by Elizabeth Phaire
For those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar, the year is now coming to a close, and we look forward to the fresh start of a new year. In thinking about ways to honor this transition with meaningful ritual, we can look to spiritual traditions around the world for inspiration, such as the Brazilian Festival of Yemaya.
Also known as “Star of the Sea” and “Mother of Pearls,” the deity Yemaya originated in West Africa, with the Yoruba tribe, who venerated her as the goddess of the ocean, symbolizing the womb of the world, the origin of life and creative power.
On New Year’s Eve, Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro wear blue and white clothing to honor Yemaya’s favorite colors, and they go to the sea shore, where they sing and pour offerings of perfume and food into the sea. They then cast white flowers into the water, petitioning her blessings for the coming year.
Yemaya Blessing Ritual
Depending on the weather and climate where you live, you may wish to perform one or both of these practices:
In your bathroom, create an altar in honor of Yemaya. Use ocean-related objects, such as seashells, pearls, mermaid art, starfish, and white flowers.
Fill your bathtub with warm water, adding 1/4 cup of sea salt and seven drops of eucalyptus oil for purification. Immerse yourself in the bath. Pray to Yemaya, aloud or silently. Tell her all of your worries, fears, and regrets, past and present. Ask her to gently dissolve any blocks you may have impeding you from letting go and moving forward. Thank the Mother for her love and compassion. Remove the drain plug. As the water empties, envision all that you released being washed away.
Go to a body of water, such as an ocean, lake, or stream. The ritual will still be effective if the water is frozen. Bring with you the white flowers from your altar. Enjoy the water’s beauty, reflect upon it as a symbol of flexibility and change. Cast your flowers into the water as a loving offering to Yemaya, affirming your fresh start in the New Year.
About the author: Elizabeth Phaire is a triple-certified Life-Cycle Celebrant, in practice since 2006. She officiates at personalized ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and other rites of passage. She is a repeat recipient ofWedding Wire’s “Bride’s Pick,” and The Knot“Best of Weddings” awards. Her eclectic background includes 20 years of experience with writing, performance poetry, dance, energy healing, ritual, and meditation. She draws from these sources to help individuals and families honor their life transitions with authenticity and creativity. Elizabeth is currently enrolled in the Master Life-Cycle Celebrant program. email@example.com