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Friday, December 31, 2004


On the coast of Brazil, both December 31 and January 1 are feast days of Yemanja, Queen of the Sea.


On Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, celebrants light candles amid white gladiolas in rites for the ocean deity Yemanja. 

Photo: Silvia Izquierdo for AP

Times Square offers one kind of New Year’s celebration, the beaches of Brazil another.

Afro-Brazilians, especially in the Bahia region,  honor the ocean goddess Yemanja by sending blue and white flowers out over the waves. Custom says that if the flowers come ashore, Yemanja is displeased and will bring a poor fishing season; if the flowers vanish, she has accepted the offering and a year of good catches will follow.

February 2nd (Ground Hog Day/Candlemas) is her major holiday, but December 31 and January 1 are dedicated to her also.

Yemanja came to the shores of Brazil with African slaves. A central figure in Yoruban religion, she is known by many names across West Africa and the Caribbean—including La Sirene, the mermaid goddess of Haiti. “In the Yoruban pantheon, Yemanja rules the top half of the ocean while Olokun, a hermaphrodite with long flowing hair, rules the bottom half.” A regal and protective figure, she became associated with the Virgin Mary.

This site, en espagnol, may interest our Spanish-speaking visitors. And to welcome the New Year, here’s a clip of neo-Yoruban music by Jorge Amorium and Hank Schroy, their invocation of Yemanja.

On land and sea, Happy New Year!

Posted by Julie on 12/31 at 05:24 PM
Religious RitualsPermalink