Holy Queen Sea

Also known as

Yemalla; Yemoja; Yemalia; Yemaja; Iemanja


Orisha; Mermaid


Yoruba (Nigeria)

Yemaya, Queen of the Sea, epitomizes motherhood and rules all issues pertaining to women. She is among the most powerful and beloved of the Seven African Powers, the sexy matriarch of the Yoruba spirits known as orishas.

The translation of her name, “The Mother Whose Children are Fish” has dual implications:

  • Yemaya’s children are innumerable: she is the mother of most of the orishas.
  • Her generosity and benevolence have also garnered her countless human devotees, equivalent to the innumerable fish of the sea.

Yemaya has profound associations with the sea and saltwater. She resides in the sea, she is the spirit of the sea, and she is the sea, literally present in ocean water. Her nature resembles that of the sea: profound, beautiful, filled with treasure and generosity but also potentially tempestuous. Yemaya generously bestows abundance, wealth, healing, love, and fertility, but she is also the essence of tidal waves and rip currents.

Yemaya, a profoundly powerful orisha, may be petitioned for:

  • Anything possibly considered a “woman’s issue”
  • Fertility and reproductive issues
  • Protection from domestic violence, which she despises
  • Protection when traveling over the sea

However, those who develop an especially close relationship with Yemaya must be extra cautious when actually near the sea. Communicate with her constantly when in the water or beside it. Remind her that you are human and must live on land. Yemaya doesn’t intend to cause harm but likes to keep everything she loves—her treasures—near her.

Once upon a time, Yemaya lived in the cemetery and Oya in the sea. Yemaya tricked Oya into permanently trading places. Oya has never entirely forgiven her. Do not feed or venerate them side by side. Leave some distance between these two powerful orishas.

Yemaya is syncretized to the Stella Maris and the Black Madonna of Regla.

Favored People

Anyone of African descent whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage to the West may consider their connection to Yemaya established. It is traditionally believed that anyone who survived did so through her grace, while those who did not survive were received into her body.

Yemaya also protects:

  • Women and children
  • Practitioners of the occult
  • Those born under water signs, especially Cancers


Whether manifesting as woman or mermaid, Yemaya is always spectacularly beautiful. She can be sexually provocative with a rolling, hip-swaying walk that evokes the sea. Her traditional costume includes seven skirts. Her hair, clothes, and body may be ornamented with crystals, pearls, coral, or tiny bells.


Seashells, marine motifs


Blue, White


Doves, ducks, peacocks


Fish, all sea creatures








Moon, which controls the sea


Indigo, seaweed, water hyacinth


Quartz crystal, pearls, coral


Originally the spirit of Nigeria’s Ogun River, her profound associations with the ocean may have coincided with the African slave trade.



Calendar Days

  • 2 February
  • Summer Solstice
  • 15 August (Brazil)
  • 7 September (Cuba)
  • New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Midnight, the threshold between years, is her power moment.


Devotees traditionally visit her at the ocean, bearing gifts. Alternatively, create an altar for Yemaya featuring saltwater and ocean motifs at home. Yemaya’s shrine should evoke the sea. Decorate it with nets, seashells, sea stars, and sea horses. Add salted water to a crystal glass containing small seashells.


Jewelry, perfume, brand new scented soap still in its wrapper; flowers, especially white roses. Yemaya’s favorite food offerings include wet seedy fruits like pomegranates and watermelon plus fish, duck, and lamb dishes. She likes to snack on pork cracklings, plantain or banana chips and pound or coconut cake. Garnish everything with generous libations of molasses. Gifts on behalf of the marine environment and sea creatures may also please her.

©2021 Alainn Tarot


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