Yemaja is the water goddess, she is described as having the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish. She is also known as a mermaid goddess. In African mythology Yemaja rules the waters of the world, nothing can live without her, and for this reason among others, she is known as the Queen of the world.
In African mythology the supreme being created the earth, and created a pantheon of gods and goddesses known as Orishas. Yemaja was the Orisha who was responsible for all the waters of the world. She regulated night and day, the tides and the rain. Yemaja was also said to have brought beauty to the world.
When Yemaja married Oddua, the first man, she became the mother of the world and mother of all other Orishas. Their union was the union of the earth and water. It is believed that their love still lasts to this day, and if it ends the earth and water will separate and the world will cease to exist.
The cowrie shell is the symbol of Yemaja, and fish are sacred to her. Yemaja is celebrated on February 2nd and December 31st, when offerings are made to her. She is also honored on September 7th and 9th, and on the eve of Summer Solstice, by casting flowers and flower boats into the water.
In Brazilian mythology Yemaja is known as Yemanja, she is a beautiful mermaid goddess, who appears from the water surrounded by sweet melodies and carrying a comb and mirror made from oyster and snail shells. She will rise from the water seated on a sea shell wearing a crown of pearls and starfish. Her kingdom is the all the waters of the world.
There is a Brazilian tradition on December 31st among her followers, of lighting candles on the beach at midnight for Yemanja. Boats made from flowers are cast into the sea. It is a good omen for the coming year if she accepts your boat, and carries it out to sea. It is a bad omen if your offering is refused, and your boat is washed back upon the shore.