New Orleans Voodoo Study: Yemaya. Santeria, 9

Little Baron

This is one card that I really do like. And reading up a little about 'Yemaya', I think I am attracted to her nurturing aspects - apparently, she is the 'Mother of the Seas'.

A tall, dark woman stands amongst the foam of the waves. It looks as though the water either comes from her or is being sucked up by her. Either way, she and it seem to be 'one'. She is pregnant and we can see the child within her. But in reality, this might be just be a symbolic suggestion - the birth of something, the growth or something, the building or something.

I am trying to keep away from traditional tarot commentary but I will ask the following questions.

Why, if she symbolises growth and motherhood, is she not assigned to the 'Number 3'? Unless, with actual birth in mind, the '10' is the conclusion and she is about to conclude by giving birth and all will be complete and ready for a new cycle. Also, 9 months of pregnancy maybe linked to the 9th card.

Why, if she is the 'Mother of the Seas' (and all of the little fishes) is she assigned to the suit of Earth?


Little Baron

Just thinking about the Earth thing and I suppose it links her to the physical side of childbirth. A physical experience. There seems to be a bit of the High Priestess and Empress concepts within her.

Being a '9', maybe she represents preparation. Getting ready to put something into practice.

She reminds me of a woman packing her bag to go into hospital, ready to give birth.

Found an interesting write up about her.


Little Baron

For your interest, a few alternative visions of Yemaya.

There seems to be a common theme through a lot of the pictures I found, but our one seems quite different. Our dark lady seems more mysterious and sensual, I feel. She has more of the warrior aspect about her, I think. However, I very much like the third attachment.



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Yemayá is very special to me. We have had a close relationship for many many years now. There are a lot of aspects of the NOVT that doesn´t seem to rhyme very well with traditional tarot-interpretations. Personally I have chosen to disregard its relationship to traditional tarot, especially since I use the deck for ritual purposes mostly, and meditation as opposed to reading the cards.

However, I do think that the number nine and the suit of earth fits certain aspects of Yemayá very well. She is the earth mother, the fertility of the Empress and the intiution of the High Priestess in one.

To me the number nine symbolizes integration, wisdom, tolerance, compassion, strong sense of self, identity, creativity, independence from commercial activity, non-conformity.
Yemayá is also a being who rejoices and fully enjoys the creation of her own garden, be it the sea or the earth. She is the mother who accepts you as you are, for all that you are. So to me this card is also about taking pride in who you are, accepting yourself for everything that you are, honoring yourself, being realistic about your accomplishments and loving yourself unconditionally. A card of solid identity, of knowing where you came from, knowing your roots and your history, honoring your ancestry aswell as the people that will come. The challenge is to be fully present, and to be generous to other people in the same way that you are generous with yourself. A state of zen-buddhist mindfulness so to speak, taking pleasure in what one has created or produced on their own.

Little Baron

Thanks alot Embla for that post. It helps me understand her a little more.

Since you know the deck better than me, how does this one compare to the actual 'third trump' in the majors. Is that character built around growth and motherhood. She doesn't seem to be so much. I am just wondering why the creators chose to put some figures that might be suited in one position, in another.

But I am trying to just get the feeling of this card. And I think it is working. I am not even really paying much attention to the fact that it is a number 9; or even that it is minor, and not major. I am just thinking about the 'Mother of the Seas' and her connection to the Earth. I am thinking of her being everyone's mother. I am thinking of her connection to the moon and mysteries. She is all woman and slightly more sensual, I feel than our usual 'mumsie' Empress.



I agree that to read with this deck, throw out all your tarot learnings and just go with the deck. I think the problem people have with it is that they try to shove it into a narrow little "box" called tarot when it's actually not tarot. It's divinitory, but doesn't have much relation to tarot at all, to my way of thinking.

She has a dark sister called Olukun who lives deeper below her in the seas, and Olukun, even though I don't take her to be really maelevolent, isn't as nurturing as Yemaya. Olukun is more masculine in her attributes and if given someone we can identify with, we might think of Joan of Arc, who certainly took on a more masculine role in going to a crusade. A balanced person contains attributes of both Shemaya and Olukun, but some get an imbalance.

My research says she's a West African creation goddess who rules over the seas and lakes. Her name means "Mother Whose Children are Fish" to reflect that her children are too numerous to count. She dresses in seven skirts of blue and white to represent the 7 seas. She's like the sea---deep and unknowable, but caring and nurturing. She embodies all the characteristics of motherhood. Canonized, she's the Virgin Mary.

It's said that the sea was where we originated, so all people would then be her children.

*embla*, please correct me if any of the notes I've made are wrong, or if any of my sources were inaccurate. :)

Ochun is her daughter.

Yemaya's symbols and characteristics:

Love for children.
Strong temper but slow to erupt.
Sincere caring for others
Ability to see other's perspectives
Very domestic
Very protective of offspring
Attraction for lakes and oceans
Able to forgive easily
Calm attitude
Money comes easily, without worry
Emotional well-being is most important
Very caring and comforting
Quiet sense of sensuality (think of hips rocking gently like the waves lapping on shore)


color blue
necklace of blue and clear beads
peacocks and ducks
half moon and star
rocks and shells from the sea carry her energy

She likes jewelry, perfume and flowers as offerings.

The picture on the card shows her giving birth to everything in the sea, and the salty sea is like the embryonic fluid that is gushing from her. That's what it looks like to me.


9 Santeria -- Yemaya [9 of Pentacles]

Yemayá stands as the waters of life flow from her hands. She is pregnant; Yemayá is the orisha of fertility, the ocean, and lakes. She is the Santeria version of the voudoun loa La Siren (the 7 Congo card in the NOVT).

This is a dark card, most closely mimicking Africa/African woman (especially the gold collar, which symbolizes royalty. After all, a queen is a “mother” of a kingdom). The gold could also symbolize wealth, in that the Ife kingdom was once one of the most prosperous in Africa.

There is barely discernible dark movement in the background; orisha who are “silent partners” in creation?

I associate this card with an actual pregnancy. The card is a 9, and nines are about completion. Also, a human gestation period is approximately nine months.

The birth/fertility aspect/image connects it to the following cards in the NOVT:

--1 Santeria -- Olodumare
-- 2 Santeria -- Olofi
-- XVII – Z’Etoile [The Star]
--XIX – Gros Bon Ange [The Sun]