Marlene Dietrich might not have believed in superstitions, but the lives of sailors have been haunted and blighted by a myriad of fears, both rational and irrational since time immemorial.
The raw, unfettered, and merciless power of the ocean has compounded and driven those superstitions and allowed them to cross over from folklore into the accepted mainstream nautical laws that govern the everyday lives of seafarers.
And the all-encompassing law of the sea that affects every fresh-faced sailor and salty old sea dogs alike, concerns the name of boats and the overwhelming belief that it is incredibly bad luck to change the name of any ocean-going vessel.
Why Is It Bad Luck To Change The Name Of A Boat?
When any boat is launched, regardless of its size, its name is recorded on the Ledger of the Deep, the record of every ship kept by Poseidon, the God of the Sea.
As long as the Greek deity of legend has a record of a boat’s name, then according to myth, the ship (or boat, again it’s a size thing) and all who sail on her, shouldn’t be troubled by bad luck, or misfortune while traveling through Poseidon’s realm.
However, if the ever-vigilant God doesn’t recognize a ship’s name because its owners decided to change it on a whim, and its new title hasn’t been recorded in his infamous ledger, then all who venture forth in it, forgo his protection and their fate is left to the whim of the notoriously unpredictable nature of the ocean.
In other words, if a boat’s name is changed without taking the proper precautions and following the rules of a renaming ceremony to the letter, then you take your fate, and that of your boat into your own hands.
And as any veteran sailor will readily, and happily tell you when you’re navigating the treacherous seven seas, you need all of the help that you can get.
By refusing the blessing that Poseidon willingly gives any boats that chart the byways of his kingdom, you are literally inviting bad luck to join you on every voyage.
How To Change The Name Of A Boat (And Appease Poseidon)
There are multiple reasons why you might want to change the name of a boat. It might have been named to honor someone who is no longer part of your life, and you might want to remove any memory of that person from your life.
Or you might have purchased the boat from another sailor, and wish to give your new vessel a name that means something to you, rather than its former owner.
Whatever the reason is, you need to take every precaution to appease Poseidon’s potential wrath, and the only way to do that is by wiping the vessels name from his memory and the pages of his ledger.
Erasing A Boats Identity From Poseidon’s Memory – The Purging Ceremony
The first step on the journey to removing your boat’s name from Poseidon’s memory is ensuring that no trace of her former name remains anywhere on the boat. Any record of her name, in ledgers, service records, and pictures must be removed in any way that you see fit before you can rename your vessel.
Burn the records, store them somewhere secure on land far from the prying eyes and curious gaze of Poseidon or simply use white-out to remove the former name from them.
How you do it is entirely up to you, you just have to make sure the old name vanishes completely, and that includes removing the vessel’s name from its hull.
With all traces of the boats, former identity removed, you need to purge it from the ocean deity and protector’s memory and ledger.
In order to do that you’ll need a metal tag, a case of champagne, and some witnesses – two or three friends should suffice, bit the number of people you invite to watch the ceremony isn’t important, all that matters is that there is someone there to watch it.
Write the boat’s old name, in water-soluble ink on the metal tag, and the owner of the boat (in other words, you), while holding the tag in their outstretched hand above the ocean, must then say…
“Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name (say the previous name) which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. As proof thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea”
After uttering the passage, the tag bearing the name should then be dropped into the ocean, at which point you should open the first couple of bottles of champagne, then repeat:
“In grateful acknowledgment of your munificence and dispensation, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”
Then pour one of the bottles of champagne into the ocean, from East to West and pour the other bottle into glasses and drink it with the witnesses that you’ve invited onboard while toasting the prosperity and longevity of Poseidon.
The vessel’s name will then have been purged from the ledger and erased from God’s memory. With the old name a distant memory, it’s time to enter your boat’s new name in the ledger and make Poseidon aware of its identity.
Renaming Your Boat -Adding Its Name To The Ledger Of The Deep
Timing, as some wise soul once said, is everything, but when a boat should be renamed is often a bone of contention among more experienced sailors.
Some think that it should be done as soon as the old name has been expunged, while others believe that you should leave it for a day in order to let Poseidon’s memory fade.
We’re firm believers that you should never put off until tomorrow what you should do today, and that there’s no point in waiting, especially as you have the champagne on hand and your witnesses are already onboard. With that in mind, open two more bottles of champagne and then say the following –
“Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, I implore you in your graciousness to take unto your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as (at this point, you should say your vessels new name), guarding her with your mighty arm and trident and ensuring her of safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm. In appreciation of your munificence, dispensation, and in honor of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.”
Then pour a bottle of champagne into the ocean, taking care to ensure that this time it’s poured from West to East, and once more pour the other bottle into glasses which would be shared among, and drunk by the witness.
While once more toasting the benevolence of Poseidon, with the captain of the ship drinking first, the second in command following the mature of the vessels lead and the other guests following suit.
The vessel’s new name will then be entered to the Ledger of the Deep, and it will become a beneficiary of Poseidon’s blessings.
The Blessing Of The Four Winds
With your boats, new name firmly ensconced in Poseidon’s Ledger, it’s time to ask for the blessing of the Gods of the Four Winds to make sure that they always smile on your boat by giving it safe passage wherever it sails. Pour more champagne into each of your guest glasses, but before you drink offer the following toast –
“Oh, mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel (include your boats new name at this point) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.”
Then face North, and toast Boreas the God of the North Wind, and before drinking in his honor, make the following toast –
“Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the north wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath.”
Then turn to face West and toast Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind –
“Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath.”
After Zephyrus, you must seek the blessing of Eurus, who governs the East Wind, by first toasting him and then drinking to honor him –
“Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath.”
Last, but not least you need to request the blessing of the Ruler of the South Wind, Notus, and offer a glass to his continued wellbeing, by first saying the below, and then quaffing the last of your champagne –
“Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.”
Having sought, and found the blessing of Poseidon and the Gods of the Four Winds, your newly named boat may now sail the seven seas safely, in calm waters and fair weather.
The Final Word On Renaming A Boat
While it might seem like an unnecessarily complicated and involving ritual, given the volatile nature of the sea, sometimes it’s wise to seek all of the good luck that you can, whether you’re superstitious or not.
And it’s always better to have Poseidon on your side, than not because you never know what fate might have in store for you, and your boat.