No matter when you celebrate it, the new year is a time for setting yourself up for the months ahead. Spells and rituals for setting intentions and creating the life you want to live are a perfect way to begin the year anew. Yemaya is one of the deities associated with the new year, and she is given prayers and offerings to help bring good luck and happiness to those who honor her.
Yemaya: The Ocean Goddess
Yemaya originated as a river goddess to the Yoruba. She is a mother to most of the deities in the Yoruba pantheon and is associated with family, love, fertility, and the comfort of home. As people were stolen and taken across the sea as part of the slave trade, Yemaya became an ocean goddess -- a deity of the light, gentle, upper part of the sea, while Olokun rules the darker waters deep beneath the surface. For this reason, many rituals, prayers, and festivals to celebrate Yemaya take place on beaches.
Water is renewal. It changes everything it touches, cleansing what needs to be cleansed, and shaping what needs to be shaped the way a river carves a path through the land.
Yemaya and the New Year
In Brazil, Yemaya is honored on New Year's Eve. Their New Year falls right after the height of summer, so the people of Rio de Janeiro dress in blue and white, go down to the beaches to dance, celebrate, launch tiny wooden ships, float roses and gladioli on the water, create small, temporary altars to Yemaya, and offer prayers of thanks and wishes for happiness in the coming year.
Even if your culture doesn't celebrate New Year's eve during summer, Yemaya is still associated with the renewing energy that the new year brings. It might not be warm enough to dance on the shore, but it is still a good time to give prayers and offerings to bring you luck and blessings.
Prayers and Offerings to Yemaya
Yemaya enjoys offerings of candles, fish, fruit, rice, molasses, sweet dumplings, caramel corn, perfume, sachet powder, and mirrors, among others. The simplest way to give her offerings is to make them directly to the sea. Some of her worshipers seek a spiritual cleansing by covering their bodies in molasses and walking into the sea.
As the water rinses the molasses away, creating a powerful symbolic cleansing, they give offerings of white or blue flowers and seven pennies. In Brazil, it is common to make a papier-mache vessel, decorate it with symbols of Yemaya, and fill it with her favorite offerings before letting it float away on the sea. Sometimes, this is followed by lighting a candle set into the sand.
However you choose to honor Yemaya, it is important to express gratitude to her for the good luck and blessings you have received. Praying to her does not have to be complicated, it can be as simple as:
Our mother, Yemaya, I thank you for the blessings and joy given to me last year.
Please make this year even better, by bringing me twice the number of good things, and removing half of the bad.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
If you are able to, create a temporary altar for her beside the sea. Anoint a Yemaya 7 day Orisha candle with Yemaya Oil and light some incense. Give her offerings of perfume or cologne, her favorite foods, pennies, flowers, or any of the other items mentioned above. If the weather is too cold to enter the sea for a cleansing, say your prayer and return home for a spiritual Yemaya bath, holding the love and power of the goddess in your heart.
The following year, remember your good luck in your prayers. Be sure to remember any blessings you have received, name them, and express your thanks. Life can never be entirely without bad things -- the sea is a powerful source of beauty and life, but can also be tumultuous and dangerous -- but giving thanks and asking to lift some of your burdens can help bring you more joy than sorrow.
Yemaya is a powerful, caring goddess who comforts and protects her children. Like the rolling waves of the sea, she can offer spiritual cleansing, blessings, and abundance. If you need some help lifting your burdens and bringing more joy into your life next year, consider making offerings to her at the seashore and requesting her help.
As the old year comes to a close, most 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.
A Yemaya Water Ritual For New Year's Eve
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.