Interpretation by Johanna Lay


Left: Offerings for the goddess of the ocean, lemanjá, Rio Vermelho, Salvador, Brazil (Creative Commons) / Right: Presente de Iemanjá na Praia do Rio Vermelho, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil (Creative Commons)


The offerings for Yemanja is a festivity that comes from the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and Umbanda and has its roots in West Africa. These beliefs came to Brazil through the slave trade during the 16th century. In order to continue practicing their religion, the African abductees at that time associated their deities with the saints of Catholicism. Today, the ritual is an integral part of everyday Brazilian life and is also celebrated outside the Afro-Brazilian community on New Year's Day and February 2th.


Small boats are let into the sea with gifts such as flowers, fruit or even perfumes, and it is important that the gift comes from the heart. If the boat sinks, the request made to Yemanja will be fulfilled, as she considers the gift worthy. If the boat is washed back to shore, Yemanja has refused the gift. For this reason, many Brazilians go out to the open sea on the festival days to leave their gifts in the water so that they cannot be washed ashore. On the days after the ritual, some people fish and dive for the offerings, especially people from poorer classes , who can earn some extra money by collecting and selling the gifts. However, this is strongly criticized by the priestesses of Yemaya and considered disrespectful.


Another ritual related to the offerings to Yemaya is the jumping over seven waves, which is performed at midnight at the turn of the year. With each wave jumped over, a wish for the new year is said to come true The widespread practice of the ritual in Brazil shows a connection and coming together of different faiths and the acceptance of Afro-Brazilian religions as part of Brazil.