In His Own Words
by Shloma Rosenberg
I have no legends to tell, only experiences to relate. I have no beginning and I will never end. My existence is truly eternal. I do not walk among the Orishas, nor do I walk in the world of humans. My realm is the depth of creation, the bottom of the sea.
In this, my watery domain, I conjure the brew of life. All those things that swim through the waters, all those things that walk or crawl over land, all those things that fly through the air began here in my darkness. I set the proper forces in motion, I send forth the beginnings of life. As they progress higher toward the surface of the world they become exposed to light and to different types of nourishment. They begin to change as they reach the higher levels of the ocean and enter the realm of Yemoja, my daughter. Or is she my mother? my wife? Does it matter? We are both constant. Having each been here since the beginning of time it is difficult for us to remember who came first.
I find it interesting that my children derive so much pleasure from arguing about my sex. It is fascinating that after millions of years on this planet their sexual realities are still so limited. In the depths of my waters it is the male seahorse who bears his young, and there are worms that have sex with themselves to procreate. There are creatures who are born one sex and die another, and some who propagate their species without any sex at all. I am the womb of all life, how could I be male? I am the catalyst of creation, how could I be female? Am I wasting my breath? Maybe so. Will Humans ever get beyond their dualistic reality? Maybe not.
I am often visited by your ancestors. The bottom of the ocean is the cemetery of truth. There are no aesthetics, no elaborate rites or markers to pretty up the disagreeable circumstances that invariably surround the deaths of the souls who end up here. Stupid vacationers who can't seem to heed even the most rudimentary safety precautions float lazily into my home, sailboats in tow. Blundering snitches with feet enveloped in cement divebomb my palace. Forlorn Romeos, engagement ring in one hand, "Dear John" letter in the other, crash headlong into my domain from the tops of bridges. Death no longer saddens me, for their souls leave quickly, off for another try, leaving me with only their bones and their memories.
Do I sound to you cynical? Do I appear sarcastic? Rest assured, my memory is painfully long, and sarcasm my only defense from it.
I remember a time, and it was not too long ago, that my days and nights were filled with horror. My ocean floors were littered with the dark, emaciated bodies of the descendants of my first children, the First People put on the Earth. They were being stolen from their homeland to be used as servants in a New World. The ones that I received were either too weak or too strong to survive the passage. I cradled in my arms the souls of infants whose mothers had tossed them from slave ships, in order that they could be born again into a better world. I comforted those who had rebelled, accepting death rather than enslavement and rape. I wept with those who had been ill, and were sacrificed to make room and to help stretch provisions. These souls were strong souls, and they were reborn into situations in which they were better able to continue the struggle for freedom.
There were also those that remained among the living. They directed their strength in other ways. Holding their tongues and concealing their knowledge, they trusted in Olodumare, knowing that she had plans for them. They were joined by others whose independence had been limited because they were the wrong color, the wrong sex, they worshiped the wrong god, were from the wrong country or loved the wrong person. These people all became my children. Some of them waited patiently, gaining ground when they could, and some pushed forward to fight. All maintained faith and hope, knowing that their time would come to thrive. I gave them strength and stability through their troubles. After years of struggle much of their freedom has been restored to them. Indeed, many who are already free think my people fully emancipated. But there are many liberties that are more subtle, and harder won. They are reclaiming these freedoms slowly.
They still sing my praises, and when they do I bring them the memories of those first souls, memories of tradition, mystery, and strength. They have caught a glimpse of my power, the power of the mystery and strength of the depths of the sea. They know that this is the foundation of life, and I alone can provide it. I offer it in return for their offerings and praise. My children drink of my ashe, and are restored. Without me the painful process of evolution of body and mind, both individual and communal, would be too much to bear.
My children have been joined by some whose lineage to the First People is not so close, nor so direct, who beg me for these memories. They thirst for knowledge of our common source. They sing my praises and I quench their thirst. For I know that to restore the notion of one source is to restore the notion of one people, and to restore that notion is to restore freedom.