Pagan Paths

Delve into a fascinating cultural force and deeply spiritual tradition that comprises the axe--power--of Brazilian magickal religions. Followers of all paths will find something unique to incorporate into their lives.

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Final Thoughts on Yemanja

Today I would like to complete the information I have to give you on Yemanjá, the sea goddess. As I have mentioned, each orixá is associated with different aspects of the natural world, in the same way as the planets in Ceremonial Magick have correspondences. In the mineral kingdom, Yemanjá is associated with aquamarines, diamonds, pearls, silver, and sapphires. You can always substitute a necklace made of shells.

I gave you some ritual meal offerings last time. Here let me add white corn mixed with virgin olive oil or honey, white hen and duck, she-goat stew, mullet simmered in olive oil and seaweed, sardines, shrimp, white rice, and papaya.

She also governs many botanicals. There are different ways to use her botanicals. For example, you may add some to water for bathing in order to prepare yourself to receive the orixá. You can carry some of them in a talisman bag along with an appropriate mineral. You can also prepare offerings for her using some of the herbs, keep some on your altar—in short, the ways to use them are many.

Here is a list of the “saint’s” botanicals:  lily, white rose, white carnation, jasmine, orange blossom, white orchid, pond lily, white hydrangea, lavender (associated with all the orixás), coco de Iri (fruit of a type of coconut, but regular coconut milk or coconut water substitutes just fine,--and as a bonus, is healthy for you!), seaweed (such as kelp or Irish moss), maidenhair fern, angelica, marjoram, and rosemary. Some traditions list mint and basil as well, but I think they go better with other entities, about whom I will write later—eventually!

Remember that one aspect of Yemanjá is the concept of a mermaid, so her protection was invoked by sailors before they set out to sea. Here is an example of a song they might sing:


“If the mermaid had not protected me

The shark would have devoured me

Way out there in the middle of the sea

If the mermaid had not come to my aid

The shark would have eaten me up

Way out there in the middle of the sea.”


Here I retell the most renowned legend about Yemanjá:

As the wife of Oxalá (very loosely syncretized with Christ or Osiris), Yemanjá bore three sons:  Ogum (warrior god), Oxóssi (forest god), and the entity Exu. Ogum left home to conquer the world, Oxóssi to pursue a contemplative life in the forest, and Exu—well Exu went away to see what the world had to offer. Only this third son returned home.

At first his mother was delighted to see him. As they visited, her son became increasingly agitated. Finally he blurted out that he had searched the planet in vain to find a woman to equal his mother’s perfection. Because of his failure to discover such a paragon he knew he was destined to possess his own mother and her alone.

At that he grabbed Yemanjá and tried to violate her. In the struggle, he ripped open her breasts. When he saw what he had done, he recoiled in horror and shame. He fled, banished from the kingdom of heaven, never to return.

From the copious tears Yemanjá shed the oceans came into being, and from her torn breasts, the rivers of the world were created.

In future blogs, I will talk about the other principal female orixás, including Iansã, Nanã, and Oxum, and the males as well, practices, etc.

However, in the next few blogs, I will take up the controversial concept of sacrifice in the Afro-Brazilian folk religions.

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Caroline Dow holds a Ph.D. in Luso-Brazilian Studies, is a former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, professor at Brown and Pittsburgh universities, and current intercultural trainer and assessor. She has authored 15 books on Wicca, Magick, Brazilian traditions, and mystery novels. As a Wiccan High Priestess and Ceremonial Magician, she brings an unique perspective to the study of Brazilian folk traditions.
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  • Jenise
    Jenise Monday, 11 March 2013

    Caroline, buenos dias. Your blogs are so insightful and have helped me tremendously in my worship of Yemaya. I want to thank you for taking the time to write these essays, for this is how I see them, and look forward to reading more about this.

    For some reason I keep coming back here to your blogs. Even though there is a lot of material out there on the Orishas and Yemaya in particular, I feel "safe" and confident in your knowledge of the subject. The funny thing is, I don't remember how I found your blog initially...:D

    By the way I purchased the book The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba Ifa Karade. It is well written and has a lot of information. A good book - gald I got it.

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