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News > Brazil

Brazil Honors African Goddess Yemanya in New Year Ceremonies

  • A statue of Yemanja displayed on the Copacabana beach in Rio do Janeiro, Brazil, Dec. 2009.

    A statue of Yemanja displayed on the Copacabana beach in Rio do Janeiro, Brazil, Dec. 2009. | Photo: EFE

Published 28 December 2018

Copacabana, the most emblematic beach of Brasil, is a site where thousands of people, who ask the Goddess for their wishes, gather.

Brazilian contemporary culture is the result of a mixture of peoples and religions. Besides having the influence of Portuguese customs, Brazilians shape their identities with enduring traditions originated in Africa.

Persecuted Faiths, Ethnicities, Cultures: Brazil Debates Intolerance of Candomble, African Cultures

Each year, in the final days of December, the stage is set for celebrations related to Yemanya, the African Goddess of the Oceans.

Yemanya is considered among African-born religions as a water-protecting entity. Therefore, in the coastal cities of Brazil, there is the custom of asking for protection and peace the following year. The offerings which accompany the plea are often beauty items such as mirrors and necklaces, but it is also quite popular sending white roses as gifts.

One of the most basic rituals related to Yemanya celebrations has to do with clothing; especially on the beach, Brazilians dress in white, a color that attracts good luck, peace and harmony.

White garments are also usually adorned with other accessories of different colors according to what you want to gain the upcoming year. For example, red is considered as the color of love, yellow as the color of bonanza, and green as the color of health.

The most traditional place to pay tribute to the goddess of the waters is Copacabana.

On the sands of Brazil's most emblematic beach, thousands of people, who are followers of Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomble, present offerings to Yemanya to give thanks for the blessings received and to ask for new wishes.

Flowers, lit candles, images, fireworks, music and dancing on the seashore are part of the landscape that those faithful to Yemanya recreate annually to keep their cultural heritage alive.

Yemanya also appears in the form of Catholic patron figures of the cities, such as 'Our Lady of the Navigators' (Bahia), 'Our Lady of Glory' (Rio de Janeiro) and 'Our Lady of Conception' (Sao Paulo).

Yemanya is revered in other religious manifestations such as Candomble, Santeria, Umbanda, Xango of Recife, Batuque, Xamba, Haitian Voodoo, and Voodoo of Louisiana.

In any of her specific expressions, however, Yemanya has become the archetype of 'the Mother of the World' since she represents the female progenitor, the power from which everything is created. 

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