Tag Archives: sea


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Hof Dor, Israel

Hof Dor, Israel

Olokun is one of the most controversial Orishas in the current pantheon.  Some say he’s male, and some say she’s female, and others both.  It depends on the place and the local traditions.  Some say that he/she and Yemaya are one in the same, some that they are brother and sister, and some that they are husband and wife.

So most of what I’m going to write here is going to be from my family traditions in the southern east coast U.S. diaspora.  There are links to other perspectives of Olokun to the left.

In our tradition, Olokun is viewed as male or masculine, and the spiritual brother and husband of Yemaya.  His sacred numbers and symbols are mostly the same, but with additions such as the trident, the mirror, the sea snake, squid, octopii, and underwater volcanoes.  The latter is where he “holds hands” with Aganju.

Where Yemaya is the waters in general, Olokun is specific to the deep sea.  He is bound to reside there, and this is his kingdom.  When someone dies in the sea, rather than immediately beginning to merge with the Ancestors, they may stay with Olokun until he decides to release them.

He is the patron of Africans in the diaspora, especially those who were taken from Africa as slaves.  When slaves jumped into the sea or sank a ship with themselves in it, rebelling against their captors, they go to the kingdom of Olokun.  Sometimes it is said that the warriors among them with Olokun will pull down ships of countries they were taken to as slaves in the past, so some sailors will give offerings to Olokun and the Ancestors in the Sea before departing.

As he is the Orisha of the deep, he is also the Orisha of deep mysteries.  He is often associated with “dark” or “left hand path” magic and mysticism.  In a way, he embodies the necessary darkness that is within us all: the fight that every living being must have to survive.  In the same way that Yemaya is the creative force of life, Olokun is the equally necessary destructive force of life.  He is rebellion.  He also works very closely with Oya to create devastating storms and floods.

Olokun also has the wealth of the sea.  So he is often petitioned for material wealth.  His closeness to Oya but ownership of wealth sometimes makes him an attractive Orisha for veneration by people who need more wealth in terms of raw materials and commodities.  He is also essential to political power and status.  Though Shango leads the way in raw charisma, Olokun is the master of expanding charisma into the political and social realm on a wider scale than sexual seduction or leading armies.  The faithful and blessed adherent to the ways of Olokun will be able to make nations.

Though followers of Olokun are many, children of Olokun are relatively rare outside of the context of combined Olokun/Yemaya.  Children of Olokun specifically tend to travel a lot and be very busy people.  Many if not most are in physically dangerous professions or are seamen.  They tend to be ferocious (not an understatement) lovers, but don’t count on seeing them very often.  Don’t worry though because if they want to keep you, it may take you the six months to a year to fully physically recover from the experience.

Efun (a special African chalk) and clay or mud statues or figurines are used a lot in the worship of Olokun as well as soperas (covered deep dishes or bowls).  Many designs are drawn on the ground or surfaces to make portals for various energies or direct their flow or to teach important concepts that cannot all be articulated with words.

Offerings to Olokun

Olokun likes similar offerings to Yemaya, but more phallic shaped or pointy.  Where you may bring Yemaya mostly round, wet fruit and vegetables, Olokun would appreciate it if you threw some long ones like zucchini and cucumbers in too.  In our practice, we have found that he also likes chocolate and sesame as much as Oya.

A word of caution, he also takes human sacrifices.  One must be very careful not to approach him with too much sorrow, or he may, like Yemaya, send a wave to end all of your sorrows.  Women who are beautiful in a certain way that he likes (you know who you are if it’s you) may also want to be careful.  He can take you to his kingdom to be his bride (or one of them anyway).

Children of Oya are, at least in our observation and experience, less likely to be actually swept into the sea even if he likes them.  They may however, be stimulated by the Olokun while standing in the water.  Just go with the flow.

Do not even jokingly or casually offer yourself or your friends to Olokun during a ceremony.  He may take you up on it, and bless you very much, but your friend will be gone.

Olokun also takes incense, but put his incense in a shell on top of the fire or charcoal.  In our experience, he particularly likes the resin incenses such as myrrh, frankincense, copal, and dragon’s blood.  He also likes aromatic oils.  They will liquefy in the shell and evaporate.  When the shell is black and broken, give it back to the sea.

In some traditions, it is forbidden to give Olokun offerings of fish or shrimp or other sea creatures prepared as food.  Beings who have died or are dying may be returned to the sea, but don’t do it as if this is to feed Olokun with them.  It should be done in the context of returning them home.

He happily accepts offerings of food made with land animals though.  He especially likes slow cooked stews that are spicy and somewhat sweet, like barbecue sauce.  He also likes yams (and sweet potatoes), beans, black eyed peas, and coconut.

Olokun Incense

Olokun incense is the same as a Yemaya incense, but if you like, you can make it more masculine.  Normally though, I give him incense resins in a shell thusly:

  1. Place a sea shell onto a hot charcoal.
  2. Put about 1/8 to half a teaspoon of Eshu incense in the shell, and greet Eshu.
  3. Put some beads and chunks of copal, frankincense, and dragon’s blood in the shell and greet Olokun.

Then proceed with the ritual or ceremony.

Incense for Olokun

Incense for Olokun


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Other names/spellings/related deities that overlap in the diaspora: Nana Buruku, Yemanja, Iemanja, Yemalla, Iemaia, Yemoja, La Sirene, Mommi
Sacred number: 7
Sacred colors: blue and white, aqua and white, translucent/transparent blue or aqua and white
Domain: the sea, water, all life on Earth, motherhood/reproduction, cell division, currents
Symbols: anchor, mermaids, fish, generally things associated with the sea

Yemaya is the mother of all life on Earth.  All life came from the water and requires water to live.

She appears to human eyes as a mermaid, and this is how she is usually represented.  This hearkens to her perceived form from Mami Wata.  The Mami Wata are ancient African deities that were depicted with human upper bodies and fish or snake-like lower bodies.  Some people who don’t get the history conflate Mami Wata with Yemaya and/or Olokun, but they were only two of many.  The reason for the confusion is likely that there is art representing both the Mami Wata in general and individual Mami Wata deities.  So many think that Mami Wata is one individual Goddess, which isn’t a total crime as it just comes from ignorance.  However, the danger in this as with any strictly monotheistic religion is that it is a slippery slope to believing one’s god as willing to override nature on one’s behalf, and then one’s self as above nature and then above the Creator by virtue of following an imaginary thought police.

Another common bit of misinformation is that Yemaya is the Mother Goddess as in the feminine aspect of the Creator.  This is not so.  Yemaya is a created being; a child of the Creator(s) Olorun and Odudua.  Even these are only the infintessimally small fragment of what mankind can possibly understand about the Almighty.  In fact, there are serious limits to what we can possibly understand about any of the child deities or Orishas.  We barely get our own Ori.



Some also say that originally, Yemaya was the Goddess of one river, and eventually became so well regarded that she was thought to be the Goddess of the Sea/Ocean.  Traditions vary, and there are many versions to the story of Yemaya.  So, to come to awareness of Yemaya, one must be humble and realize their humanity.  Go out and look at the ocean or sea or river or a spring.  Watch water.  It is beautiful and it is life.  It is our Mother on this Earth.

Offerings for Yemaya

Being the Orisha of waters and also our Mother, you should bring offerings to her to bodies of water.  If you are unable or need to be discreet, you can make a small pool by digging a hole and pouring water in, or by getting a tub or bowl of water.

If you must use a bowl or tub, it should be blue or white or some combination of it, and it is best if this has not been and will not be used for other things.  If should be made of clay or natural ceramic material.

The water should be rainwater or seawater if you can get it.  If not, tap water will do, but sprinkle some gray salt or other natural salt in it.

She enjoys white flowers, seaweed, sea shells, and white wine.  Some say she likes seafood, but I’d tell you to follow your instincts in this.  She definitely likes melons and very juicy, light fruits.

Things She Likes but Aren’t Offerings Technically

She likes it when you do good things for the environment.  You should minimize your use of plastics, and recycle them whenever possible.  If you don’t have a recycling program in your area, you should have some way to get plastics to where they can be recycled.  There are companies that use plastics of any kind to make railroad ties and other things.  Find out where your local environmentalists have pick up points.  Just don’t let your computer end up being inhaled by some African or Indian child, or  your bottles end up choking a shark to death.

Yemaya also likes it when you do nice things for parents and children.  Babysitting for free occasionally so that a parent of a baby can get some much needed sleep is a very good thing.  Anything you can do to assist mothers, fathers, and children is a gift to Yemaya.

One very important thing that many people in the African diaspora need is education on a proper diet.  The typical western diet is killing us badly enough, but even worse is what is considered a “healthy diet” in the west.  Africans and mixed African and Native Americans should be taught how to eat properly according to our needs.  Teaching Yemaya’s children how to feed themselves blesses them and blesses you.

Yemaya Oil

You will need:

  • 3 coffee beans or English peppers or 1 vanilla bean cut into 3 pieces
  • 1/2 liter almond or other clear, light, natural oil
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 cowrie shells or other small shells or pieces of coral
  • a piece of turquoise, sapphire, or blue sea tumbled glass
  • 1 sheet of nori or the equivalent amount of some other dried seaweed
  • a handful of dried white and/or blue flowers.  These should be, if possible, trout lillies, white roses, lilacs, lavender, or jasmine
  • about a tablespoon of sandalwood or camwood chips or powder

Other optional ingredients are a few drops of frangipani oil, dried melon rinds, dried cucumber, or dried squash

This oil should steep in a cool, dark place for 3 months.

Modern Pretty Yemaya Oil

Some find the more traditional versions of Yemaya oil (some have fish oil in them) a bit unpleasant.  There is a less traditional modern version using essential oils that is prettier smelling yet reminiscent of the sea and life.


  • 5 drops aloeswood essential oil or oodh attar
  • 10 drops ylang ylang oil
  • 10 drops frangipani or geranium oil
  • 5 drops cedar oil
  • 3 drops rose absolute or oil
  • 1 drop ginger oil
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • one pearl
  • one piece of amber
  • a 1/2 cm square of wakame seaweed
  • sweet almond oil

After doing the appropriate ritual, mindfully add these ingredients to a 10 ml. vial and give it a few good turns. Consecrate and wear as a devotion or dress candles with it.

Yemaya Incense

You will need:

  • 3 coffee beans or English peppers
  • 1 tablespoon frankencense
  • 1 tablespoon myrrh, copal, or benzoin
  • 1 tablespoon sandalwood powder or chips
  • 1 tablespoon powdered seaweed (you can find these in beauty supply or health food stores)
  • 1 tablespoon dried flowers, cut for tea if possible
  • a teaspoon of sea salt

Pound the ingredients together, starting with the coffee beans or English peppers, in a mortar and pestle until they are as fine or as chunky as you prefer.