Why does Lorde allude to Yemanjá in “From the House of Yemanjá”?

In alluding to Yemanjá in “From the House of Yemanjá,” Lorde evokes the cosmos, divinity, femaleness, West African Yoruba culture, and the African diaspora in the Americas. The connections between the speaker’s specific situation and the Yoruba goddess emphasize the African and universal aspects of motherhood.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The figure of Yemanjá that is mentioned in the title of “From the House of Yemanjá” is a goddess in the Yoruba culture. Yoruba society developed primarily in what are now the nations Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. Yoruba religion and culture spread to the New World largely through the Transatlantic transport of enslaved African people up to the early nineteenth century. Yemanjá or Yemoja is an important female deity in Yoruba religion; as the world’s creator, she has specific associations with femaleness, fertility, childbirth, and motherhood, as well as parenting and nurturing more generally. Her importance in religions of the African diaspora in the Americas extends through Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Southeastern United States.

Including Yemanjá in the poem is especially appropriate to its theme of motherhood and nurturing and the lack thereof. This goddess is also associated with the issues of race that the speaker raises in referring to the “dark and rich” woman upon their back. The universal, cosmic association of Yemanjá is raised by the speaker’s references to “the sun and the moon” and to “day and night.” When the speaker plaintively calls out to “mother” for her much-needed “blackness,” they may be calling out to the goddess, rather than to their own mother who has not nurtured them.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial