2020 is coming to a close, and what a year it has been! Most -- if not all -- of us are more than ready to put this year to bed, and a ritual is an excellent way to send off the old year and welcome the new.
In Brazil, there is the Festival of Yemaya. Every year, Brazilians of all religions celebrate this holiday all over the country. During the festival, people dress in blue and white and make offerings of flowers, candles, and other gifts at the ocean's edge. A woman rises out of the ocean, symbolizing the goddess, and there is music and fireworks all over. It is a beautiful, deeply spiritual festival, and a wonderful way to bring in the new year. If you are not in Brazil and are not able to take part in it, do not worry -- you can still have your own water ritual to celebrate and ask the Yoruban goddess of the water for blessings.
Who is Yemaya?
In the religion of the Yoruba, Yemaya began as a river goddess. She birthed most of the other gods and goddesses, and it strongly tied to motherhood, family, and comfort. After the African diaspora and slave trade, she became associated with the ocean, as well as rivers. For this reason, many rituals, prayers, and festivals to celebrate her take place on beaches.
Creating a Water Ritual at Home
If you live in the southern hemisphere, you are lucky -- it will probably be warm enough to go to the beach on New Year's Eve. If you live in the northern hemisphere, that is okay. You can still create a water ritual by bringing the sea into your home.
To do this, make an altar to Yemaya in the wateriest room of your home: your bathroom. Include ocean-related objects, like seashells and pearls, and blue and white objects. Lay the area with a cloth, set up a vase filled with fresh white flowers, and place a Yemaya statue in the center of the arrangement. Place a blue or white candle on one side, and a glass of clean water on the other.
Light the candle, and fill your bathtub with fresh water. Add sea salt and a few drops of Yemaya oil. Stir the bath in a clockwise direction with your right hand. When you are ready, step into the water. Immerse yourself completely, as you thank the goddess for all of the good things you have experienced this year. Politely ask her to remove any blockages that have been holding you back, and fill the space with more blessings. Thank her again, and step out of the bath. Drain the water, and allow yourself to air-dry. For added strength, you can anoint your body with Yemaya cologne.
Making Offerings to Yemaya
When you have finished your ritual at home, dress in white and go to a natural body of water. (This can be a river, an ocean, or even a lake.) Leave an offering for Yemaya in the water or, if it is frozen, on top of it. Offer some of the white flowers from your altar, as well as candles, pennies, fruit, mirrors, perfume, sweet dumplings, caramel corn, or fish. Thank her again for the opportunity to have a fresh start in the new year.
If the water is flowing, keep an eye on your offerings. It is said that your offerings floating back to you is a sign of her disapproval, and that she will not be granting your requests.
Even if you are not part of her religion, Yemaya is a loving, caring presence as long as she is treated with gratitude and respect. Treat her with kindness, as you would your own mother, and trust in her power to offer you cleansing, uplifting, and blessings in the year to come.