Tag Archives: Yemaya

A Ritual to Yemaya – Mother Whose Children are the Fish

I spent the Winter Holidays in Rio de Janeiro with my sister, who lived there in the past, giving me almost a local’s insight to that city. Vaguely I knew that the goddess Yemaya was worshipped in Brazil but I had not made the connection to the New Year’s Eve celebration in which people all come to the beach at night, dressed in white and laden with white flowers. The white flowers are offered to Yemaya, known as Iemenjá in Brazil, at midnight by throwing them or sending them out on little boats into the sea.Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess painting by Judith Shaw

Once I realized that not only was Yemaya an important deity to the practitioners of the Candomblé religion but was also alive to Christians and non-religious folks alike, I knew I had an opportunity to experience something special.

Yemayá came to Brazil, Cuba and Haiti with the Yoruba people of Nigeria in the 1600’s during the African diaspora. Her most ancient and full name, Yeyé Omo Ejá, means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish.” She rules over the Seven Seas and large lakes. Her domain is the upper waters of the ocean, where life originated and continues to be concentrated.

candomblé ceremony to IemenjaThe Afro-Brazilians practitioners of Candomblé, the Afro-Cuban practitioners of Santeria, and the Haitian practitioners of Vodou all have deities called Orishas, of which Yemaya is a Great Mother figure. Each Orisha is celebrated on their sacred day with hours of singing and dancing in a circle. Certain kinds of herbs and drink might be imbibed. Suddenly the Orisha comes down and possesses the chosen among the faithful. Those who become possessed by the deity writhe, shout and moan. The deity is within them providing a link between the world of spirit and the human world.

We had heard contradictory accounts of when to see a Candomblé ceremony to Iemanjá.  Traditionally the worshippers come to the beach from a more inland part of Rio on New Year’s Eve. But as the crowds have grown with each passing year we were told that they hold their ceremony on January 30. We looked for them that day but with no luck. But we did find an unused blue candle on the beach – the candle color that is used during ceremonies honoring Yemaya.

With an expected turn out of 2 million plus people to the beach for the New Year’s Eve celebration of music, fireworks and offerings to Iemanjá we knew that we were not up to being in that crowd until midnight. So we went down to the beach in late afternoon to feel the build up of energy and to perform our own ceremony to Iemanjá at sunset, instead of midnight. That felt comfortable to me since in the Celtic tradition sunset and sunrise are considered to be liminal/transitional moments in which the veil between the worlds thins out a bit.

The boardwalk and beach were already hopping with people so we made our way to the opposite end of the beach from where the stage and main set-up for the fireworks was located. As sunset neared we found a spot on the beach where the waves met the shore, laid down our flowers, lit our blue candle and stood facing the sea in meditation. We offered our gratitude to Iemanjá for our many blessings and asked for her help in realizing our dreams for 2018. 

judith shaw after her ceremony to Yemaya

After our ceremony to Yemaya

 

 

 

 

We had kind of given up on finding a Candomblé ceremony but as we left the beach and walked a little further on the boardwalk we found one. The practitioners were enclosed in a little wire fence with onlookers all around. They were oblivious to us non-practitoners as their ceremony heated up. We watched in awe for awhile. When we left they were going strong. I can only assume that they would continue in that way until the spirit called them to take their offerings to Yemaya down to the sea.

Afro-brazilian- candomble-yemaya-ceremony

Read more about Yemaya, her story and where and how she is still worshipped today on my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog.

My deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is in the world.  The second run is now available for order.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can  order your deck on my website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

 

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Why I/We Need the Goddess

I have been drawn to the Goddess for a variety of reasons.  Initially, as a young woman, She spoke to me of my own power, self-worth, self-determination and my/every woman’s inherent beauty. She lent Her hand to my emerging sense of independence from male domination.

Aphrodite Dancing painting by Judith ShawOver the years my experience of Goddess deepened.  At times I feel Her as manifest in me and as a symbol of my own power.  At other times She is who I pray to for both personal and community help. And certainly She has come to be my strongest symbol of the beauty and power of the natural world, ruling over life, death and rebirth.  In all these ways I have sought to express Her wisdom through my art.

For many years, as I grew to maturity, my paintings both expressed and integrated Her power manifesting in the world through me, through us all.  This painting, Aphrodite Dancing, celebrates my/our sensual, sexual female nature.  It speaks a loud “YES” to the beauty of our sexuality.  It is a response to the “NO” which has been imposed on our sexuality by patriarchal religions and world views for so many, many centuries.

An expression of Goddess power burst forth with my installation, The Shrine of the Bird Goddess, in the late 80’s.
bird goddess 72This central piece, The Bird Goddess, is a very large painting – 6′ x 10′.  The painting and installation was inspired by the work of Marija Gimbutas, amazing archaeologist who uncovered the ancient artifacts of a harmonious, pre-patriarchal Goddess-worshipping Neolithic Old Europe.

the olive tree,painting by Judith ShawIn more recent years The Goddess has come through me in the form of my many tree paintings.  This painting, The Olive Tree, is seen by many as a dancing woman.  Quite unconsciously I painted in the opening in the tree without realizing that it was vulva shaped. The shape takes you into and through the tree, allowing passage to another realm, in the way that a child is born through woman, coming from the before space into the now space.

the mother tree,painting by Judith ShawOften times She even appears in the tree.  In this painting, The Mother Tree, you can see Her in the trunk.  She also appears in the trunk of The Tree of Life.

sacred geometry tree of life painting by Judith Shaw

I also call on Goddess for help and healing when my sadness and pain over the ongoing destruction of our natural environment gets too hard to bear.  I long to get on a soapbox and yell at the world to wake up!  But not having that kind of platform open to me, I return to my studio and do what I can do, paint – in the hopes that on some level my paintings will touch people and open their hearts to the Goddess, our Earth Mother.

Yemaya Heals by Judith ShawAfter the BP oil spill, I turned to Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess, who is known as the Mother of All Fish. The ocean is Her domain.  She came to the Americas with the African diaspora and continues to be worshipped in many places.  These two paintings, Yemaya Heals and An Offering to Yemaya, are prayers to Her for healing of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The affects of that massive oil eruption are ongoing and pervasive.  A recent article by David Kirby explains how not only are the waters still damaged by the oil  but the chemicals used in the “clean-up” continue to cause serious problems.

Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess painting by Judith Shawof the Sea

A couple of months ago I was listening to a report on the radio about the persistent crisis of toxic radioactive releases at Japan’s Fukishima power plant which was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Gaia Wields Her Justice painting by Judith Shaw

I felt so angry at the stupidity of the perpetual patriarchal approach to controlling and using nature that this fierce Goddess appeared in a painting.  Gaia Wields Her Justice expresses my belief that She, our earth, is alive, is conscious and is now fighting back.  Her power is so much greater than anything we can fathom.  Though She created us and loves us, ultimately she will not allow us to completely destroy life.   She has put up with centuries of abuse but She is now rising, like a dragon who has awakened from a long sleep.

In this world of interconnectedness She responds to our out of balance actions in a way that will return us to balance.  With ever increasing wild weather incidents – floods, droughts, massive forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, bug infestations of our forests and so much more – She creates blocks to our current path of destruction.

Yes, those who embrace control and destruction continue to rule but She is awakening in our many hearts.  More and more voices sing out every day with the words form Libana’s Goddess chant, “There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings.”  Women and men together, from the Middle East to the Midwest, are spreading their wings and demanding a return to balance. From the fast food workers’ walk-outs and calls for a living wage to the masses rising up to say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline our wings are spread and our hearts are open wide. The Goddess is reborn. Her justice might at times be difficult for us to endure but it is wielded with love and it is inescapable.

Yemaya – Mother Whose Children are the Fish

I’ve been working on a couple of paintings which are my response to the Gulf Oil Disaster.  I wanted the work to reflect a healing energy so I started looking into what Goddess could offer us some help.  Yemaya is who we need right now.

Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess of the Sea

Offerings to Yemaya, oil on canvas, 14" x 11"

Yemaya is a Goddess who came to the New World with the African Diaspora.  Originally Yemaya was a river goddess of the Yoruba in Nigeria, far from the ocean.  But as her people were hoarded onto the slave ships, Yemaya went with them.  Her power grew, and she became the Goddess of the Ocean.  She is now worshiped in many parts of the New World including New Orleans, Cuba, Brazil and Haiti.

Yemaya, whose name means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish” is considered the Mother of All.  She protects home, fertility, love and family.  She rules the living oceans and the seas, in particular blessing the surface of the oceans where life is concentrated.  As Goddess of the Ocean, she brings forth life, protecting it, and changing it as needed.

Of her many sacred symbols and objects, flowers are one of her favorites.  Thus my painting is an offering to Yemaya, praying for her blessings and love to heal the damage done to the Gulf Coast by the oil spill and the chemical dispersants.

Yemaya offers us hope in the face of catastrophe and the knowledge that we can endure.  With her help, we can learn to negotiate the ebbs and flows of change in our lives with her wisdom, courage, and grace.