Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Monday, January 26, 2009

147 To Yemanja

Imagine a town each February 2 that closes its shops.
All the people come down to the water
wearing transparent beaded necklaces and
bringing gifts, little boats
filed with flowers and perfumes
to launch into the sea.

They come, singing songs and dancing,
the people of the town down to the water,
near the Rio Vermelho, the beautiful brown women
wearing gowns the color of the sea,
bearing gifts they come singing to you, Yemanja,
orixa, Princess, oh, Janaina, Queen of the Sea,
mother of the waters, of the storms, of the fish,
in your honor, the sweet perfumes, the rejoicing.
Even the cat prowling under the tables of Mama Bahia
for scraps of fish
has eyes the color of the milky green sea.

How I long to dance with the people
along the beaches here in your town, Yemanja,
in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil,
a town once of fishermen
who went to the sea in small boats,
while women waited and prayed by the shore.
Now all shadows and phantoms
they come from the past,
their boats filled with flowers and perfumes.

Here in Salvador, Saturdays are consecrated to Yemanja, the queen of the waters, ruler of the upper sea, a goddess (orixa) in the condomble religion. Most commonly shown as a mermaid, Yemanja appears in many forms in this city where people still gather on the beaches each February 2 to offer her gifts. We are in Salvador just two more days, so this week’s Sunday Scribbling’s prompt of “shadows and phantoms” came clothed in her story. The photograph is part of a monumental painting hanging in the lobby of the Pousada do Boqueirao, by an anonymous folk artist.


  1. lovely and colorful, much like the illustration
    'milky green sea'--wish I could be there.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. An atmospheric poem. I do love the scenery it fills my mind with. Makes me miss the province where I've spent my early years. (There are similar occasions/celebrations in some islands here in my country.) Thank you for sharing this, a poem-snapshot of your travels. ;) Cheers.

  3. Yo tambien estoy buscando todo lo que sea sobre Yemanja.
    EN un sueno una mujer de mucha fuerza energetica se me presento interumpiendo lo que esta sonando, me dio instruciones de que la pintara para ayudar al oceanos y me dijo como y ademas que lo hiciera cuando TERMINARA DE PINTAR A LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE , y que you sabria quien es ella en 2 dias.
    Fui a ver un amigo 2 dias despues , estaban viendo el carnaval de brasil y alli la reconosi.
    en realidad si estoy pintando a la virgen y tenia intenciones de pintar a Maha Lakshmi despues pero ahora se que sigue Yemanja.

    Si quieres compartimos links y todo el research?

  4. Hello, Ahalia. Thank you for commenting on my poem to Yemanja. Yes, research is difficult, but Yemanja was everywhere in Salvador, present in paintings and sculptures. Unfortunately, my research was lost when my laptop was stolen (3 weeks ago), so I can only wish you the very best. Your blog doesn't list an e-mail, so I'm answering you here and on your blogsite. May your painting go well. Beth