So my first week looking at the goddess Yemanya started out okay: I found a few sites online with some info on her – she’s a mother goddess of the sea (so far so good, I love mothers and I love the sea). She’s also associated with the number 7, of the seven seas. Perfect. While I was on the beach in Florida I picked up seven beautiful seashells to bring back to my altar at home. I thought they’d be a lovely reminder of the spiritual power of the ocean, and a way to honor Yemanya. But the next day I read somewhere else that the last thing Yemanya wants is an offering of something from the beach like seashells. It would be insulting because, basically, Yemanya already has all the seashells she needs because she lives there. Oh. Duh. Oops. All of a sudden I felt out of my league.
It started to seem way too complicated to figure out a completely different spiritual tradition (in only a month). And disrespectful too. I started questioning my process and intentions. Am I looking for new deities to believe in, literally, and to follow the practices of a particular tradition? Every month? No, that’s not really what I’m trying to do. But is the alternative disrespectful – picking and choosing practices that speak to me, taking them out of context of traditions they evolved in? Or is there another way for me to frame this quest? And here’s something else. The picture at the top of the post is from the goddess cards that I wrote about last week. This image of her looks pretty sexualized, doesn’t it? Definitely more so than the majority of (mostly white) goddesses depicted in the cards. Is this depiction true to Yemanya’s traditional nature or is the creator of the cards showing a more objectified/exotified image of a goddess of color than the white goddesses? And, if I’m skeptical of this image, should I not have reproduced it in my post, or is it a good idea to show it and critique it here? These questions all seem particularly important when we’re talking about me as a white person, a member of the (duh) privileged race in America, dabbling in an Afro-Carribean spirituality. I want to be careful. And I don’t have all the answers.
So I’m taking it slow, continuing to research Yemanya, and reaching out to people who actually are part of the Yoruba religious tradition, to learn more. Meanwhile, in my meditation, I’ve started out small, including focusing on the ocean and trusting the rhythms and cycles of life. This meditation has given me some nice, calming moments, and I think helped open me up this week. So I hope I’m on the right track. Interestingly, looking into another tradition also made me double back to peek at my own. So this week I also had some pretty cool insights about helpful and unhelpful messages I got from Christianity growing up. I guess picking and choosing is a part of coming to terms with one’s own spiritual tradition, too – but I’ll leave that for an upcoming post. Stay tuned.