Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shaman Masks, the Songhai, and Yemeya

As I prepare to go to the Goddess Rising Conference  it occurred to me that it will be occuring at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, in Malibu.  And I remembered that just a few weeks ago I was making offerings at the lip of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Hudson River, because an Ifa priestess, Joy Wedmedyk,  told me to do so this summer.  In order to honor Yemeya,  who she called "The Mother of the World".

There is a poetry in this, a "Conversation" , and I felt like exploring it a bit more here. 
In July I visited a friend who has been a medium since childhood, and has also pursued shamanic and Spiritualist training.  In the course of our visit, we had a "visitation"  I have been thinking about ever since.  

We were sitting at the table drinking coffee and Wendy said "Excuse me, but someone is here".  Her eyes misted and tears ran down her face,which she said happens when there is an intense energy.   She said that a very tall, thin, black man wearing a flat, disc like mask that was black with a white band across the eye holes and a red spot on the forehead was standing right behind me.  He put his hands on my shoulders. He told her he was something that sounded to her  like "samarai", and that he wanted me to help in some way.  He said that I would help to "revive Yemeja".   I, of course, neither saw nor heard any of this, but I did feel an intensity in the room.   Wendy said she also perceived a  number of people with him, his tribe.  They were by the ocean.

They were showing her images of the ocean, and how they made offerings  with baskets of fruit, flowers, and small white shells.  Tears were running down her face (Wendy says that when the energy is very intense this happens) and she said that he was thanking me.  Then they were gone.   I thanked him and said that I would do what I could to the best of my abilities.  I do not know what that is though.

Plank mask from Burkina Faso
I've been thinking about this amazing occurrence ever since.  I reflect that Yemaja, Mother Ocean, originates among the Yoruba religions of  Western Africa.  Yemeja became especially  important in the Americas as the slaves were brought to the Caribbean and to South America, where  admixtures of the Yoruba religion and Catholicism became Santeria. She was honored because she brought them across the ocean, and honored because she carried the souls of their homeland in her waters.

Shortly after leaving my friend Wendy's house, I went to the Starwood Festival, where I ran into Joy Wedmedyk.   Joy studied with Malidoma Some in Burkina Faso, and has become an initiated Priestess of Ifa, dedicated to Yemaya, who she calls "The Mother of the World".   She told me that I needed to go to the ocean, and make offerings to Yemaya. 

"Reviving Yemaya", from the perspective of Joy, is "reviving reverence for the Mother of the World."  Our Mother, ourselves, our living Earth and Her Waters.   What else can we endeavor to do now, expressed  in so very many ways, in prayer, in action?  

So, I write this to remind myself, and, like the painting above (alas, I was not able to find out who the artist is who painted it).......when I find myself on the Pacific Ocean the day after tomorrow for the Conference, I'll make my offerings of fruit and flowers.  

 I looked on Google for flat disc masks such as a tribal shaman might wear, and found that there are indeed many such among the peoples of Mali and Burkina Faso. I did discover as well that there is an extensive group of people, in these lands as well,  with a long cultural history,  called the "Songhai", which sounds quite similar to "Samarai", and some of their domain touched the western ocean on Africa's shores.  I learned about the  Bwa masks of Burkina Faso when I Googled "Songhai shamans".

"Bwa masks are believed to possess special powers which are controlled by those who wear them.

These masks are plank shaped with a circular face at one end and a crescent moon at the other. Their wearer looks through a hole in the mouth...........The plank section is decorated with geometric patterns which are an essential design element in many African masks and carvings. Geometric pattern creates an external rhythm which echoes the internal spiritual energy of the artwork.It can also be used as a coded language where the design communicates secret knowledge to those in the know. The designs on this Bwa Mask, which is used to celebrate boys' initiation to adulthood, represent information about myths and morality that the boys must learn before they can be accepted into adult society."


Gail said...

So glad to read this as we are holding my Croning Ritual on St. Augustine, FL beach on Sept. 29. I would so love for you to be able to be a part of it. I will incorporate blessings and offerings to Yemaya in your honor.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Santeria is a fascinating belief system. The saints and the orisha gods, uniting and melding for a common purpose, to combine powers, now THAT is a story worthy of fiction. I mean, really. Who among your neighbors would believe this stuff is true?

Lauren said...

Thanks to both of you! I'm back from California now, with a lot to think about......but I did make my offering just above Malibu on the lap of the blue, blue Pacific ocean, where I have so often played when I was young.

Gail.........I wish I could attend your Croning indeed. Never had one for myself......