Yamaya/Yemoja: An African Deity

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Brazilian-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: January 1st' 2012, April 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant states that Africans from what is now called Yorubaland brought Yemaya/Yemoja and a host of other deities/energy forces in nature with them, when they were brought to the shores of the Brazil as captives. She is the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children. Once in Brazil, the myth was passed through oral tradition because the Portugese slave owners didn’t let them worship their deities openly. Her name slowly evolved into Yemanja over time. What is also interesting is after the Independence of Brazil, people were allowed to worship whatever deities and Gods they wanted. Yet Brazilians ended up enjoying the ritual of asking Yemoja for a blessing on New Years, as the ocean is a big part of Brazilian culture. Even during Brazilian carnivals, there was floats and imageries of Yemoja, as she is now a strong symbol of Brazilian culture.

My informant stated that his  mother first told him about this because it’s tradition to wear white on New Year’s day and go to the beach and put flowers in the ocean to honor her and for her to bless your new year with good luck. Everyone in Brazil now do this as it is part of their New Year’s tradition. Not only do Brazilians do this during New Years, but also when family members pass away.

This is an interesting analyzation of how another culture adopted a different culture’s customs and ritual to fit their needs. The fact that sending flowers to the ocean to celebrate Yemoja brings good luck is another example of asking for protection. What is also interesting is whether one believes in the deity or not, everyone does it during Brazil as it has transformed into a tradition.