She Moves in Mysterious Ways
My relationship with Yemayá
by Iris WaterStar
The first time that I saw an image of Yemayá, two thoughts ran through my head; the first one was “Oh, that’s me,” quickly followed by the second one, which ran along the lines of “What an odd thing to be thinking about a picture on a candle.” This was about two and a half years ago; the candle was one that I saw in a shop on Capitol Hill called Three Furies. I was there looking around with a friend, and this picture seemed to jump out at me. I had absolutely no idea who in the world this was, but I knew that she was wonderful, and so familiar.
It felt like seeing myself, or some part of myself, a part that I wanted to unfold somehow. This candle was one of the tall cylindrical kind; it was green and had a color painting on it. The picture is of a beautiful woman, standing on the waves of a green ocean surrounded by white blossoms. The stars are out in the twilight sky above her; the crescent moon is off to one side. She has long, dark flowing hair and is wearing a long white gown with her arms outstretched. From her hands, golden stars are falling. She has a thin aura above her head and another bright five-pointed star above her head. She is neither smiling or frowning, she simply is as she is.
I had never experienced a candle calling to me like this one did. I picked it up and put it down several times. Each time, I put it down I was aware of the feeling she was meant to go with me. I finally asked the man who ran the store “Who is this?” He wasn’t sure; he said he thought that it was some ocean-type goddess or something, but that some people had come in recently and told him her name. He couldn’t remember it but it was something like… and he pronounced something that I promptly forgot.
He also told me that these people who knew of her said that he had the candle color all wrong, and that it should be blue and not green. I bought the green candle anyway because I didn’t want to wait the couple of weeks it would take to make another candle.
I took the candle home and promptly set up an altar, with the candle as a centerpiece. I had always had shrines but never one that was dedicated to a specific persona. I had some cobalt-blue glass that I put around it, and shells (I am a Pisces so these weren’t hard to come by ); I had an incense burner, and I bought some moon incense. I had seawater and flowers and white candles.
These things just seemed right and felt like what would be appropriate for an ocean goddess. I remember looking at her and being a little in awe of the energy that seemed to be somehow associated with her. At times, I was a little afraid, but then I immediately would get this sense that she had chosen to come home to be with me and so fear wasn’t needed. I still kept a healthy respect for this energy, as well as a growing fondness.
I later went back to the store and purchased another candle with a beautiful turquoise-blue background. I added that to the altar as well. I did a winter solstice ritual in my apartment that year in solitary fashion. I am used to working with spirit guides, as I have worked as a psychic and spiritual teacher for a number of years, and so I wasn’t completely alone in my work that evening. But I was amazed just the same as I did my work and lit the incense and candles. I really felt her yet unnamed presence with me. It was a very powerful night.
It was a few months after this time that a woman came into my life who was soon to become one of my best friends. She came to visit my apartment, and in that visit, I first learned of who this goddess was who had decided to come into my life. Her name, my friend told me, was Yemayá. And I found out I had unknowingly set up my altar with many of her traditional things.
Yemayá has an amazing way of setting things up. I found myself signing up for a drumming class along with several good friends. I had never really been interested in taking a class in drumming, but my friends said that “afoshè,” the rhythm that we would be working with, was really hot. So I went to a couple of classes and found myself not only learning the afoshè beginning drumming technique. By “coincidence,” we also learned a chant in this class; it was one to call up a certain goddess in the Yoruba faith. Guess who? So I ended up learning a song/chant and a rhythm that is traditionally used to invoke Yemayá in the rituals where the orishas “ride” the participants. I had to laugh; how obvious can you get!
I have been aware of Yemayá in many different ways; she speaks to me, and I am aware of her when I meditate sometimes. She is very loving and powerful, and I have an incredible affinity for her. She also has been very respectful of my personal space. In my own private personal magic, I do things that might be considered on the edge. Sometimes my ritual journeying involves extreme sensation, and one such evening, it involved piercing. I had very clear visions and awareness of Yemayá during this session, and it was also somehow associated with my Venezuelan Indian descent. I won’t go into great detail here, since it was quite personal, but suffice it to say that she comes to me very strongly sometimes. Along with working with Yemayá, I have become very conscious of the power of my own blood time and have incorporated this into my rituals as well.
I find it a little odd that I tend to do these things and then find out later that they are already in line with traditional practices. I guess I just do things backwards sometimes. Perhaps it is just as well to not second-guess myself. But nontheless, I am finally gathering written information about her and her traditions.
I am also going through the rite of formally choosing her as the goddess to which I am dedicated. On my altar, these days I have added a lovely statue of her, a new candle with her picture on it, her name and the term “La Diosa del Mar” (the Goddess of the Sea). I even have some Yemayá oil. I also have an amulet that my good friend made for me (the one who told me Yemayá’s name in the first place) that has many of the things sacred to her on it.
One of the most recent things I read called her the “Queen of the Ocean, First Mother of the World, Queen of Waters, owner of waters both sweet and sour. Mother of the children of the fishes, deliverer of her people.” It seems appropriate from this Piscean perspective.
I have since heard on more than one occasion that an orisha (which is what Yemayá is) tends to choose people, as opposed to people choosing the orisha. This certainly was true in my case. I didn’t know at the time I went into that store on Capitol Hill that I was going in to meet my goddess. And other than my actual experiences with her, nothing means as much to me as the original candles that I bought, when I didn’t know anything about her – just the feeling/thought that “Oh, that’s me, there I am.”