Hundreds of followers of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble and Umbanda religions gathered on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach to pay tribute to Iemanja, the queen of the sea. Iemanja is a deity among the Yoruba people of West Africa imported to Brazil hundreds of years ago by slaves.

Every year, worshippers dress in white to celebrate Iemanja by singing and dancing around a statue of the goddess set up on the beach. They make gifts of flowers, letters and beauty products for the sea goddess, who they believe will bless them in return. The gifts are put inside little boats and sent out into the ocean for Iemanja, who is also the patron deity of fishermen and shipwreck survivors.

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A worshipper holds an image of Iemanja, goddess of the seaRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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An offering of a wax head is made to Iemanja by a grateful worshipper who recovered from head surgeryYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
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Worshippers queue to talk with a spiritual leader on Copacabana BeachYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

Every year, worshippers write letters to Iemanja with their wishes for the new year. Marlene Vilar, a 52-year-old kitchen assistant, said she asked Iemanja to lift Brazil out of its financial and political crisis. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is trying to fend off impeachment motions in Brazilian Congress. State energy firm Petrobras has also been targeted over bribery charges. "I asked her to take Brazil out of this terrible crisis which we are facing. But she will help us and everything will work out just fine, in the name of Iemanja," she said.

Retiree Durval da Silva wished for honest politicians. He said: "All I want is peace and that our politicians wake up and realise that this country is huge and beautiful and all the good energy is being wasted with bad politics and with this crisis that hit the country."