The Liquid Muse Waxes Poetic in Honor of Iemanja, Goddess of the Ocean
Looking out at the Pacific today, I realized that it is no coincidence that my most recent incarnation is as The Liquid Muse. Being a "creative type" drawn especially to sharing my efforts via writing, performing and producing events, I have funneled my talents into several different areas over my 36 years. One of the main themes, however, that run through my endeavors is fluidity, water, liquid.
Maybe its because I'm Aquarius, or because my life is in constant motion. Maybe its because with each new tide, I feel every wave shimmer with renewed energy. Maybe its because I was born in the City by the Bay, to parents both from seaside regions, that I am forever drawn back to the water's edge. Since very young, I collected seashells and had private conversations with the ocean, hoping to absorb some of its power, grace and movement.
It was with astonishment that I learned of Iemanja, Goddess of the Ocean, while spending New Year's Eve 2001 in Rio de Janeiro. Incorporating old and new religions, and cultural traditions, Cariocas (residents of Rio) dress in all white, and descend upon the beach each December 31, with offerings for the Goddess. Gifts include white flowers, perfumed oils and tiny boats are set afloat in the water, carrying soap, mirrors or other finery fit for a feminine Deity.
According to believers, if the Goddess is happy with the person making the offering, she will accept the gift, and it is swallowed up by the sea. The person may then make a wish for the year, and Iemanja will grant it. However, if the offering is returned, the Goddess is angry, and the person must make a better attempt at pleasing her in the new year.
I was so awestruck by the beauty of the thousands of faithful carrying flowers to the shore that I investigated a little deeper, and found that Iemanja has several incarnations, in several religions around the world. The one with which I am most familiar is the Macumba religion, which was brought to Brazil with the Africans captured and transported across the ocean as slaves. It is said that those prisoners were so terrified by the dangerous journey (rightly so, as many died) that they would pray to Iemanja for safe delivery in the new land. Those who arrived continued to thank her on her feast day.
Another thing I found interesting, being brought up Catholic, are the many similarities between Iemanja and Our Lady of Guadalupe (which is the "version" of Mary to which I am most drawn). Both are often depicted in blue robes, both are offered flowers - pink roses for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Both Mary and Iemanja are considered maternal and have compassion for the people who invoke a connection with them. I have a near-drowing experience, in the ocean, and Our Lady of Guadalupe plays a role in my rescuing - but that is a story best told in person.
I was so inspired by all that I had learned about Iemanja on that first trip to Rio that I named my Brazilian Bikini importing business Iemanja Swimwear. I produced splashy events, featuring gorgeous Brazilian models in the beautiful swimwear. Of course, the name was probably not the best for an American business, as most people couldn't pronounce it or remember it... but I was happy to honor the Goddess and people were usually fascinated to learn about her.
I went back to Rio for New Year's Eve 2002, with my sister, and experienced Iemanja's feast day, again. It was just as beautiful as I had remembered from the year before. I spent this year's back home in LA, but did manage my own little journey to the ocean. Among my requests is a happy 2007 to Sipsters everywhere!