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You Probably Missed These 5 References to Yoruba Goddess Yemoja in Beyoncé’s “Spirit” Music Video



Have you seen the music video to Beyoncé‘s “Lion King” single, “Spirit“? Man, we still have goosebumps just thinking about it.

It’s impossible to know where to start from. Was it the visuals? The choreography? The fashion? The authentic Africanness without slipping into exorcising or the primitive stereotype people often hold of the continent? It was beautiful.

The video, which premiered as part of a one-hour primetime special on ABC, “The Lion King: Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” with Robin Roberts was described by Beyoncé as “a love letter to Africa.”

While that much is clear when you see the video, you probably did not catch all the ways through which it actually was a love letter, including a homage to the river goddess Yemoja.

Let’s take you through them.

The River Stills

You probably caught this one yourself: Yemoja is a river deity, and the video gives us several stills of the singer in the water, including one where she has her arms raised before a waterfall.

The Tree of Life

We know Yemoja is said to cure infertility in women, giving life and governing everything from conception to childbirth, and parenting to child safety.

Beyoncé stands before the tree, her children flanking her. Which leads us to –


Yemoja is the mother of the sea children, and in “Spirit” we not only find Beyoncé with her daughter Blue Ivy, we also find her mothering others.

The Cowries

Cowrie shells, one of Yemoja’s many symbols (there’s also the white cloth), represents Yemoja’s wealth, and in the “Spirit” video, we find Beyoncé donning a white gown adorned with cowrie shells.

She stands before the tree of life (wrapped in white) in this regalia, looking straight at all of us.

The Mermaid Symbolism

Then there’s all the mermaid symbolism (Yemoja is depicted as a mermaid) in the video, including when she stands before the waterfall inside the river.

Beyoncé has over and over paid homage to African deities (remember the one to Osun in her Grammy performance? Or all of the Lemonade video with its very many references). It’s great to see her continuing in the tradition, especially in a song as spiritually charged as “Spirit.”

Photo Credit: Beyoncé


  1. Dee

    July 17, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for the explanation now i know this particular track is not for me. Na only one God i sabi, the one wey create heaven and earth. I don’t know any goddess yemoja….that na juju. Next track.

    • Oma

      July 17, 2019 at 10:52 pm

      This explanation just made me say a whole NO THANKS!!! One has to be careful what one is even listening to sef

  2. Oegorok girl

    July 18, 2019 at 10:47 am

    I appreciate this,thank you Beyonce for shining more light on the African culture,even when we Africans are ashamed of it.

  3. Hmm

    July 18, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Beyonce is part of the Elite – There is some message she is sending out there that has been dumbed down in Africa. Anyone living in London and is observant would see white ladies flaunting cowries as a fashion anklet statements. Yet cowries was deemed demon by the so called slave masters.

  4. Stel

    August 1, 2020 at 12:12 am

    Yemoja isn’t a river goddess but the ocean goddess “Mother of all witches” her colors are blue and white.. that all white outfit with cowries shell could be for obatala… please do more research instead of writing nonsense

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