Yemaya, Goddess of the Ocean and the New Year, originated in Nigeria as a river Goddess but as her people left (the Yoruba) as slaves, so did she into the ocean. Yemaya is the origin of the Ocean and humanity itself as well as the Goddess of the ocean. In the creation myths of the Yoruba, the creator Olodumare first created a mortal god-human, Obatala, and gave him a wife. Their children were Yemaya and Aganyu, who had a son together. They named him Orungan. As a teenager Orungan rebelled against his father and brutally raped his mother. When he tried to rape Yemaya a second time, the river goddess fled to a nearby mountaintop where she cursed her son until he died. In sorrow she chose to end her own life on the summit of the mountain. As she died she gave birth to fourteen powerful orisha. (Orisha are powerful guardian spirits that reflects an important aspect of the God of the Ife religion. An orisha manifests itself as a force of nature.) When her waters broke it caused the great flood that inundated the world and created the seven seas. Obafulom and Lyaa, the first human male and female and the ancestors of all humans, arose from the bones of the goddess. According to legend, Yemaya is the mother of all life.
According to legend, Yemaya’s first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day we honor Yemaya when we hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the ocean.
Yemaya shares responsibility for the ocean with another orisha. Olokun rules the dark and turbulent depths of the ocean. Her domain is the upper level, the part of the sea that the light strikes, where water evaporates to be carried to land by her daughter Oya (the wind) to make rain for the crops. Yemaya’s gentle waves rock the watery cradle of the abundant life forms of the sea.
Yemaya is a mother Goddess, the Goddess of home, fertility, love and family