Thousands of years before Christianity and other foreign religions were forced upon the African people, through invasion and acceptance, the Yoruba ethnic group of South Western Nigeria paid homage and respect to their own Gods and Goddess known as Orisha (Orisa), including Yemoja, who is syncretized with the Moon. Yemoja is a core aspect of the Yoruba pantheon of deities, however the religion itself, which can be referred to as the Corpus of Ifa, is not polytheistic in doctrine.
The Yoruba believe and accept that there is one main energetic force referred to as Olodumare (owner of the sky realm) that permeates the entire universe and everything within. Oludumare could be viewed as God, itself, though the concept of God is more complex in Yoruba worldview than it is in the West; Oludumare is never personified. Oludumare is not an Orisha and is completely indifferent to the affairs of humanity.
Various elements of Oludumare’s life force, power, and energy (Ashe) is contained within each Orisha, and it is the Orishas that are, to varying degrees based on their own Ashe, involved in and interacts with the affairs of human being. There are hundreds of Orishas who represent and are syncretized with elements of nature. Goddess or Orisha Yemoja is syncretized with the element water, mainly the ocean, and is interlinked with the moon throughout all its lunar phases. Yemoja’s energies are objectified as the mermaid.
Yemoja is the patroness of motherhood, childbirth, the womb, giver of life, and all things relating to femininity. She is the great nurturing force linked to water and the seas, as water is the sustainer of life. The moon goddess, Yemoja is the energy behind the creation of all things alive, and she is also the energy behind the creation of the Orishas. Feminine principles rank highly within the Ifa corpus. It is a belief system that incorporates the concept of balance, the concept of Iwa-Pele (cool head). The imbalance of the negative over the positive, male over female, or hot over cold equates to chaos.
Yemoja’s Ashe, along with the Ashe of her energetic sister being, Oshun, can be accessed for wealth and fortune, but a successful outcome is more likely if the pre-ordained destiny of the individual, the actions of a person life and the own Ashe of a person’s own guardian Orisha, among other factors allows it. The Yoruba believe that each human being is born with one or more personal Orisha which correlates with, and guides the life path of the person on the material plain.
The Yoruba also believe that each individual is a God (Ori) themselves, and only a fragment of that Godly energy is incarnated as a human entity. After a person’s destiny is compete, the individual’s energy is reunited with what is known as a person’s Ori, which remains in the spiritual plain, and then reincarnate again if need be. Your Ori, like the Orisha, are all elements of Oludumare’s Ashe, and so are human beings. Though a person’s destiny is pre-ordained, it is only a blueprint of life on earth, and a person still has free will, but the blueprint of destiny will always manifest.
Yemoja’s Ashe is neither bad or good in nature, like the other Orishas, her Ashe is mainly neutral, but it correlate towards a certain energetic pull which leans towards being more positive, which the Yoruba refer to as cool. Hierarchical members, practitioner and believes of Ifa within and outside the Yoruba community can, with correct knowledge, manipulate the energies of Yemoja, and any other Orisha, for positive or negative intent. However, Ifa is highly based on the concept of karma, preordained destiny and reincarnation, and they believe strongly that the energies (positive and negative) you create will return to you in this life or another incarnation.
Yoruba religious doctrine and practices still exist on a very wide scale in Nigeria, but it is in the Caribbean and Latin America where the belief and practices strive. Yemoja and the main Orishas of Nigeria were transferred to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade. Due to suppression from Christianity and Europeans against all forms of Afro-centricity during slavery, the Orishas of Ifa were meticulously syncretized and disguised as Catholic saints by the African people.
In Cuba, where Yemoja is known as Yemaya, she merged with Our Lady of Regla, and Ifa merged into what is known in Cuba as Santeria or Lucumi. In Brazil, the country with the highest percentage of people of African origin outside of Africa, Yemoja is known as Yemanja and the religion is morphed into what is known as Candomble.
In Jamaica, the Goddess of the Moon is known as Mami Wata (mother of the waters), though in Jamaica and other countries that are Church of England protestant as opposed to Spanish (Roman) Catholic, the Ifa religion is non-existent to the naked eye. In Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil and other parts of Latin America, Yemoja and Ifa is widely accepted and practiced, though maligned by the Catholic Church. The people of the Caribbean and Latin America and immigrants from Africa have also brought Yemoja and ifa various facets to major Cities of the United States. Like the Moon, Yemoja is considered to be all around a person, if they look hard enough.
Opinion by Humphrey Bennett