Well, I have never seen anything like this lineup on the beach this morning – I am so glad I had my camera as per NY resolution #2. In the leadup to the feb. 2 night of Imanja,
there seem to be rather more of these things appearing on the beach every day, and overall in the past decade or so there have been a lot more visible signs of this belief system around than were in the past here in Uruguay, according to one of my friends here; although she feels that in hard times people turn more to this spirt world for help, and that these offerings are requests for aid or relief, for the goddess to direct perhaps money, work or food to the family who makes this offering. Perhaps protection is being sought, and certainly bases being covered, just in case there is anything she can do to ease a current difficulty. Imanja is known to like blue the colour of the sea (I found a bunch of 8 blue candles tied with blue ribbon on the beach a couple of weeks back …) pearls and popcorn – there certainly was some of that spread around this morning, see top picture. All the offerings I saw had plenty of black beans, rice , corn and polenta along with fruits and flowers. And many had either meat or chickens – basic needs in fact. I haven’t noticed it yet but apparently occasionally you will find a bottle of strong cologne which she likes, and the there is a male counterpart too to whom often bottles of cheap hooch are included – canja spirit or something like that. In the article in the link above, fabric is referred to and certainly many today had what loooked like a garment included in the assembly, and really you often see pieces of fabric and discarded garments on the beach …..so that’s explained. On Feb 2nd at around midnight many people gather on the beaches here to set and launch offerings into the water, lots of candles, some even go out in boats – we’ll be wandering along the beach that night this year; we’ve always either forgotten or not been around.
It’s interesting to see new technology (coloured photocopies, second photo down) combining with older belief systems from who knows how far back, and these came via Brasil where African slave beliefs were transmuted and combined with the younger christian system, and of course this co-existence or overlaying of one with the other system exists in many parts of the world, Roman Catholicism being particularly suited to such blending. One of my local friends tells me that the park near where she lives is favoured for gatherings of these groups of which there are many, and you need to get a permit to hold such events which include chanting and drum beating. If you live near popular spots the noise can get on one’s nerves, hence the permits- we sometimes hear them and have been known to get in the car and go find them and listen a while, but I haven’t seen anything I felt was ritualistic – it’s often just drumming for the pure joy of it all – drumming has recently been placed on the World Heritage Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which is pretty marvellous. From V’s park down to the riverfront is not far, so stuff on the ground there is more likely to be rubbish rather than carefully designed and placed offerings, sadly.
Imanja, the Goddess of The Sea, has many followers, and some call the system ‘witchcraft’ but but that may be too strong a word. But whatever it is, a lot of ritual and procedures are involved in placing of offerings, and believers form or belong to groups, with the acolytes having much to learn before they can lead a group of followers. I’m told and that people come and go from it in the strength of their adherence to devotions, drifting away when their circumstances improve, but coming back when times are tougher, kind of thing. And I will be trying to find out more. So a lot of what looks like rubbish on the beach isn’t really as I’d always thought – but that doesn’t get away from how many people in this country are still way too casual about discarding their rubbish, and at times I shudder to think of what is drifting down that river channel out there below the surface ….