Olokun – The Yoruban Goddess of the Deep Dark Sea

Olokun is the Goddess of the Bottom of the Ocean of the West African Yoruba People. [1] At one time She was the Goddess of all Waters and all of the Oceans, for Her name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun). Today, especially amongst the New World Yorubas, Olokun is generally associated with the dark and cold bottom of the sea, while Yemaya, the Goddess in Her life-giving aspect, is linked to the light top of the ocean where plants thrive and photosynthesis takes place.

To understand Olokun’s nature we need to look at the nature of the bottom of the sea, a vast mostly unexplored dark habitat. The Abyssopelagic or Abyssal Zone lies 13,000 to 20,000 feet (4,000 to 6,000 metres) below the surface in perpetual darkness. The Hadal or Trench Zone lies deeper still. No sunlight ever gets down there. The pressure at such depths is phenomenal, about 11,000 psi (for comparison the atmospheric air pressure at sea level is 14.7 psi). Temperatures are just above freezing and nutrients are scarce. The bottom of the ocean is scattered with underwater geysers that belch forth poisonous sulfides at temperatures of 400ºC or 750ºF.

The deep sea floor is a seemingly hostile environment and yet life thrives down there. In fact scientists believe that there is more life in the dark abyss of the Earth’s oceans than in all of the tropical rainforests put together. The only way to survive at such great depths is either through chemosynthesis, hunting or scavenging.

The Realm of Olokun is the Land of the Dead. All animal remains eventually drop down to the bottom of the ocean as so-called “marine snow”. The bottom of the Abyssal Zone is covered in white flakes that provide sustenance to thousands of sea creatures. Due to the vast pressure at such great depth most of the life forms are severely distorted and look quite monstrous from our point of view. Of course we would look quite scary to them, too! There are also many varieties of huge invertebrates such as giant worms and almost plum-sized single cell amoebas.

To this day Olokun’s world remains Her Dark Queendom of the Untold, as only one millionth of Her realm has ever been seen by human eyes.

Like Her world, so is Olokun the Keeper of Secrets. Anything that falls to the bottom of the sea floor remains intact forever more, never to be laid eyes on by anyone other than Herself and Her underwater children. Olokun is believed to hold the secrets of the past, the present and the future. She knows all and guards that knowledge well. New World Yorubas believe that Olokun holds the key to the mystery of exactly what happened to their ancestors on those fateful journeys across the Atlantic. Many didn’t make it and thus entered the Realm of Olokun. For that reason still today their descendants in the Americas give baskets of food to the sea.

Olokun is all-knowing, She is the Keeper of Wisdom and Divination. She is the Goddess of the Unknown, the Darkness, the Realm of Dreams and the Unconscious.

Olokun is the Goddess of Death: Her Domain is the Graveyard of the Earth, its cold and dark nature being the perfect environment for the suspended animation of Spirits.

Olokun is also the Goddess of Rebirth and Renewal: At the bottom of the deep sea from Her Dark Watery Womb new life springs forth every moment, contributing to a vast and incredibly adaptive ecosystem.

Olokun is associated with great riches, She is said to be a Goddess of Wealth and Abundance. Women pray to Her to conceive a child as well as for good health and worldy possessions.

Olokun is often depicted as a beautiful black Mermaid.

One of the animals that symbolise Olokun is the mudfish, an amphibian that burrows deep into the mud to survive the dry season.

The Goddess Olokun is also linked to the red coral, a beautiful red gem-like colony of tiny animals that are joined together through the skeletons of their dead ancestors. As corals grow they form reefs which purify the water, provide shelter for other sea creatures and encourange the growth of wildlife habitats beneath the sea.

In the New World, especially amongst the Lukumi people in Cuba, Olokun and Yemaya are seen as different aspects of the same Goddess. Yemaya at the surface of the ocean is exposed to sunlight and the pull of the Moon. She is the Goddess’s life-giving and nurturing side, while Olokun in Her impenetrable abyss is the Goddess’s mysterious, dark and unknowable aspect.

Yemaya-Olokun is said to have a violent nature and is associated with wisdom and the Realm of Dreams. Some say She is a most powerful Goddess that can only be communicated with in Dream Space and through Trance.

Olokun, Maferefu!

Vast and deep is the sea as it flows, where it goes no-one knows.
Olokun, Keeper of Treasures, Secrets and Dreams – cast Your silver net to bring stability, wealth and knowledge to me!
I respect Your awesome powers and mysteries, Olokun.
Preserve me always from danger in the ocean of this life.
Olokun, Olokun, how beautiful, strong and unfathonable are You – who brings abundant life from the sea.

I praise Yemaya, the Great Mother. The mighty ocean is the cradle of the Earth.

Hail to Yemaya, the nurturer of all!

– Invocation to Yemaya-Olokun from alocubano.com

NOTE

[1] Olokun is actually an Orisa or Orisha, which is a spirit or deity. The Yoruba religion is a nature-based tradition that believes in one single source called Olòrún or Olódùmarè. The Orishas are the various manifestations of the different aspects of Olòrún-Olódùmarè across the natural world. Essentially Olòrún-Olódùmarè is the Goddess and the Orishas represent Her various aspects.

Olokun is both female and male and in a way neither. Some see Olokun as being female, while others consider Her to be male. I have chosen to interpret the Orisa Olokun as being female, as it fits much better with Her attributes, those of a Dark Moon Goddess of Death and Renewal.

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29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bellagenix
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 04:39:56

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled
    blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post.
    Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

    Reply

  2. victoria aisien
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 18:33:41

    Thank, for the knowledge you passed to me.

    Reply

  3. Fiestaestrella
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 22:18:48

    Reblogged this on Fiesta Estrella and commented:
    I’m hoping this blogger shares more with us. I love her work here with Olokun. I also agree very much with what she writes.

    Reply

  4. Sue Dreamwalker
    Aug 14, 2014 @ 10:28:45

    Fascinating I had not heard of this Goddess before so it was an interesting read.. I came via Fiestaestrella’s Blog 🙂
    Blessings to you
    Sue

    Reply

  5. Dorathy
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 08:25:50

    Can she be seen physically

    Reply

  6. tina omage
    Jun 19, 2015 @ 09:38:34

    Olokun is part of west African tradition religion.She is recognized by many with celebrations yearly, I think our traditions and culture should be revived and not seen as out dated

    Reply

  7. Stacy Phillips
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 07:40:49

    A lady in one of the groups on Facebook I’m in posted about the male version and got me looking for this. All I can say is WOW!! I love learning, and this really is a great blog!! Thanks. I wouldn’t mind finding more about the male aspect.

    Reply

  8. Trackback: Olokun – The Yoruban Goddess of the Deep Dark Sea – Mayapinion
  9. Florence Edward
    May 05, 2016 @ 09:14:56

    Wow

    Reply

  10. chynnadolltm
    May 23, 2016 @ 16:56:29

    Olokun is androgynous and is both male and female, in Yoruba there arent Gods or Goddesses but instead Orisha which are the personification of forces of nature. Please please honor this orisha and the african tradition it comes from properly, learn more before sharing a skewered version of this beautiful Orisha.

    Reply

    • Silvestra
      May 23, 2016 @ 18:40:38

      Please read note [1] at the bottom of the post, where I’m saying exactly what you’ve said. I actually did a lot of research for this post. It was exceedingly difficult, as presumably the people who still worship the ancient Orisha aren’t writing about it online or in books. By the way, when I use the word “Goddess” I’m also referring to a force of nature (or one aspect of Mother Nature) rather than some fictitious humanoid figure.

      Reply

  11. MD
    May 24, 2016 @ 23:47:40

    The origin of Olokun is not from Yoruba culture or ban. The origin is from Edo State. Olokun God is not a female nor represented as such in Edo state. The Yoruba God of the sea is called Oshun. Big different. This all article is full of lies and crap. Please go to YouTube and search Olokun worship or dance you will quickly realised the origin. Olokun is not even celebrated or worship amongst Yoruba people.

    Reply

    • Silvestra
      May 25, 2016 @ 00:43:16

      These were some of my sources:
      River of Honey
      Olokun Orisha of the Water
      Lukumi Tradition

      I don’t think the authors of those sites are telling “lies and crap”. The thing is, as I understand it, the Orisha Tradition is an oral tradition, which means things change and evolve over time, which is of course a strength. Then you get different branches evolving on different continents even with no contact between the people. I really don’t think you can say there is a one and only truth. If you google “olokun lukumi tradition”, which is the Caribbean tradition, you’ll find quite a lot of differences between that and the African tradition. It is also the tradition I focused on mostly. According to this site on Lukumi Tradition the “New World” forms of the tradition are actually the more original ones!

      “This is one indication that New World forms of Orisha worship are OLDER traditions which were born of a common ancestry and remained intact, rather than, as is often proposed by Neo-Africanists, the results of New World innovations.”

      And finally I really don’t think I’ve done a terrible disservice to Olokun. People of African descent now living in America have come to this site and have been inspired to find out more about the ancient spirituality of their ancestors. That’s a wonderful thing in my book!

      Reply

      • Mildred
        Feb 09, 2017 @ 12:30:27

        truth is, this is a sore subject for the Yoruba and Edo people of present West Africa (Which is the true origins of Olokun/Yemaja). Both tribes share very many aspects from language to religion and obviously kindred (they’ll never admit it though). The Bini/Edo people are originally descent from Thebes which has Nubia and Upper Egypt ancestry and intermarried with the Yoruba people upon migration (This is history not commonly known and requires thorough ‘academic research’).

        The more Edo version of Olokun is simply the adaptation of the Yorubas’ Yemoja and Olokun but introduces attributes of Hapi (Egyptian Diety); one major attribute is the androgynous understanding of Olokun. These versions have however merged with time, hence the perception of Olokun and Yemoja as being two sides to the same deity.

    • OLADELE- OLAOKUN
      Sep 22, 2016 @ 20:48:00

      You’re fool of lies.I just know understand you Edo people tying to claim what is not yours.like your former kind also said oduduwa came from Benin city,Edo state.iam a Yoruba man.and yes olokun is our orisha.we can also called her wife of orunmila.because when she was looking for child,it was orunmila that consult IFA for her,and help her to bear children of her own.and yes we Yoruba people we celebrate olokun festival. This 2016.we just celebrated her festival across all Yoruba land.iam a son of olokun. That the deity we worship in our compound and village. You Edo people don’t even have a beach let alone an ocean in your state.so stop accusing or causing confusion for your self and your people. I know you worship her in Edo state. But she is originally from southwestern state.Yoruba nation.

      Reply

    • Adeosun
      May 02, 2017 @ 09:48:20

      who told you that, you better don’t say what you don’t…..olokun is celebrated and worshiped very well among Yoruba

      Reply

  12. Denise
    Aug 30, 2016 @ 19:26:45

    As a practitioner of Santeria, I would like to say that you did an awesome job of describing Yemaya and Olokun.

    Reply

  13. Denise
    Aug 30, 2016 @ 19:27:37

    Reblogged this on The World According To Ms Hyde and commented:
    Marefun Yemaya

    Reply

  14. sheilambelekhama
    Oct 23, 2016 @ 10:59:58

    Reblogged this on sheila mbele-khama.

    Reply

  15. Myra Bouvier Hervy
    Dec 30, 2016 @ 02:40:16

    I only knew of her as she appeared to me in a dream when I was just 13 or 14 years old. I was in spirit traveling right over the ocean water. I could see the clear blue sky and clear blue waters of the ocean. Suddenly there were bubbles in the water as I came to a stop. She then revealed herself to me. She smiled at me and lifted one hand to me and showed me pearls. She wanted me to see the pearls. And the dream ended.

    Reply

  16. Umbel
    Feb 17, 2017 @ 01:55:33

    Who is the artist for the picture at the top? Lovely!

    Reply

  17. Ingrid
    Feb 22, 2017 @ 10:25:49

    Do not be discouraged, while knowledge is something we are always seeking and well we should, when it comes to this subject there is always somebody there to say you are doing it wrong. If they have a better article in them I invite them to write it. I love what you said about the coral, that is very meaningful and well said.

    Reply

  18. latoyacrick
    Apr 05, 2017 @ 01:30:21

    Reblogged this on Emerald Hearth and commented:
    This is amazing

    Reply

  19. Sylvia
    Apr 14, 2017 @ 22:13:00

    I did not know of Him. Yes he appeared to me as a man. I was drowning. As I sank to the bottom of the ocean and gasped for air I saw his hand reaching out to me. As he touch me I could breath again. He brought me out of the water to safety. That was approximately 45 years ago. Little did I know that this spring I would be one of his child. I believe in Olokun his powers and the “dreams” that I have had all my life now have come to manifest itself. I love the Yoruba Religion. It has come at the right time in my life.

    Reply

  20. segun
    Apr 16, 2017 @ 20:29:58

    In yoruba we say! Ifa olokun, e le ri ipin ,a so oro da yo. Ma fi ibi pere oo, ma fi ololo fo hun.

    Reply

  21. Amy
    May 03, 2017 @ 09:29:49

    Hmm, true and very beautiful. My great grandma served olokun

    Reply

  22. Traci
    Jun 10, 2017 @ 21:18:18

    I found this to be so very intriguing. I am actually receiving Olokun this summer. I am so very excited and reading everything I can on the subject. My Godmother’s told me so much already but, I just love finding more!

    Reply

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