The Goddess of the Sea Festival

If you are thinking of doing a little travel to Brazil and want to take part in a magnificent festival then think about attending the Goddess of the Sea Festival in Rio de Janeiro.


Celebrations of this Yoruba Goddess whose name is known as Iemanja, Yemanja or Yemaya (depending on local dialects and sects) take place in early December. This celebration is pagan and is a ritual that is part of the religion of Yoruba, which worships deities from Africa. It is a religion that is very peculiar to South America as it worships deities that were brought here as icons by the slaves who were imported to work on the sugar cane plantations by the Portuguese.  It also crosses over into the Catholic religion somewhat and it is a religion known for it’s offering to various gods and goddesses and also to the saints.


Yemaya is the Goddess of health, wealth and prosperity and she is very motherly in some of her aspects. Her colors are blue, white and purple. Like all of the goddesses in the Yoruba pantheon she requires unorthodox rites in order to keep her happy and accepts perfumes, chocolates, alcohol, fruits, vegetables and animals as offerings.  Warning to the faint of heart – the sacrificing of animals such as chickens may also be part of the rituals near the sea.


She is also a goddess of carnal pleasures so the revelries can get quite wild in the streets as cigar smoking priests undulate, sing and dance their way to the sea carrying offering to dump into the sea. All night the citizens of Rio de Janiero will also enter the sea to make offerings, go into a trance and be cleansed. It is common to see people in ecstatic trances – sometimes even foaming at the mouth. The experience is heightened by rhythm instruments that are played by a group of males known as the Sons of Gandhi.


The highlight of the festival takes place as the sun goes down and rafts filled with gifts for the goddess are pushed out to sea. Everything from cooked shrimp bobo to champagne to jeweler will be on these rafts, which are decorated with flowers and ribbons in the colors of the goddess.


There is no real way to describe the fervor of this festival, which is also accompanied by all night dancing, drinking and barbecues on the beaches. It truly is a one of a kind experience that resonates with some of the oldest religious rituals that have ever been practiced in Africa.