Paths of Yemaya: The multiple manifestations of this Orisha
The paths, avatars, or aspects of the Orishas, are the way in which the deities of the Yoruba religion tend to be represented through various characteristics, but preserving their main essence.
These paths can reflect different aspects of their personality, functions or the way in which they are worshiped and perceived within the different regions of the Yoruba territory. This is the reason why we can find that the same Orisha has different characteristics or names, within the same religious belief. With respect to paths of Yemaya, Mariela Gutiérrez (2004) argues that:
"It is also interesting that it is named according to the attributes and characteristics of the places that its waters touch, or for other circumstances that are related to its flow..." (p.5).
Its avatars also highlight aspects related to fertility, motherhood, its imposing nature, its power over the oceans, trade, sorcery, among other aspects. Each manifestation can have its own iconography, rituals and offerings. Between them we have:
She is an old warrior, but very strong and powerful. She wears a rainbow as her crown. She is said to be the richest of the Yemaya. She wears very luxurious clothing, and Olokun jewelry. She is the representation of growth, expansion and all marine treasures. When she goes to war she dresses in 7 skirts. She defends her children in a very fierce way. She lives in the ocean, far from the shore. Lydia Cabrera (1974), in her book Yemaya and Ochún (Kariocha, Iyalorichas and Olorichas) exposes the following prayer to invoke her:
«Yemyá Awoyó, okere okun olomi karagbó Osa ya bio lewu eyintegbe awa si leku Yemayá obini ku wa yo okana kuan ke okun iya sa orí ere egba mi o… (Yemyá Awoyó who is far in the sea, mistress of the water, you who eat ram, Mother of the silver hair that gives birth to the lagoon, our Mother, protector, perfect, unique woman, who extends the sea, Mother who thinks, save us from death, protect us)». (p.28).
Born in the Odu of Ifa Irete Di. Her name means: the one who has no memory. She is very distracted, she "requires patience when she is invoked" (Mari Silva, 2021, p.60). She lives in stagnant, cloudy or dirty water, in latrines, and in the pipe. She eats duck, and upon receiving it she is distracted by counting her feathers, she loses count and starts over and over again. She also owns the geese and swans. She is the inseparable daughter of Olokun. Inside her tureen she carries an Osun that has a duck on top instead of a rooster, this symbolizes the triumph of Asesú over his enemies. Her tureen must contain sea sand and be adorned with: ducks, two wooden masks loaded with the secret of her Ozain, 21 coins and three chains that hang from her receptacle.
He lives in the depth of the ocean. Due to his link with the Orisha Olokun, he is believed to be androgynous. His color is black. Michaelle Ascencio (2007), states that:
"It is said of Yemayá Olokun, the ocean, that if she were not chained, she would swallow the earth in her anger." (P.45).
She is Ogun's wife. She is a powerful witch who handles metal instruments and uses her tools. She is a foreman of the Egun. Her followers praise her as "the beloved lady of the river." She skillful warrior. She is called Okute but her real name is Okunte, which means: the brave one. Her full name is: Yemaya Okunte Ogumasomi. In Arara land, she is called Akadume. She eats rooster together with Oggun, and she never eats duck. Among her attributes she carries: a small lead boat, an anvil, a blowtorch, silver pearls and a chain with 21 Oggun pieces that hangs from her tureen. She is syncretized with our Lady of the Snows. She is the one who lives in frozen water and at the poles. A pataki about her birth tells that:
Yemayá Okuté, was a woman of a very intense character and lover of doing her will, for this reason she had a great war with all the children of her land. In view of this great confrontation, all her enemies gathered, managing to agree to defeat her. But Yemaya, she had great power over the Eggún, whom she influenced to defend themselves against her opponents. As a result of this action there was a great mortality in that land.
Realizing what he had caused, he was greatly alarmed and fled from that place, making a pilgrimage through different lands, until he reached the land of Omí Mayafra (the land of ice and snow), which was far away. In that place, thanks to the powerful ashé that he had over Eggún, he positioned himself, using the mayafra as a dress.
After many years, Okute's whereabouts were unknown, countless warriors had gone out in search of him, all their efforts being unsuccessful. Finally, none dared to cross the limits of the land of Omí Mayafra, which was known as a kingdom of silence and death.
It was then that Oggún, who was a brave and seasoned warrior, decided to take all his weapons and set out to look for her with all his strength, but before, he decided to go to Orunmila's house for divination, being advised by Ifá, indicating the necessary sacrifices to successfully achieve the goal that was set.
Oggún immediately made the recommended eboses, leaving later, heading to the Omi Mayafra land. Upon arrival, he began to look for Okuté, being surprised by her beauty when he found her. She that woman had a shiny skin, covered with a fine frost of ice. Noticing that she was asleep, he wrapped her with her chains, taking her to a cave where he covered her with the heat of her body until she was sensitized, and made her ofikale trump. After this, he made her his wife, so she went to live with him. However, Yemaya would never forget the good that that land did her, keeping for herself a crown and a mantle from that land. That is why Yemayá Okuté is known as "Ayaba Mayafra" (the snow queen).
She is a powerful fortune teller, she was the one who threw Orunmila's opele. Her name means: the captain of the ship. She is the eldest of all the Yemaya and the first daughter of Olokun. She owns the boats and marine vessels. She does not eat duck, unless it is necessary and it is done with a special ceremony. Michaelle Ascencio (2007), points out that:
«Yemaya Achaba or Ayuba, has an irresistible gaze, an expert sorceress, a great maker of powders to bewitch, her they are never untied from it ». (p.46).
Its tureen is a Greek-style amphora, to which a chain is crossed and surrounded by 101 parrot feathers. Among his attributes he has: seven hooks, a little mermaid, three earthenware dolls, an arrow, a dragon, a whirlpool, a sword, a horse, a machete, and balls of different colors. Two spurs that have been used are placed on it to achieve power and dominance in life. His full name is: Yemaya Ashaba Oggun Fasoggun Aralotoye Ishoro Oddun. In Arara land it is called: Ewa Huga.
He lives in the middle of the sea and controls the currents of the seven seas. She wears seven different colors, but owns all the colors in the world, and keeps them contained in a gourd that she ties around her waist. Her foundation lives on a basket with 7 white plates adorned with 9 colored handkerchiefs and an Orunmila necklace is placed on top. She lives in the middle of the sea and in the seven ocean currents.
Mayelewo is a skilled businessman. Her name means: the one who is interested in money and trade. She is the one who taught the art of marketing, encouraging relationships between human beings. She is the one who differentiates each saint by the painting that Olofin sent. She was the one who painted the water blue in the company of Asesú. She wears a mask. "On this path of Yemayá she is the favorite daughter of Olodumare". (Mari Silva, 2021, p.62).
It is known as: the one who builds the boats. She is a notary and very educated, she is given a pen, paper, an inkwell and a compass. Her colors are prussian blue and cocoa. In Arara land they call it Kwehoto. Lydia Cabrera (1974) refers to her saying that she is:
«The one with the foam. It's in the hangover; entangled in a clump of slime. shipping company; she lives in the propeller of ships ». (p.29).
On this road, he lives where the waters of the river and the sea meet. «There she meets her sister Oshun. She lives in fresh water; she is a dancer; cheerful, but very straight; she doesn't do hexes. She cares for the sick, she prepares remedies, she ties abikús »(Lydia Cabrera, 1974, p.29).
Yemaya Yembo (Yemu)
She was the one who gave birth to all the Orisas. She is the first Yemaya that existed. She lives in the calm sea. It is said that her beauty is unmatched, that all creatures are mesmerized by her charms. She is the owner and ruler of all the waters of the world and of all conceptions. She is also considered to be the female representation of Obatala. Her color is sky blue, crystal blue, coral and white. She eats rooster, duck and pigeons. Her offerings are sacrificed one at a time. Outside of her tureen she carries a 16-step ladder with two snail hands sewn to it, and inside of it she keeps a key and a white metal anchor.
She is a lady, a great Amazon, powerful warrior, a pirate. She wears pants and is capable of doing everything men do. She kills her enemies with a scimitar or daggers. She lives in the red sea, or in the red tide tinged with the blood of her enemies that she has slain. Her name means "the one who lives among the shells." Her energy is present in naval combat. Her tureen is adorned with sea shells. Among her attributes stands out a piece of a shipwrecked ship that is lined with seven hands of snails, a saber, a pirate flag, a spear and a dagger. She likes the color prussian blue and all snails. In Arara land they call it "Dokuno".
Yemaya Ibu Agana
Her name means "the furious or crazy", she is the one who makes it rain. She was the wife of Orisha Oko. She has considerable beauty, but, she has seven balls in her belly and one leg is skinnier than the other. She lives in the deepest abysses of the sea. It is believed that it was this Yemaya that sank Atlantis. She works together with Oroiña. She can never lack eclair. Among her tools she carries: a handle, a triangle, an anchor, a rudder, a ship, and a stone on which a woman's face is carved in her honor. Her color is prussian blue, aqua coral, green and orange. She wears seven colored scarves in different shades around her tureen and one wrist. In Arara land they call him Agwalaru.
She is the one who lives at the peak of the waves. Her name means: "the one who, when she is angry, makes the whole world tremble." Among her tools are a sailboat, a mermaid, a crescent, a seahorse, a whale, a buoy, and a rowboat. Her color is Prussian blue, light blue, green, and aqua. In Arara land they call it Zadike.
It is very mysterious. She lives with the Eggun. She awakens and moves the spirits. Her favorite food is duck. They call her "the singing siren". Her favorite sticks to work with are poplar and cypress. Among her attributes she carries: a mask, a saber, a lyre, a mermaid, sea shells, 4 plates, and a cypress wood doll that contains a secret charge. Her color is dark blue, jet and aqua. In Arara land they call it Kusuwu.
She is the one who lives next to Borosia. In her secret she has a wooden skull that contains a secret cargo. She uses two metal arrows lined with seashells that hang from a chain tied to her jar.
She is the sister of Ibu Okoto. She belongs to the land of Ayetaro. She likes to eat quail and her foundation lives in a clay jar that carries a boat on top of it where she goes Ozain. Among her tools she uses 21 seashells and a scimitar.
She is the owner of the money that is scattered throughout the sea. Her snail hand is kept inside a small chest with 75 needles that is inside her tureen, but she cannot get water into it.
She is the servant of Olofin. The foundation of it lives on a dried fish called sole. Among her tools, she carries: a clay doll, tortoiseshells, an arrow, a small boat, 7 colored balls and a sword. Her favorite colors are: blue, green and aqua.
Her name means "the one who is important at all times." She is the owner of the treasures of the sea. Her secret is kept inside her tureen in a trunk or chest surrounded by garments, shells, oysters, pearl necklaces, 2 metal mirrors, a saber, a compass, two coins and a key. Her favorite colors are light blue, cocoa and coral. She lives in the flora and forests of the depths of the sea. She is placed a majagua doll dressed in white with a secret charge of her Ozain. Her favorite adimu are zapotes. In Arara land she is called Tofodun.
It means "the one who lives in the sediment of the sea." Her cult comes from the land of Ijesa. She lives in the waters of the seashore. Its foundation is placed on a piece of reef, accompanied by shells and sea sand, two long oars, a tarraya, a saber and a small boat. His favorite colors are dark blue and aqua. The Arara call him Kedire.
Yemaya Ibu Tinibu
It is the Yemaya that gives energy to the troubled sea. He lives in a jar and is fitted with seashells, a rudder, a propeller, a small boat, and a pelican. Its color is prussian blue, sky blue, and cocoa.
Intervene in disputes. It is said that she is very ambitious and arrogant. She is the mother of Oshosi and Inle. She can eat snapper and goat under a special ceremony. Among her tools, she has a bow and arrow, a little fish, a jamo, a snake, a cane, and a cap lined with seven snail hands. Her colors are: Prussian blue, cocoa and amber. In Arara land she is called Meñani.
Yemaya Ogun Ayipo
She is a strong warrior, sister of Okute. She lives in the river and on the sands. Her receptacle is lined with mariwo. She is described as a large-breasted woman. She is the one who intervenes so that mature women can remain pregnant. Among her tools she carries nine curved machetes.
Yemaya Ogun Asomi
She is another of Okute's sisters, she belongs to the group of Amazon warriors. She lives on the surface of the sea. She uses two machetes, an ax and a mask. Her favorite adimu is plantains. She drinks aguardiente and smokes tobacco. In the Arara land she is considered the companion of Azojuano.
Yemoja Ibu Node
It lives in the rivers. She is a kind and very beautiful woman. She uses an Oggun chain from which 67 pieces hang. She eats quail. Inside the receptacle she carries an arrow. Her Ozain rides on a snail.
They say that she is the one who raised Changó like his mother. Her tureen is a jar that is adorned with a crown of snails, where Ozain is placed. Among her tools she has seven axes. To serve her, seven white candles are lit.
She is the owner of the indigo. Her tureen is lying on a tile with 7 colors known as Kuinlolode. Inside her receptacle she carries an irawo, a star, 7 hooks and 7 sabers.
- Ascencio, Michaelle (2007). Goddesses of the Caribbean Editorial Alpha.
- Cabrera, Lydia. (1974). Yemayá and Ochún (Kariocha, Iyalorichas and Olorichas). Universal Editions.
- Gutierrez, Mariela. (2004). Lydia Cabrera and hers Yemayá y Ochún, an incomparable fluvial compendium of Afro-Cuban mythology. Hispanic Literature Magazine No. 59.
- Silva, Marie. (2021). Orishas: The Definitive Guide to the African Orisha Deities and Their Presence in Yoruba, Santeria, Voodoo, and Hoodoo, with an Explanation of Dilogun Divination.