|It’s seriously January in New Jersey and there’s me, showing
common sense is for suckers.
As many of you know, one of my patron deities is Yemaya. Ten years ago I was a v. young twentysomething with stars in my eyes and fanaticism in my blood. I don’t know how it came up at the time, but somehow I managed to talk my ADF Grove into giving the traditional New Year’s Day ritual to Yemaya a go. Naturally we don’t do it on New Year’s Day proper as I would have been far too hung over to drive an hour down to the beach.
Somehow, despite the complete lack of appropriately similar climate and the fact that Yemaya is neither Indo nor European (as are the traditional ADF deities – all our main eight holidays are I-E), this ritual has managed to stick for our grove for ten years this year. Sometimes it’s a lot of people joining us, sometimes it’s just a few. Sometimes when the weather is good, it’s a longer rit. Sometimes when there’s say snow on the beach it’s more of what we have called “chuck and run” style ritual. Every year though, even though the weather is no where near the Caribbean, our usually gray/green Atlantic manages to be a soft blue with a lacy pink and blue sky to match.
It’s become so second nature to me at this point that it’s hard for me to realize how much ritual goes into the ritual. I always try to wear as much as white and blue as possible, usually a sweater and underthings as well as a scarf. I always wear Uggs. I always wear my BPAL Yemaya oil. I always wear peals or some sort of seashell or other sealife jewelry. I try to remember to bring an extra pair of socks and a towel. I always go shopping for some of her favorite things – melons, flowers, soaps, french pastries, rum.
We always start at E. and N.’s house where we cut open the melons to act as boat vessels for our wishes for the new year. We decorate them with flowers and candles and other sweet things and write our wishes on joss paper and tuck them into the boats while I tell some of Her stories. We drive down to Point Pleasant, stopping on the way at a Dunkin Donuts for hot chocolates and coffees and donuts. When we get to Point Pleasant, I always get excited when I smell the beach. We tromp out with our boats and I make the invocation, spilling rum (this year Black Heart) out for Her as I speak. I take off my socks and shoes and roll up my pants, partly because it’s a traditional thing to do and partly just because I know I’ll wind up in the ocean because if you’re really invested in seeing your wishes come true, it’s good luck for your boat to go out with the first wave which means you need to wade in to make that happen. We hang out on the beach, floating our melon boats out to sea and watch to see what She does with them. Depending on how cold it is, I may dip in and out of the ocean a few times during this time. It’s always v. v. v. cold as it’s January but some years are far colder than others. Then we feed the seagulls and I put on new socks and shoes back on and try to get feeling back into my feet. We may play some Skeeball because even God likes that now and again to relax.
We’ve had some interesting omens through the years, but the most telling one was after Katerina when a family from New Orleans was staying with family in New Jersey and knew exactly what we were doing and asked for boats.
It’s not a Jersey rite though unless it concludes at a round table at The Atlantis Diner where I always get a Taylor Ham sandwich on a hard roll with fries and gravy on the side in deference to the Lady as She favors pork. We talk about Pagany things over a late lunch and then make the trek back home.
Every year, like clockwork.