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Yemaya (also known as Yemoja and Iemanja) is the queen of the Earth, owner of all waters, and the orisha of motherhood in the Yoruban religion and its diaspora in the Americas. She is the mother of all living things and lives in the sea. Her name is a contraction of the Yoruba saying "iyá omó eyá" meaning "mother whose children are the fish." She is the older sister of Oshun, the mother of Shango and was wife to several orishas including Ogun, Olokun and Obatala. Yemaya is not just compassion and nurturing, she is also the ferocious ocean during a storm, a fierce warrior who defends her children when they are threatened, and a powerful medium and diviner in her own right. Yemaya is petitioned for help with love, marriage, protection against enemies, safe travel by sea, healing, blessing, fertility, and psychic work.

Yemaya is usually depicted as a full-figured black woman with large breasts wearing a blue dress and crown trimmed in white. Depending on her road or avatar, Yemaya carries a black haired horse tail fly-whisk, a sabre, or a machete with which she defends her children. When she spins, the rippling edges of her dress are the tempestuous waves of the stormy sea. Her shrine is contained in a glazed blue ceramic pot filled with her mysteries along with 18 loose cowries for diloggun divination, through which she speaks. There are many roads or avatars of Yemaya, covering the entire gamut of her personality, including Ogunte, the wife of Ogun who roams in the forest and wields a machete as well as he does; Asesú, the soft-tempered avatar who frolics through the sea foam; Okoto, the pirate who slays her enemies with a sabre and bathes in their blood (the red tide); Mayelewo, who heads up the marketplace and announces her arrival by smashing plates; and Agana, the messenger of Olokun who brings rain and lives in the dark recesses of the ocean. Her ritual number is 7. Her beaded necklace varies according to her road, but usually contains blue beads, which are different shades of blue, according to the avatar they represent, as well as clear beads, and red or coral beads. Her garments are traditionally blue with white trim. Animal sacrifice is used to petition Yemaya within the African Traditional Religions. Sacrifices to Yemaya include: rams, roosters, ducks and guinea hens, but she will also partake in any of Shango's animal sacrifices and typically feasts along side him in his ceremonies. Altar offerings for Yemaya include watermelon, melons of all types, mangos, bananas, and molasses.

In the syncretic practices of Cuban Santeria or Lukumi, in which African orishas are associated with Catholic Church saints, Yemaya is linked with the Black Madonna known as Our Lady of Regla and her feast day is September 7. In Haitian Voudoun, Yemaya may be syncretized with the lwa La Sirene, the mermaid. Hoodoo pyschic readers, spirit workers and root doctors who are adherents of the Yoruban and Yoruban-Diasporic Religions and who petition the orishas on behalf of clients may work with Yemaya when love, marriage, protection from enemies, safe travel by ocean, blessing, healing, fertility, and the development of psychic gifts are at issue.


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