Hundreds worship African goddess of the sea in Brazil ahead of new year


Hundreds worship Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea in Copacabana beach
Hundreds worship Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea in Copacabana beach

Hundreds of worshippers gathered at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Beach on Tuesday (December 29) to pay tribute to Yemanja, the Afro-Brazilian queen of the sea.

Every year followers of the Candomble and Umbanda religions dress in white to celebrate Yemanja by singing and dancing around her statue set up on the beach.

They offer flowers, letters and beauty products as gifts for the sea goddess, who they believe will bless them in return.

The gifts are put inside little makeshift boats and sent out into the ocean for Yemanja, who is also the patron deity of fishermen and shipwreck survivors.

This year’s organisers called on worshippers to avoid polluting the ocean with bottles and other plastic objects.

Marcelo Reis, one of the head organisers, told followers to care for the environment.

“Whoever is planning on putting a boat (with offerings) into the ocean, please keep your bottles, keep your perfume flasks, but do throw in the champagne and the perfume and please avoid any plastic objects. Because above all, our religion, Umbanda and Candomble, needs the environment and we know how to take care of it. We need the environment and we know how to take care of it,” he announced on a microphone during the ritual.

Yemanja is one of the deities of the Yoruba religion and has become prominent among Afro-American cultures. The tradition was brought over to Brazil by African slaves hundreds of years ago.

Every year worshippers write letters to Yemanja with their wishes for the new year.

Marlene Vilar, a 52-year-old kitchen assistant, said she asked Yemanja to lift Brazil out of its financial and political crisis. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is trying to fend off impeachment motions in Brazilian Congress. State energy firm Petrobras has also been targeted over massive bribery charges.

“I asked her to take Brazil out of this terrible crisis which we are facing. But she will help us and everything will work out just fine, in the name of Yemanja,” she said.

Retiree, Durval da Silva, wished for honest politicians.

“All I want is peace and that our politicians wake up and realise that this country is huge and beautiful and all the good energy is being wasted with bad politics and with this crisis that hit the country,” he said.

The ritual at Copacabana beach is now in its thirtieth year.

Organisers held the Yemanja Day celebrations before the last day of the year to avoid clashing with the New Year’s celebrations, which draw hundreds of thousands to Copacabana beach for the fireworks show.

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