Yemayá is the Orisha of the ocean and the patron of women and of motherhood. She is maternal, dignified and nurturing, the spiritual mother of all. She offers protection to women. She is also an Orisha of mystery, reflected in the depths of her waters, which is her male aspect Olokun. She is the older sister of Oshun.
In Cuban Yoruba/Lukumí (Santería) she is syncretized with Our Lady of Regla, -the protector of sailors-, and the Star of the Sea. Fans, seashells, canoes, coral, and the moon all represent her. Her colors are white and blue.
Yemayá is a Creation Goddess; the Mother of the Seven Seas, often depicted as a mermaid. She is associated with the moon, ocean, and female mysteries. As such, she is the governess of the household and of matters pertaining to women including childbirth, conception, childhood safety, love, and healing. Extremely compassionate and merciful, Yemaya rules the dreamtime, oversees the Moon, deep secrets, ancient wisdom, salt water, sea shells, and the collective consciousness.
Myth has it that Yemayá gave birth to the 14 powerful Orisha. When her uterine waters broke, it caused a great flood creating the oceans. The first human man and woman were born from her womb.
Yemaya is just as much a loving mother orisha as she is a fierce warrior that kills anyone who threatens her children. According to legend, Yemaya's first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day we honor Yemaya when we hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the ocean.
Olokun, is her male aspect, the Orisha of the bottom of the sea where the light does not shine. He inspires respect and fear, for the powers of destruction that can be unleashed from the ocean depths are vast.
Fortunately Yemaya is able to calm the fury of Olokun, and her waves settle gently into the shore, leaving mounds of coral and pearls when the water recedes.
Olukun demands respect for his ominous power that is unbounded, but it is the goddess Yemaya that is associated with creation and with life itself. When each of their dual aspects, (such as male and female, power and compassion) is held in proper balance, these two orisha unite to offer enormous gifts and unlimited energy.
Often depicted as a mermaid, or simply a beautiful woman standing amidst the waves, Yemaya is a goddess of comfort and inspiration. When it comes to caring for others, her impulses are sincere and comforting. And she has a love for children that is unequalled.