Yemaya is the Yoruba (West African) goddess of water and life. In the Yoruba religion, Yemaya is an orisha, an animistic deity who is a manifestation of one part of God. The Yoruba religion has influenced spiritual paths in many areas of West Africa, and with the transport of West Africans to America and the Caribbean, Yoruba spirituality is present in areas like Jamaica, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and the United States. It is also the basis for Vodun (“Voodoo”) traditions.
Yemaya is the patron of waters and oceans, and also of women and children. All life came from Yemaya; she is the creator of life and all living things, since all life originally came from the oceans. Yemaya is the Queen of the Ocean and the female principle of creation. She is the mother of all saints and is sometimes identified with the Virgin Mary; at other times she is equated to Our Lady of Seafaring. Her name means, “Mother whose children are like fish”. As the ruler of all water, she is the patron of fishermen and people lost or at risk at sea. She is also entreated to protect pregnant mothers and ensure safe, easy childbirth. Her wrath is expressed by the hurricane, which sweeps aside all obstacles. She provides the riches and fertility of the ocean and offers protection and nurturing love.
Yemaya is portrayed as a woman in a blue or white dress rising out of the sea. Sometimes she is shown with a mermaid’s tail; she is also depicted with two fish tails instead of one. She is strongly associated with moonlight. She sometimes wears a star crown or is accompanied by sea creatures. Her number is 7. She is sometimes associated with pearls.
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