Yemaya, the Yoruban goddess of water is an ideal choice for this month. Yemaya or Yemonja's spirit survived the slave trade from Nigeria to the New World to become renewed and reborn in Santeria. It is not too surprising that she was frequently called upon and remembered as the slaves travelled over water for most of the journey. There is much information to be learned about Santeria and its growing number of followers. What is most interesting about Yemaya is the way in which she is honoured in many places so far from her original homeland.
I was first introduced to Yemaya in the Tarot of the Orishas and she has quickly become my favourite Goddess. She is second, in the Yorubian Pantheon, only to the supreme god of The Orishas. As stated, she rules all waters and is said to have nurtured humanity with the flow from her breasts. In one text that I have read, she is described as God the Mother. I remember feeling a thrill at the sound of those words. I also knew that at some point in history one or more of my ancestors worshipped within this pantheon.
Yemaya is placed here, in July, because of the water sign of Cancer ruling this month and its connections to the moon. All these are ultimate aspects of the Mothering, feminine principle. If love and comfort is what you need then the ideals of this all powerful and nurturing Goddess may warm your heart.
Those things that we have most feared in childhood about pagans can now be seen in a new light, as we study the characters, practices and celebrations of the old religions. Voodoo from the southern States, Santeria in the Caribbean and South America all have ties to the Orishas. The practices of the religion were continued by the slaves and done in secret, for this was what they knew. Feathers, shells, blood, chickens, snakes, prophecy, singing and dancing in the moonlight or by the water were all ways of honouring Yemaya and the other Orishas.
The African tradition is oral. Much of the teaching is memorized by the Babaluwos (Babaluale) or Fathers of Wisdom who retain the stories of the origins of the world in their heads, then recite them when necessary. Teaching was in the form of parables, similar to the bible stories. There are many stories of the work of Yemaya. She helped to fashion humanity and then to watch over it as any good mother would. She is by far the most celebrated of the Orishas.
According to Patricia Telesco, February 9 is Yemaya's day in Brazil where offerings are made to the Goddess at the seaside. Similarily on February 10, in Nigeria, this day is celebrated as fish day in her honour. Discover if Yemeya is there for you. She has devotees at many web sites throughtout the world. Fascinating books and some of the most strring music I have ever heard is also available. Enjoy her warmth!
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