by Iya Melissa
Years ago, I was a practicing doula. My understanding of Yoruba spirituality heavily guided my doula practice, so much so that my business’ tagline – Where mother is worthy to be praised – was inspired by a Yoruba proverb Orisa bi iya, ko si. Iya la ba ma bo. In other words, there is no Orisa like (or greater than) mother, it is mother who is worthy to be praised.
As a doula, this proverb guided my work. A doula’s role is to take care of the mother while almost everyone else involved in birthing focuses primarily on the child to be born. Yoruba concepts of copulation, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum were essential in the Childbirth Education classes I taught and families that I worked with on their journey to birth. Throughout the entire process, keeping the mama at the forefront was always the goal. Candomblé is no different, whether we’re talking about female Orixás, female Iyawos and Egbomis that dance the Xirê, or Iyalorixás who kept Yoruba religion alive in Brazil through endless hardship.
Mothers are worthy to be praised. Whether we’re talking about Yemanja’s ability to love and take care of us as the mother of all, Nanã’s role as the primordial mother, Oxum’s role in helping women become mothers, Oya’s role as the winds the change – helping mothers remain strong even when storms are brewing around them, Oba’s warrior spirit supporting women in their fight to mother, Iyewa’s dominion over the endless transitions that mothers make; one thing never changes – mother is worthy to be praised.
There is no Orisa greater than mother reminds us of the importance of mothers and motherhood in traditional Yoruba culture. Worshipping Orixá is important: we make sacrifices to be present at the ile, we work hard to save money for our religious obligations, we give of ourselves to help others. Do the same for your mother, because she is worthy to be praised.
Happy Mother’s Day to mothers-to-be, mothers raising their children, mothers mourning their children, grandmothers, aunties , cousins and sisters who mother, god-mothers, mothering neighbors, Church mothers, Iyalorixás, Iyalaxés, Iyabassés, Ojugbonas, Iya kekeres, Ekedjis, etc. May you always be praised, and never forgotten.
Mother’s Day isn’t complete without two of the most popular songs in honor of mothers.
Enjoy Prince Nico Mbarga – “Sweet Mother”
The Intruders – “I’ll Always Love My Mama”