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Yemaya is the goddess of the living ocean, considered the mother of all. She is the source of all the waters, including rivers. Yemaya is a shortened version of Yey Omo Eja, which means 'Mother whose children are fish'. As all life is thought to have begun in the sea, all life is held to have begun with Yemaya. Some legends say that after being raped, Yemaya decided to end her own life. She threw herself from the top of a mountain and as she did fourteen Orishas, or Gods, emerged from her body and sacred waters gushed from her womb, giving the gift of water to the earth below, creating the seven seas.

Yemaya is the Yoruban Orisha, a very powerful nature spirit or Goddess of the living Ocean, considered the Mother of All. She is the source of all the waters, including the rivers of Western Africa, especially the River Ogun. Her name is a contraction of Yey Omo Eja, which means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish”. As all life is thought to have begun in the Sea, all life is held to have begun with Yemaya. She is motherly and strongly protective, and cares deeply for all Her children, comforting them and cleansing them of sorrow. She is said to be able to cure infertility in women, and cowrie shells represent Her wealth.She does not easily lose Her temper, but when angered She can be quite destructive and violent, as the Sea in a storm.

In the creation myths of the Yoruba, the creator Olodumare first created a mortal god-human, Obatala. Next Olodumare gave Obatala a wife. Their children were Yemaya and Aganyu, who had a son together. They named him Orungan. Yemaya also had two sisters, the goddesses Oya and Oshun. 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. There she cursed her son until he died. ​In sorrow, she chose to end her own life on the mountain’s summit. As she died, she gave birth to fourteen powerful orishas. 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, ancestors of all humans, arose from the bones of the goddess. According to legend, Yemaya is the mother of all life. Yemaya’s first gift to humans was a seashell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day, we honor Yemaya when we hold a shell to our ear hearing her voice, the ocean.

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