Mistress of the Seas


Out of the Broomcloset.

What would New Jersey be without its coastline? What would it be without the varied forms the sea takes along it? From placid bays and inlets to pounding surf, New Jersey does indeed “got it.”

Many other cultures have agreed with science that the sea served as the cradle of life, and so is in many ways Mother to us all (not to slight the other of the three ancient elements). It is a hard heart indeed which can descend to the water’s edge and not be drawn in by the water’s ceaseless motion and shifting patterns, or not ask oneself what secrets it holds (the answer far too often being trash left by the careless, or the detritus carried down in storm drain outflows).

OO_Broomcloset_0814Those secrets and powers may, to the contemplative mind, take on their own personas. Along our shores, especially those touched by the Caribbean, this Spirit of the Waters is known as Yemaya/Yemoja,” Mother of the Children of Fishes.” The knowledge of her came across the Atlantic on the brutal Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas, from freedom to slavery, along with the rest of the family from Yorubaland (in Nigeria), the Orishas (or Santos; in some traditions, they taking on the outward appearances of various Roman Catholic Saints).

The aspects of this Presence are as varied as the waters she embodies, from Yemoja Maye le wo, elderly in appearance, living by springs which feed down to the sea, knowledgeable about herbs and woodcraft, to Yemoja Ayaba, the Queen, who when angry sends floods and tidal waves. Sometimes Mom can have a bit of that Joan Crawford glamour, don’t you know.

For those who may wish to explore on somewhat more familiar ground, or to avoid the appearance of appropriating traditions from other cultures (please, don’t pretend to being fully involved in traditions and practices without a serious entre), you might feel more comfortable dealing with her manifestation as the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), otherwise known as the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Sea, Our Lady of Regla (a town off Havana Harbor where she manifested). Her chapels and churches may be found along the Jersey shore, from Bayonne to Cape May.

No matter her aspect, her colors are clear crystal, white and blue, which show up in her long, flowing, belted dress and skirts, their sinuous folds echoing the movement of the waters. Her tokens are all blue stones, pearl, shells, nets, mirrors, plates, feathered fans (and peacock feathers). To her also belong as adornment the stars, Full and Crescent Moon, and the rainbow.

As Mistress of the Seven Seas, it follows that the number associated with her is, you guessed it, seven. Saturday is generally the best day to approach her, and a major Santeria feast day for her approaches on September 7th, in her guise as the Lady of Regla. As keeper of mysteries and the bounties of her waters, and all that pass along them, she may be called upon to aid in most any endeavor, from general comfort and success, to business, commerce and trade, and thus everyone’s favorite, money. In this way, she is in keeping with the way the peoples of the Roman Empire regarded Isis.

Perhaps you might want to just sink yourself into a bath, prior to doing some ritual work involving an aspect of Yemoja, or feel her loving embrace, to take away the sorrows of the day. The following ingredients should go into the water; salt (sea salt, not so hard to come across these days), a few drops of laundry bluing (yes, I know a cube of bluing is traditionally used, but your towels won’t appreciate it when you emerge), a few drops of sugar cane molasses, and some Gardenia flowers (please do not use some Gardenia scented perfume as a substitute, no one will come near you). Light a blue and a white candle, and sink in.

If doing ritual work by the water, remember that 7 or its multiples are the key. As we still use our oceans as a dump, I hesitate to suggest leaving some of the traditional offerings on the shoreline, for the waters to carry them off. However, small fired fish with molasses, and a sectioned watermelon with some mashed black-eyed peas or parched corn wouldn’t be the worst thing. These can be accompanied by your written request. Or you can make an offering of seven coins, which you coat with molasses, speak your petition and place them in the water (the metal detector crowd will be pleased).