AP PHOTOS: Brazilians honor sea goddess Yemanja

In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a young follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith dressed as the sea goddess Yemanja attends celebrations on her feast day on Itaparica island in Brazil. Candomble was developed by Brazil's slave populations, who associated the Yoruba gods of their native West Africa with the Roman Catholic saints they encountered in the New World. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith sits on Red River Beach beach balancing flowers on her head, an offering for Yemanja, as the sun rises on the sea goddess' feast day in Salvador, Brazil. Followers of Candomble prepare for the festival days before, with a series of rituals, but non-believers also participate in the festival, throwing roses into the sea. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 1, 2018 photo, a flag featuring Yemanja hangs from a tent on Red River Beach beach during the sea goddess' feast day in Salvador, Brazil. "It's a tradition in our family to bring gifts to the sea to thank Yemanja and ask for protection," said Antonio de Oliveira, a 42-year-old fisherman and follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith carries a miniature sailboat for a sea ritual on the feast day of sea goddess Yemanja on Itaparica island, Brazil. Yemanja is important for all of those who make a living from fishing. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, followers of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith hold candle-lit ritual before dawn on the feast day of sea goddess Yemanja in Salvador, Brazil. Before dawn broke, devotees dressed in white and blue brought offerings to the Red River Beach and then later to nearby Itaparica Island. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith carries a basket of flowers during a procession in honor of the sea goddess Yemanja on her feast day on Itaparica island in Brazil. People paraded toward the sea with baskets filled with flowers and other gifts, including dolls, mirrors, perfume and bottles of Champagne. Some carried fishing nets and images of the goddess. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a fisherman prepares his boat to carry gifts to the sea, on the feast day of Yemanja in Salvador, Brazil. Baskets were loaded onto fishermen's boats to "deliver" the gifts to Yemanja, a goddess in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, followers of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith fill Red River Beach beach on the feast day of sea goddess Yemanja in Salvador, Brazil. People paraded toward the sea with baskets filled with flowers and other gifts, including dolls, mirrors, perfume and bottles of Champagne. Some carried fishing nets and images of the goddess. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a young woman dressed in the likeness of the sea goddess Yemanja, from the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith, smiles into her mirror a she prepares for celebrations marking the sea goddess's feast day on Itaparica island in Brazil. The celebration of Yemanja in Salvador is considered the unofficial beginning of Carnival in Bahia state. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a mother dresses her daughter in traditional clothing worn by members of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith, on Itaparica island, Brazil. Candomble was developed by Brazil's slave populations, who associated the Yoruba gods of their native West Africa with the Roman Catholic saints they encountered in the New World. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a large doll representing sea goddess Yemanja is taken to the sea from Red River Beach in Salvador, Brazil. Thousands of Brazilians have flooded the city's beaches in the northeast to pay tribute to the sea goddess and ask for her protection ahead of Carnival celebrations. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 2, 2018 photo, a follow of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith wears a spiritual necklace on the feast day of sea goddess Yemanja on Itaparica island, Brazil. Brazilians have flooded the city's beaches in the northeast to pay tribute to the sea goddess and ask for her protection ahead of Carnival celebrations. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Feb. 1, 2018 photo, a statue of Yemanja stands silhouetted on Rio Vermelho beach on the sea goddess's feast day in Salvador, Brazil. "She is our mother. She is the one who governs these waters, which sustain us," said Nivanilson Silva, a follower of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

SALVADOR, Brazil — Thousands of Brazilians flooded beaches around the northeastern city of Salvador to pay tribute to the sea goddess Yemanja and ask for her protection ahead of Carnival celebrations.

Even before dawn broke, devotees dressed in white and blue clothing brought offerings to the Praia Rio Vermelha, or Red River Beach, and then later to nearby Itaparica Island. They paraded toward the sea with baskets filled with red, white and yellow roses and other gifts, including ornately dressed dolls, mirrors, perfume and bottles of Champagne. Some carried fishing nets and images of the goddess who is depicted in blue flowing robes.

The baskets were loaded onto boats so fishermen could "deliver" the gifts to Yemanja, a goddess in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble faith. Candomble was developed by Brazil's slave populations, who associated the Yoruba gods of their native West Africa with the Roman Catholic saints they encountered in the New World.

Yemanja is important for all of those who make a living from fishing, said Nivanilson Silva, a Candomble follower.

"She is our mother," he said. "She is the one who governs these waters, which sustain us."

As dusk fell earlier this month, a fireworks display signaled that it was time for the boats to take off — and for the dancing to begin.

Followers of Candomble prepare for the festival days before, with a series of rituals, including animal sacrifices to deities. But non-believers also participate in the festival, throwing roses into the sea.

The celebration of Yemanja in Salvador is considered the unofficial beginning of Carnival in Bahia state.

"It's a tradition in our family to bring gifts to the sea to thank Yemanja and ask for protection," said Antonio de Oliveira, a 42-year-old fisherman.

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