Yemaya embodies motherhood. Not only was it she who gave birth to the stars, sun, moon, and most orishas, she both nurtures and fiercely protects them. This is not the limit to her power, though -- her roads encompass all of the experiences of women. For all of her aspects that are warm, nurturing, and motherly, she has just as many that are strong warriors, cunning tricksters, and tenacious survivors of all of the fates that can befall women. As a deity, she is as powerful as she is versatile.
The Roads of Yemaya
As such an all-encompassing orisha, Yemaya has many avatars. Depending on the worshipper's context, they are also called roads, paths, or caminos. Each of these avatars are aspects of Yemaya, but all are slightly different. Here are a few:
Yemaya's warrior avatar is Ibú Okoto, "She Who Lives in the Conches," the seafaring swordswoman of the red tide. She carries a scimitar, presides over battles at sea, and can be found wherever the water is reddened with the blood of the fallen.
Her betrayer avatar is Ibú Agana. She is her father's favorite, and very beautiful, though her body is deformed. When she betrayed her sisters out of spite, Olokun kept her as a slave and messenger as punishment. She loves duck feather fans, and is the one who helps rain fall over the land.
Ibú Conla, "She Who Builds Ships," is another avatar of Yemaya. She is a poet, and is found in the sea foam.
Ibú Mayelewo is Yemaya's creative, industrious avatar. She is found in the middle of the ocean, and it was she who painted the sky blue. She knows the ins and outs of commerce, and has a calabash for her paints and a box where she keeps all of the money she has earned for her goods.
There is an avatar for everything in Yemaya's sphere -- from protective mother to pirate queen, and from gentle rain to rough surf -- and they are far too numerous to list in full. Each one is a powerful face of the orisha, but still only show a single facet of her mysterious, complex, depthless nature
Yemaya Bathing Ritual
As a deity of the waters, it is natural to request Yemaya's assistance in the form of a ritual bath. For this, you will need:
- Seven blue candles
- Peppermint oil or Bath & Floor Wash
- Sea salt
- Yemaya oil
- White roses
- Seven pennies
On a Monday, dress the seven candles in Yemaya oil and set around the bath. Draw the bath, and light the candles. Once the tub is full, add the sea salt and either the Bath & Floor Wash, or seven drops of Peppermint oil. Speak Yemaya's name, and ask her for aid with whatever you might need -- whether it is her industrious creativity, her nurturing, or her martial prowess.
When you are ready, step into the bath and allow yourself to sink beneath the calm, fragrant water. Visualize Yemaya's blessing touching every part of your being, giving you the things you need and drawing away the things that no longer help you. When you are ready, step out of the bath. Allow your skin to air dry. As soon as you are able to, take the pennies and white roses to the nearest natural body of water (preferably the ocean). Speak Yemaya's name again, and thank her for her blessings as you leave the coins and flowers as an offering. Go forth, knowing that you have received the blessings you sought. Repeat as often as needed.
Like every woman, Yemaya contains multitudes. From granting the healing touch of a mother, to the boundless prosperity of a merchant, to the secret knowledge of a diviner, there is virtually nothing she cannot do. Devotion to her brings her children many gifts, including wealth, health, fertility, and protection.
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