Visualizing Birth Through Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess of the Ocean

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Yemaya (Mandala)
Copyright 2004, Amy Haderer. All Rights Reserved

Yemaya is a figure associated both with the divine maternal and with the ocean. She is a central orisha, or spiritual manifestation of supreme divinity, in Africa’s Yoruba tradition.  Her name is an abbreviation of Yey Oma Eja, which means, “Mother whose children are the fish,”a reflection of the origins of life on earth, which began in the sea, and with the human embryo, which swims in the amniotic sea of the mother’s womb. As a symbol of the ocean, Yemaya’s worshippers make offerings to her at great bodies of water, such as large rivers or the ocean itself.

Yemaya, like other goddess figures, aids other women in the visualization of female potency during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Similar to her other mandalas, Amy Haderer’s “Yemaya” representation is an image that is at once both empowering and calming. With her head and shoulders haloed by a shell, Yemaya brings to the viewer a sense of ocean, an entity that can be serene and powerful. Standing with bare breasts, a half moon emanates from her open palms. Soft tones of blue, purple, green and yellow color the forms of marine plant and animal life that surround her. Tilting her head down and closing her eyes, Yemaya welcomes the viewer to focus on the swell of her own belly, which protrudes in the shape of pregnancy. The swirling shell of a snail rests softly like an eternal labyrinth to the goddess’ womb. Thus, the figure brings to the viewer the strength of Yemaya while also maintaining the human form of a pregnant woman.

Amy Haderer has over the years created many beautiful works that center on the human experiences of birth and mothering. She is a mother, doula, and active member of the birth community in Denver, Colorado. Pregnant women use her mandalas as powerful tools to help them in the preparation of labor and birth, as well as in celebrating birth and mothering. She may be reached through her website, The Mandala Journey.

For past Visualizing Birth write-ups on Amy’s art, see: Into These Hands, Mother Moon, Journeys Intertwined, and Crowning Waterbirth.