Once upon a time there lived an African Goddess named Yemoja who dwell in the Ogun River. Yemoja was a very beautiful Goddess, with hair that was as black as midnight and skin brown like the molasses that pour from old oak trees on a hot summer’s day. Around her neck she wore a beautiful necklace strung with river stones
Yemoja had come to live in the River after her husband, King Ogun, went on a journey, never to return. In despair, she climbed to the top of the tallest mountain and reached her arms up to the heavens above; seeking comfort from God. Consumed by her own tears, she rolled down the mountain just as morning dew rolls off of a blade of grass, filling the empty river bed below…
Yemoja had many children and she gave them all such beautiful names, some of which were, Orisa, Man, Woman and Child…. Yemoja loved all of her children very dearly. However, there was one other thing that Yemoja loved just as much and that was the sweet taste of molasses. One of her favorite foods! The Children who lived near the Ogun River would bring Yemoja molasses everyday, pouring it into the river as they sang her song of praise:
oYemoja Maye’le’wo, Maye’le’wo,YemojaYemoja Maye’le’wo, Maye’le’wo, Yemoja
This pleased Yemoja and as a token of her appreciation, she would leave gifts of colorful river stones for all of the children at the base of old Baobab trees that stood along the rivers edge. During the festival of “The Mother of Fish” everyone from the surrounding villages would come to the Ogun River where they placed special offerings of fruit, molasses and white Yams. Everyone would then gather to recite a special prayer, in honor of the “Mother of Fishes”:
It is the bird that takes good fortune to the Spirit of the “Mother of Fishes”
The Goddess of the Ogun River.
It is the bird Aluko that takes good fortune to the Spirit of the Lagoon
The assistant to the Goddess of the Ogun River.
It is the parrot that takes good fortune to the chief of Iwo.
It is children who bring good fortune from heaven to Earth.
The Great One who gives good things, the Great One who gives good things
The Great One who gives good things. Give me good things from the Great One who gives good things. May it be so.
Abeokuta was the village in which the Ogun River was located, and many of the villagers went there to collect water so that they could wash their clothes, cook their meals and bathe their skin. During the day, the sun’s rays could be seen rising harmoniously off of the surface water…However the river was just as mystifying at night; Crescent moon and stars illuminating the sky, shedding light on the mysteries that lie hidden in the depths below.
One evening as the children danced and played under what seemed like the biggest moon they had ever seen… Yemoja noticed a little girl sitting all alone near an old familiar baobab tree. Yemoja swam up to where the child sat propped up against this old tree. And as Yemoja drew closer to the little girl, she noticed that she had tears in her eyes; why do you cry, asked Yemoja? My mother has fallen ill and we do not have enough money to buy medicine for her. Tears began to stream down her face as Yemoja attempted to comfort her.
What is your name child, said Yemoja? My name is Bamidele! What a beautiful name you have been given, do you know the meaning of your name child? Bamidele appeared puzzled because no one had ever told her names had meaning. What does my name mean asked Bamidele? “Follow me home”, said Yemoja. Your parents picked a very special name for you my child. . Don’t worry, I will provide the medicine for your mother, and she then wiped the remaining tears from Bamidele’s eyes.
God has chosen you to carry out a very special mission on earth, do you have any idea what you have been chosen to do ? No, I do not, said Bamidele. You will find out soon enough!, Yemoja then jumped into the river and returned with a calabash filled with water and leaves; now you will lead the way and I will follow…. A sense of relief came over Bamidele as she quickly sprang to her feet…. Yemoja then jumped out of the water onto land and to Bamidele’s surprise she had grown two feet! Why do you look so surprised child…? Umm umm, when did you grow those two feet? They were hidden beneath my fins said Yemoja, with a smile…
Upon their arrival to the small village, everyone seemed to stop what they were doing so that they could get a glimpse of this beautiful woman that walked along side Bamidele. A woman they had not seen in their village before…When they arrived in front of the small hut Bamidele shared with her ailing mother and two sisters, Yemoja instructed Bamidele to wait outside… Disappointed, Bamidele asked, “Why must I wait outside?” Well…..said Yemoja, You are too young to know the secrets hidden within the calabash. I will do as you wish, but please, I beg of you, prevent my mother from being swallowed up by the heavens. Do not worry my child; your mother will be healed. Yemoja entered the hut where she found Bamidele’s mother lying on a beautiful straw mat, covered in the sunlight which streamed from a makeshift window in the corner of the room….
Night had begun to fall as Bamidele kneeled in prayer outside the entrance to her hut. And as the night sky grew darker, Bamidele became quite worried and concerned about her mother’s fate. All kinds of frightening thoughts began entering her mind. And Just when Bamidele was about to enter the hut she shared with her family, Yemoja appeared!
Have you made my mother strong again, has she been healed, said Bamidele? Yes, said Yemoja, your mother has been healed, would you like to see her? Yes I would, said Bamidele, with a big smile. Bamidele thanked Yemoja and went running into the hut where she found her mother dancing and singing songs of praise to Yemoja. Bamidele ran up to her mother and they embraced each other for what seemed like an eternity… In the wee hours of the morning Bamidele and her mother decided to pay a special visit to the Ogun River, to offer Yemoja her favorite food as a token of their appreciation. And as they poured molasses into the river, Bamidele and her mother could hear Yemoja singing:
Follow me homeFollow me homeIs the name given to the child that healsFollow me homeFollow me homeIs the child who kneelsFollow me homeFollow me homeThe fate of Bamidele’s mother has been sealed….