Yemoja, Patron Saint of the Ocean/River

A water spirit, an orisha of the oceans/rivers — particularly the Ogun River in Nigeria, a mother, and a strong protective goddess. She is often depicted as a mermaid and sometimes associated with the moon. This goddess cares deeply for her children by comforting them always and cleansing them of sorrow. She is also said to be able to cure infertility in women, while cowrie shells represent her wealth. She rarely loses her temper, but when angered she can be quite destructive and violent, as the floodwaters of turbulent rivers.

Although the patron spirit/ deity of the Ogun river, she has other rivers dedicated to her throughout Yorubaland. Also, the protector of women, Yemoja governs everything about women, especially childbearing and birth, conception, safety, likewise love and healing. According to myth, when her waters broke, it caused a great flood creating rivers and streams and the first mortal humans were created from her womb.


Her name is a reduction of the Yoruba words Iye, meaning “mother”; ọmọ, meaning “child”; and ẹja, meaning “fish”; roughly translated the term means “mother of fish children.” This represents the vastness of her motherhood, her fertility, and her reign over all living things.

Although worshipped as a river deity in West Africa, Yemoja is worshipped mainly as a sea/ocean goddess in Brazil and Cuba. River deities in Yorubaland include Yemo̩ja, Ọ̀ṣun (Oshun), Erinlè̩, Ọbà, Yewa, etc. It is Olókun that fills the role of sea deity in Yorubaland, while Yemoja is a leader of the other river deities. Ye-mo-ja originates from the name Yeye–Omo-Eja, mother of the fish. The word Omo is used in a general sense. Currently, it is associated with the Ògún River and a cult pays in those areas where the river runs, particularly in Abeokuta. Yemayá, Yemònja or Yemòja was born in the Takua land which is where the Ògún River begins in Nigeria. It is for this reason that the area turned into a place of pilgrimage for countless devotees.

Yemayá, Yemònja or Yemòja is a deity who is also associated with dolls, she is carved in precious wood or molded in white clay while being decorated with cowries. She is also said to carry secret baggage depending on her chosen path. If on earth she enjoys living in the entrance of the bushes while being a hard worker, she also trades food, dyed fabrics, and makes oil out of melon seeds.

It is forbidden to eat watercress, or a plant called quimbombo as they are referred to as being the most powerful herbs of this goddess. Yemoja/Yemaya dresses in many colors with her principal colors being White, Blue, and Green in all tones and Pink. Her love for white roses cannot be over-emphasized, making her children bring her a basket where they throw the roses into the water as they call her name. This tradition happens when their health is at stake. Yemayá was born with the moon as Obàtálá was born with the sun.

According to tradition, Yemayá is given a sweeping bowl in the colors blue and white with elements 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. These 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 greet her and to capture her attention when she is spoken to, one fan 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 these attributes are adorned with ducks, fishes, netting, stars, seahorses, miniature shells, and everything 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 offerings offered to Yemoja encapsulates the following — ram, pigeon, turtle, duck, hen, guano, quail, pork, shrimp stew with capers, boiled eggs, spinach, and tomato corn tamale; this 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 the water and are passed through a grater so that the shell can be removed, the peas are then converted to a paste and you add salt with chopped garlic, onion, and small pieces of ginger to the paste, you then add coloring to the 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 coloring into 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 favorite fruit is watermelon, pineapple, papayas, grapes, pears, water, apples, bananas, and oranges also fried yam and plantains.

Finally, Orisa Yemoja represents the highest order of the Love Principle. The prolific creative energy of the ocean is indicative of this generous, allowing, expressive, nurturing, Omnificent energy of the Ase. Although Olofi-dumare is the Masculine creative aspect of Olorun (God), it is the Feminine Principle, the Womb, the Mother, the Ase, that is the essential Source of all life. This reality is symbolically evidenced in the fact that all the god seekers are conceived female, and then if certain hormones are infused in the early gestation period, the fetus goes through a metamorphosis to become a male. The female is the prototype of the god seekers.


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