Yoruba Goddess


A pottery for Olokun, by Edo artist (16th to 19th century)

A pot from a woman's shrine to Olokun, by Edo artist (16th to 19th century)

British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA 4.0


Olokun is a Yoruba goddess of the ocean. Though the name “Olokun” is sometimes used as an epithet for Yemọja, the mother goddess and the source of all water, Olokun herself has a more specific domain: she is the goddess of the primordial seas that covered the world before the creation of the earth. During that early period, Olokun lived in a “world of sea, marshes and mist,” while the other gods inhabited the skies.[1]

Among the Edo and some of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Olokun is a male deity, but the Fon and other Yoruba believe Olokun is female.[2] She is usually cited as the wife of Orunmila, the god of divination.[3]

Like many water deities, Olokun is a fertility goddess who can provide children for her barren followers. But Olokun can also be unpredictable (much like the waters she controls), often with devastating consequences. She protects those who worship her, especially sailors,[4] but many myths also highlight her anger and her need for appeasement and sacrifice.


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Olokun and the Creation of the Earth

A ritual object representing Olokun, by Nigerian artist (1904-1913).

Five-pronged spike or iron, a ritual object representing Olokun, by Nigerian artist (1904-1913).

British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Olokun’s most famous myth is related to the creation of the earth. According to this story, Obatala thought that the watery abyss below the gods’ heavenly home would benefit from the creation of land—a place where humankind could live. Thus, Obatala (along with many other gods) descended from the skies to begin creating land and mankind.[5]

But not all of the gods were happy about the creation of humans. Olokun in particular was angry that Obatala had disturbed her watery home, shaping the world without her permission. Thus, when Obatala returned to heaven for a short rest, Olokun flooded the land that he had formed. This flood devastated homes and crops, killing many people in the process.

The people called out to Obatala for help, but he did not hear them. They therefore prayed to Esu, the messenger god, instead. Once the proper sacrifice had been made, Esu brought their requests for aid to Obatala. Concerned about the situation, Obatala turned to Orunmila (Olokun’s husband), who restored the flooded world to order.[6]



  1. Patricia Ann Lynch and Jeremy Roberts, African Mythology, A to Z (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010), 86.

  2. Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama, Encyclopedia of African Religion (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009), 474.

  3. Asante and Mazama, Encyclopedia of African Religion, 474.

  4. Jan Knappert, African Mythology: An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend (London: Diamond Books, 1995), 187

  5. Harold Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (New York : Crown Publishers, 1973), 21.

  6. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 22.

Secondary Sources

  • Asante, Molefi Kete, and Ama Mazama. Encyclopedia of African Religion. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009.

  • Courlander, Harold. Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes. New York: Crown Publishers, 1973.

  • Knappert, Jan. African Mythology: An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend. London: Diamond Books, 1995.

  • Lynch, Patricia Ann, and Jeremy Roberts. African Mythology, A to Z. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010.

  • Monaghan, Patricia. Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. 2 vols. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2009.


Mackay, Danielle. “Olokun.” Mythopedia, April 26, 2023. https://mythopedia.com/topics/olokun.

Mackay, Danielle. “Olokun.” Mythopedia, 26 Apr. 2023. https://mythopedia.com/topics/olokun. Accessed on 13 Dec. 2023.

Mackay, D. (2023, April 26). Olokun. Mythopedia. https://mythopedia.com/topics/olokun


  • Danielle Mackay

    Danielle Mackay is a writer and scholar who received her MA in Classical Studies from Rhodes University in South Africa

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