Why do ships have “Godmothers”?
Have you ever wondered why ships have Godmothers? Are they a long lost superstition or part of a modern day public relations stunt?
The answer is a little of both. As far back as ancient Babylonian, Greek and Roman times gods were called to bless and protect ships on the water. In the 1700’s ships were carved with a bare-breasted female figurehead because women were believed to have better eyes for navigation and the sight of their nakedness was thought to ‘frighten’ the sea into submission. It was also thought that a ship’s godmother will provide a ship with her personality and a benevolent spirit to protect future sailings (1)
Nearly every world culture has a tradition or ceremony to launch a new ship – today’s godmothers traditionally break a bottle of champagne on the hull. Going back in history, champagne represented a ‘sacrifice’ or offering to appease the gods who could adversely affect the weather or conditions for sailing.
You may not know that a ship’s godmother – in today’s day and age – has expectations and duties to fulfill. They are expected to give part of their personality to the ship (not sure how or what is done to achieve this), to christen or launch the ship, to advocate for travel on the ship and retains a permanent place as a member of the ships’ crew (2)
These days, the advocate part has become increasingly more important and has provided public relations and media officers with countless articles, videos and media in the lead up to and launch of a new ship. In fact, some of the more famous individuals who have acted as ‘Godmother’ in recent times are – Kate Middleton (Royal Princess), Kristen Chenoweth (Quantum of the Seas) and Queen Elizabeth (Cunards QE). (3)
And! It is not only women who are chosen for the honor – Pitbull (an American Rapper) with recently chosen to christen the Norwegian Escape.
Fun Fact – All ships have godmothers – even the small ones!