Angeliqué Kidjo (one of my favorite Diasporic singers) has a wonderful tribute song to “Iemanja”, which is a very calming but powerful song.
Because I do not speak or understand Portuguese, I really have no clue what the Angeliqué is saying but I always sing along blindly. Thanks to the internet, I now know that “Iemanja” is about the goddess of the sea (Iemanja), asking her to join her African children in Brazil for a party & also asking her to bring wisdom, love & peace.
Again thanks to the internet, I was able to find out that Iemanja was a riverine Orixá in Africa, but became associated with the Sea after the “Middle Passage”. Iemanja is also the ultimate mother figure and the “national” Orixa of Brazil.
According to the legends, Iemanja is the mother of most of the Orixá. Her best known son is Xango, The King, and there are many stories about how the children came to be, and Xango’s relationship with his father, Aganju (The Old King).
Bring this home: Last year at a conference I had the chance to hear Dr. Joyce E. King speak (she is a HOT speaker; catch her if you can). Doing her address, she talked of Yemaya who through the years from Africa to America became Jemima.
She told us that Jemima is not just a name, it’s a title & slaves looked to Jemima with respect as she was somewhat of a community leader & a go to person.
Before Dr. Kings Address, I had never heard of this Diva Yemaya & I only thought about Jemima when it was time to eat pancakes (a little ghetto, yes I know).
So today while surfing Wikipedia, I discovered that Yamaya & Iemanja are one in the same. According to Wikipedia – Yemaya (Yemoja) is a mother goddess; patron deity of women, especially pregnant women; and the Ogun river (the waters of which are said to cure infertility).
Her parents are Oduduwa and Obatala. She had one son, Orungan, who raped her successfully one time and attempted a second time; she exploded instead, and fifteen Orishas came forth from her. They include Ogun, Olokun, Shopona and Shango.
When the Yorubans were transported on slave ships to the Americas from West Africa, they first encountered the great expanse of the unfathomable ocean. Away from their homeland rivers, lakes, lagoons and beaches where they called upon their Mother Yemanja, the Yoruban slaves recognised the ocean as their Mother as far as the eye could see. With the prospect of a life of slavery and with no chance to ever escape back to their homeland again, many of the Yorubans chose to throw themselves overboard to surrender to their Mothers’ embrace. One of Yemanja’s many aspects is Afodo who rescues slaves.
In the Yoruban tales, she is forever pleading with Ogun and Shango not to make slaves of the enemy in their war with neighbouring Dahomey. She also deals with the safe passage of ships and boats at sea. It could be that Yemanja Afodo was so dismayed at the miserable plight of her children aboard the slave ships that she claimed them back. It was natural that Yoruban slaves should want to surrender themselves to their Mother Yemanja by hurling themselves off the slave ships, as surrender is instinctive in all of her children. In this way they show her their trust in her, in the surety that their Mother will carry them to a safe harbour. (Source | Ted Diprose)
In Haitian Vodou She is worshipped as a Moon-goddess, and is believed to protect mothers and their children. She is associated with the mermaid-spirits of Lasirenn (Herself a form of Erzulie) who brings seduction and wealth, and Labalenn, Her sister the whale. (Source | Blue Roe Buck)
Who says there are no African tales?
Yemaya, Yemayah, Iemanya
La Sirène, LaSiren (in Voodoo)
Iemanja Nana Borocum, Iemanja Bomi, Iemanja Boci, Nanã