I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by

Maryse Condé

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem can help.

Mama Yaya Character Analysis

Mama Yaya is a Nago healer who lives on the outskirts of Darnell Davis’s plantation in Barbados. After Tituba is orphaned at the age of 7, Mama Yaya takes her in, and she quickly educates the little girl about how to use tropical plants and incantations to heal and change behavior. Even more importantly, Mama Yaya also shows Tituba how to connect with the dead—so though Yaya dies when Hester is 14, she continues to be a mentor from the afterlife. Though Mama Yaya is consistently generous and kind, she is realistic about the challenges Tituba faces as a Black woman: she emphasizes that “there is no end to the misfortune of Black folks” and continually stresses that “men do not love. They possess.” But to help Tituba survive these challenges, Mama instructs her about the necessity of community, explaining that building strong relationships with others allows for life beyond life. In that sense, Mama Yaya embodies two of the novel’s major themes. On the one hand, she shows that through love and kindness, people can endure even beyond the grave. But in her healing and incantation, all of which she passes on to Tituba, she also proves that nature can (when used and appreciated correctly) be a critical source of knowledge.

Mama Yaya Quotes in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

The I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem quotes below are all either spoken by Mama Yaya or refer to Mama Yaya. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
).
Part 1: Chapter 1 Quotes

Mama Yaya taught me about herbs. Those for inducing sleep. Those for healing wounds and ulcers. Those for loosening the tongues of thieves. Those that calm epileptics and plunge them into blissful rest. Those that put words of hope on the lips of the angry, the desperate, and the suicidal.

Mama Yaya taught me to listen to the wind rising and to measure its force as it swirled above the cabins it had the power to crash.

Mama Yaya had taught me the sea, the mountains, and the hills. She taught me that everything lives, has a soul, and breathes. That everything must be respected. That man is not the master riding through his Kingdom on horseback.

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Mama Yaya
Related Symbols: Tropical Plants
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The dead only die if they die in our hearts. They live on if we cherish them and honor their memory, if we place their favorite delicacies in life on their graves, and if we kneel down regularly to commune with them. They are all around us, eager for attention, eager for affection. A few words are enough to conjure them back and to have their invisible bodies pressed against ours in their eagerness to make themselves useful.

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Mama Yaya, Abena
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 2 Quotes

“Mama Yaya,” I said, panting. “I want this man to love me.”

She shook her head. “Men do not love. They possess. They subjugate.”

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Mama Yaya (speaker), John Indian
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

What is a witch? I noticed that when he said the word, it was marked with disapproval. Why should that be? Why? Isn't the ability to communicate with the invisible world, to keep constant links with the dead, to care for others and heal, a superior gift of nature that inspires respect, admiration, and gratitude? Consequently, shouldn't the witch […] be cherished and revered rather than feared?

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), John Indian , Mama Yaya, Susanna Endicott
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 3 Quotes

John Indian closed the door with a wooden latch and took me in his arms, whispering: “The duty of a slave is to survive! Do you understand? To survive!”

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), John Indian (speaker), Susanna Endicott , Mama Yaya, Abena
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 8 Quotes

Lament for my lost child

The moonstone dropped into the water,

Into the waters of the river,

And my fingers couldn’t reach it,

Woe is me!

The moonstone has fallen.

Sitting on a rock on the riverbank,

I wept and I lamented.

Oh, softly shining stone,

Glimmering at the bottom of the water.

The hunter passed that way

With his bow and arrows.

“Why are you crying, my lovely one?”

“I’m crying because my moonstone

Lies at the bottom of the water.”

“If it is but that, my lovely,

I will help you.”

But the hunter died and was drowned.

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), John Indian , Hester , Mama Yaya
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 10 Quotes

“I cannot do what your heart dares not disclose. The woman who revealed her science taught me to heal and console rather than to do evil. Once, when, like yourself, I dreamed of doing my worst, she warned: ‘Don't become like them, knowing only how to do evil.’”

[Sarah] shrugged her frail shoulders under her wretched shawl. “Knowledge must adapt itself to society. You are no longer in Barbados among our unfortunate brothers and sisters. You are among monsters who are set on destroying us.”

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Sarah (speaker), Mama Yaya
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 12 Quotes

You may be surprised that I shiver at the idea of death. But that's the ambiguity of people like us. Our body is mortal and we are therefore prey to every torment of the common mortal. Like them, we fear suffering. Like them, we are frightened of the terrible antechamber that ends our life on earth. However certain we are that the doors will open before us onto another form of life, this time eternal, we are nevertheless wracked with anguish.

In order to bring peace back into my heart and mind I had to repeat Mama Yaya’s words: “Out of them all, you'll be the only one to survive.”

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Mama Yaya (speaker), John Indian
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Chapter 13 Quotes

The reader may be surprised that at a time when the lash was constantly being used, I managed to enjoy this peace in freedom. Our islands have two sides to them. The side of the masters’ carriages and their constables on horseback, armed with muskets and savage, baying hounds. And the other, mysterious and secret side, composed of passwords, whispers, and a conspiracy of silence. It was on this side that I lived, protected by common collusion. Mama Yaya made a thick vegetation grow up around my cabin and it was as if I lived in a fortified castle. An inexperienced eye could only make out a tangle of guava trees, ferns, frangipani, and acoma trees, specked here and there by the mauve flower of a hibiscus.

Related Characters: Tituba (speaker), Mama Yaya
Related Symbols: Tropical Plants
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem LitChart as a printable PDF.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem PDF

Mama Yaya Character Timeline in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

The timeline below shows where the character Mama Yaya appears in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...off the plantation. She goes to live with a formerly enslaved Nago woman named Mama Yaya. Mama Yaya watched her husband and children be tortured to death, and so she has... (full context)
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Mama Yaya teaches Tituba to use herbs and tropical plants to heal and change others’ behavior; she... (full context)
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Mama Yaya explains that “the dead only die if they die in our hearts. They live on... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 2
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
...see him again—promises to attend. After he leaves, she sacrifices a chicken and summons Mama Yaya. (full context)
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Tituba wants to make John love her, but Yaya cautions that “men do not love. They possess.” She also warns that John is notorious... (full context)
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...a special moment. When Tituba scratches John to get a drop of his blood for Yaya, John calls her a witch. Tituba wonders why it is a bad thing to be... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 3
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...knows well. In one of these prayer sessions, Susanna asks Tituba about Abena and Mama Yaya. Susanna believes Mama Yaya is a witch. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 4
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
 Though Tituba wants to kill Susanna, both Abena and Mama Yaya counsel her against doing so. “Even if she dies,” Yaya explains, “you cannot change your... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 6
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
...that he believes Elizabeth is about to die. Tituba decides to use some of Mama Yaya’s techniques to bring Elizabeth back to health—but since she is in a very different climate,... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 7
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...immediately. Judah explains that though she has never left Boston, she is friends with Mama Yaya in the spirit world. The old woman then teaches Tituba about a variety of herbal... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 9
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
...how different night is in Salem than in Barbados, Tituba feels the presence of Mama Yaya and Abena. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 10
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...will help her kill this cruel slaveholder. But Tituba refuses, citing the words of Mama Yaya and Abena: “don’t become like them, knowing only how to do evil.” (full context)
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
...tries to reassure them that nothing is wrong, Tituba resolves to give up on Mama Yaya’s “humanitarian” outlook; instead, she will accept that “those around me were as ferocious as the... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 12
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
...burgled while wrapping itself in the cloak of god’s name.” Desperate to connect with Mama Yaya and Abena, and fed up with her neighbors, Tituba steals a sheep to sacrifice. At... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 6
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Tituba thinks of Mama Yaya and her own survival, but this thought no longer cheers her; instead, she feels that... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 7
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
...in the West Indies. Seeing her chance to return to Barbados, Tituba calls on Mama Yaya and Abena to help her wind up in the hands of this merchant. (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 12
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
...arrives in Bridgetown, Barbados, she is gratified to be greeted by the spirits of Mama Yaya, Abena, and Yao. But the city itself is rainy and crowded, and Tituba no longer... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 13
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
...her she does not deserve to be treated as “special.” After some urging from Mama Yaya and Abena, who criticize her continued reliance on men, Tituba decides to leave the maroons.... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 14
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nevertheless, Tituba gets in touch with Yao, Abena, and Mama Yaya to ask if the slave revolt is coming at a good time. All three are... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 15
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
The spirits of Mama Yaya, Yao, and Abena return to comfort Tituba (and to chastise her, once again, for always... (full context)
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...than contest the accusations, however, Tituba instead focuses on the afterlife, where she knows Mama Yaya, Yao, and Abena will be waiting for her and where “the light of truth burns... (full context)
Epilogue
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
...in the afterlife, she is never alone; she is joined by the spirits of Mama Yaya, Yao, Abena, and Iphigene. But more than that, Tituba has at last “become one” with... (full context)