The Goddess of the Sea
As the traditional Brazilian belief goes, the goddess Iemanjá is Queen of the Oceans, a mother spirit and the patron spirit of women. The womb of Iemanjá is revered as the source and giver of life and also as the eternal resting place.
She is linked with, and symbolized by, the ocean. Every drop of the sea is a reminder of her beginnings and serves as the inspiration that there are both calm and stormy times in life. She reminds us that the ocean offers bounty and life to those who respect it.
Iemanjá is honoured in festivals in Brazil. Some people present her (the ocean) with offerings for the wellbeing of seafarers and fishermen. In Rio de Janeiro, there is a party on the last day of the year to honour her and welcome in another year. There is a great festival with dancing and singing in the streets. Offerings to her of flowers, gifts, perfume, rice and even watermelon are placed on handmade boats or tossed into the water. As the new year begins, people throw white flowers into the ocean hoping she will grant them their wishes.
As the mother of all Orixas (or Orishas ~ spirits that embody or represent the gods in Yoruba mythology), the ancient belief in Iemanjá has become entwined with modern Catholicism and the Virgin Mary, or Stella Maris. Indeed, in some parts, her feast is celebrated on December 8, which is also the day on which the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.