold linkage adorned with beads and shells, round fans made of leaves of guano adorned with peacock feathers. She uses a richly ornamented robe of burato. All this attributes are adorned with ducks, fishes, netting, stars, seahorses, miniature shells and everything that is related to the ocean. They always carry blue beading and white alternate, stones, cowries etc…

The necklaces are made with seven beadings of transparent crystal called from water and blue, pale blue water, dark blue and opalescent pearls or beads of soap, etc. The offers to Yemayá are ram, pigeon, turtle, duck, hen, guano, quail, pork, shrimp stew with capers, boiled eggs, spinach and tomato corn tamale; that is soaked all day, grind in a pestle and cooked in a saucepan without fat and unsalted, is shaped like a pyramid and is wrapped in fresh banana leaves; Bean razupo (which are black-eyed peas that had been in water and are passed through a grater so that the shell can be removed, the peas are then converted to a paste and you ad salt with chopped garlic, onion and small pieces of ginger to the paste, you then ad a colouring to a hot fat and when it boils, the paste of the peas is poured in and mixed with salt, garlic ,onion adding ginger to the mixture. You put a small amount of colouring in to a pan with hot fat. When the mixture is boiling you add the boiled beans and steer. (prepare small molds of paper and fill them with the paste). Her favourite fruit is the whater melon, pineapple, papayas, grapes, pears, water, apples, bananas and oranges also fried yam and plantains.

She controls the abundance of the fishing, avoids the tipping of the canoes and the accidents in the river. Some spirits helps infertile to get conceived. The main symbols are the polished stones and sixteen cauries, this are also used as a divination tool for devotes.

 

Oríkì Yemòja
(Praising the spirit of the mother of all fisheries)

 

Bómi ìyámi
Sómi tómi
Bomi t'òkun
Wè isé àjé mogbé jinà
Fi bun mi omodé
Fi bun mi aláàfíà
Má kò àjé je mi
Má kò enia buburú pa mi
Yemoja ìyá gbogbo
Bómi ìyámi
Ase

Translation:

Yemoja Mother of the fish
Mother of the water on earth
Nurture me, my mother
Protect and guide me
Like the waves of the ocean
Clean the witchcraft that I took away
Give me children
Give me peace
Do not let witches devour me
Do not let the evil people destroy me
Yemoja, mother of all
Nurture me my mother.

 


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