The ritual of a boat christening ceremony ensures that a new boat name is accepted by nautical gods of the sea. Legend says without one, a boat will be unlucky.
Of course if you just bought a used boat and you are not too found of “Lazy Dog” emblazoned on the stern, you’ll want to rename your boat with a new name that is more personal or more fitting for your boating lifestyle. (seriously, the first boat we bought was named Lazy Dog – it had to go!)
According to legend, changing a boat name without a proper boat renaming ceremony to appease the gods of the sea will result in devastating consequences for the life of the boat. The ritual of a boat christening ceremony will help to avoid the wrath of the gods of the sea.
Origin of Boat Renaming and Boat Christening Ritual
In ancient mythology days, it was widely believed that a Roman king of the sea, Neptune, and a Greek ruler of the sea, Poseidon, lived on the floor of the ocean in palaces. These gods of the sea would assure safe passage over the Seven Seas to all sailors that followed their doctrine and respected their protocols.
Neptune and Poseidon are said to maintain a “Ledger of the Deep” that records the name of every seagoing vessel by name. Changing the name of a boat is said to be disrespectful to the sea gods.
Boaters that fail to undergo a proper boat name christening ceremony will be faced with the wrath of Neptune or Poseidon. A series of mysterious misfortunes would result from disrespecting the gods, such as:
- Long periods of foul weather
- Fires down below
- Personal injuries or accidents
- Collisions at sea
- Sinking of a ship
Highlights of a Boat Renaming Ceremony
The ritual of a renaming ceremony for a new boat name is intended to purge the old boat name from the Ledger of the Deep and from the memory of Poseidon and Neptune. Legend says that the unluckiest ships are those who have defied the nautical gods by changing their names improperly.
There are five necessary steps in the important ceremony of renaming a boat:
- Invocation and blessing. Call upon the gods of the sea to favor the vessel with their blessing.
- Expression of gratitude. Offer thanks to the gods for protection of the vessel in the past. Toast the old boat name and prior boat names.
- Supplication and de-naming. Request the nautical gods to erase all records of the previous boat name. All appearances of the boat name is removed from the vessel and an offering of wine is poured into the sea from east to west.
- Rededication and renaming. A rededication to the gods of the sea is made for the vessel’s new name.
- Libation. The remaining wine is shared with the gods and distinguished guests on the bow of the vessel.
During the renaming ceremony red wine is typically used because it symbolizes the blood of a virgin (which used to be sacrificed). Urine is sometimes used in certain cultures to wash away any trace of the old boat name and to clean wounds of the “soul” of the boat that was captured by the new owner.
Sailors may also want to include gods of the wind in their ceremony – Boreas of the North Wind, Zephyrus of the West Wind, Eurus of the East Wind and Notus of the South Wind.
Boat Name Christening Ceremony
After the boat renaming ceremony, a final christening of the new boat name is conducted. The traditional boat christening ceremony involves breaking a bottle of wine or champagne on the bow of a boat. The captain of the vessel then proclaims “I christen thee…” followed by the name of the new boat. By completing a thorough renaming and christening ceremony, the newly named boat will please the nautical gods and once again be protected in the sea.
Sources: Southern Boating Magazine, Blue Water Sailing and BoatSafe.com
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