SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — 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.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

  • Keep it clean. Comments that are obscene, vulgar or sexually oriented will be removed. Creative spelling of such terms or implied use of such language is banned, also.
  • Don't threaten to hurt or kill anyone.
  • Be nice. No racism, sexism or any other sort of -ism that degrades another person.
  • Harassing comments. If you are the subject of a harassing comment or personal attack by another user, do not respond in-kind. Use the "Report comment abuse" link below to report offensive comments.
  • Share what you know. Give us your eyewitness accounts, background, observations and history.
  • Do not libel anyone. Libel is writing something false about someone that damages that person's reputation.
  • Ask questions. What more do you want to know about the story?
  • Stay focused. Keep on the story's topic.
  • Help us get it right. If you spot a factual error or misspelling, email or call 1-800-362-6712.
  • Remember, this is our site. We set the rules, and we reserve the right to remove any comments that we deem inappropriate.

Report comment abuse