Ayao – Yoruba Orisha and Sister to Ọya

Ayao is the orisha of the air and whirlwind, Oya’s younger sister. This goddess is a captivating and enigmatic figure in Yoruba religion and mythology. Like her sister, Ayao is powerful, fierce and smart.

Beyond the wind phenomenon, whirlwinds are emblems of witchcraft and magic power. Ayao’s ally is Osanyin, orisha of plants. She is a font of botanical and magical knowledge, learned directly from Osanyin.

She is connected to other powerful Orishas, particularly Oya, the Orisha of winds, storms, and change. In this article, we shall consider their relationships, this goddess’s strengths and story.

Mythology of Ayao

Ayao, sister to Oya

Ayao, besides being Oya’s sister, has a particular relationship with this Orisha. In Yorubaland, we believe that this deity is the one who carries the messages to Ikú (the spirit of death) and Oya.

Ayao: The Goddess
Image Credit: Robbie Bailey on Pinterest

On the other hand, she is also in charge of taking Oya’s notes, accompanying her at the cemetery gate, attends to the 9 Egunguns (masquerades) who guard her and who are related to the 9 places where they carry out previous ceremonies of their consecrations.

She is an Orisha capable of propitiating very strong and effective spells regardless of their nature, she responds with terrible consequences without any kind of discrimination, on the contrary, when we invoke Oya who represents breathing, good spirituality and life, we do it to request her help if we really need to resolve conflicts in an effective but balanced way. In fact, there are estimates that on some occasions, Oya uses her relationship with Ayao to request her intervention to free certain spirits and put an end to the fights.

It is very important for the children of Oya to receive the foundation of Ayao, as it stimulates the balance of Oya’s energy, promoting greater calm in their lives and in their spirituality.

Ayao and osanyin

Ayao’s ally is Osanyin, orisha of plants. She is a font of botanical and magical knowledge, Osanyin taught her directly and which they petitioned her to share with devotees.

Ayao saved the Takua land 

It happened that in the Takua land, where Oya (Yanzan) reigned, there was a great conspiracy which the locals prepared. They planned to do many evil things, and Oya did not allow it. 

She was aware of everything they were plotting thanks to Eshu, she immediately went to Orunmila’s house, who made divination for her. Ifa looked at her through the Odu ifa, for which Orunmila marked her corresponding ebo(sacrifice).

Oya diligently gave the three geese to Eshu as instructed and hid all the other ebo waxes in the palace, when all the citizens came to claim Oya, she threatened them with the chain and began to kill them with the whip and the knife she had hidden, so much was the punishment that Obon, who was Orisha of that city, went to see Oya together with Ayao and begged her to have mercy on the people. Oya was moved by her sister singing and Obon’s pleas, she forgave all her children, making peace reign again in the Takua land.

Attributes of Orisha Ayao

  1. Guardian of Egungun Zaraza: Ayaó is the guardian of the Egungun zaraza (entertainment prepared on a throne with a large number of traditional dishes, drinks, flowers, and candles in the name of Oya and the dead). 
  2. Purity: Ayao is pure, a story tells that Ayao, due to her purity, went up to heaven and gave the ceremonial table to Odduduwa, which gives her the honor of getting on his table.
  3. Resides on cieba tree: This Orisha likes to live in the highest places of Iroko (the ceiba tree). She does not agree to go down to the ground under any circumstances, not even touch it.
  4. Children of oya: Children of oya are names after orisha Ayao. Now any priest or priestess can receive he spirit.
  5. Doesn’t touch the ground:This orisha can never touch the ground as they do her ceremonies on top of a table.
  6. Aide to Oya:When an initiate of Oya is performing their consecrating birth, the spirits that they pick up are tended by Ayao. When Oya is getting ready for battle she calls her sister who releases those spirits to aide Oya in battle. They do  not initiate her on the heads of anyone.
  7. Protector of girls: She is a fierce protector of girls and maidens.
  8. Virtuous Sorceress: In addition, she is a virtuous sorceress, knowledgeable in the secrets of witchcraft, an excellent companion for spiritualists and mediums.
  9. Positioned next to oya: Her position is always next to oya.

Powers of Ayao

This possesses a range of powers and abilities that connects to her role as a guardian of the spirit realm. 

  1. Orisha Ayao has command over whirlwinds, harnessing their energy and using them as a tool for protection and guidance.
  1. One of this goddess notable powers is her psychic abilities, which allows her to perceive and navigate the spiritual realm with great clarity. Through this gift, she can provide insight and guidance to those seeking spiritual enlightenment or assistance.
  1. She associates with providing strength to individuals, both physically and spiritually. Her presence can empower and fortify individuals, granting them the resilience and courage to face challenges and overcome obstacles.
  1. This goddess is also the guardian of the spirits that pass through the clouds. She watches over and protects them, ensuring their safe journey and providing a sense of security as they transition between realms.

Symbolism of Orisha Ayao 

Titles of orisha Ayao

  • goddess of storm.
  • The goddess of air.
  • goddess of whirlwind.


  • Ceiba.
  •  Star apple.
  • fruit bomb (male),
  •  guara.
  • pomegranate.
  •  cordovan. 
  • custard apple.
  •  avocado.
  •  caleta grape.
  • acacia.
  • framboyán.
  • gummy grape.
  • atori.
  •  peregún.
  • marpacifico.
  • itamorreal.
  •  carob tree.
  • fennel.


  • Brown.
  • green (the colors of bark and leaves).


  • Snake.


  • Crossbow.


9 (shared with Oya).

Festival and Rituals 

There is no particular festival nor oriki(praises) used to celebrate this goddess, but her devotees often celebrate and praise her alongside Oya, her older sister.

Resolving conflicts

To resolve conflicts using this goddess, we prepare the space with a lot of incense. We then place her on a table with a new flower tablecloth, place her foundation in the middle of the table surrounded by many colored flowers and nine lighted candles, then give her  knowledge of the situation that we wish to solve and there is an agreement with the Orisha that as soon as the victory is obtained, we will feed her a guinea fowl in gratitude.


  • Guinea fowl.
  • Candles.
  • Flowers.
  • Avocado.
  • Akara (bean cake).

Orisha Ayao across borders 

Ayao is an orisha in the Santería pantheon.
Photo Credit: legionofgoddesses

Orisha Ayao, a figure deeply rooted in Yoruba religion and mythology, has transcended across borders and caught the imagination of individuals across cultures. From the Yoruba people of Nigeria to the diaspora communities in the Americas and beyond, the presence of Ayao continues to resonate and inspire. This cross-cultural exploration delves into the different aspects of Ayao’s significance and the ways in which her essence is going through various traditions.

Originating from the Yoruba pantheon, she holds a significant role  among the Orishas, the deities of the Yoruba religion. We Yoruba people are popular for our rich spiritual and cultural heritage, and carried our beliefs and practices with us as we dispersed throughout the world due to the transatlantic slave trade. 

In Santeria and Candomblé

In the Afro-Caribbean religion Santería, they intertwine Ayao and Oya representing the forces of transformation and rebirth. Ayao’s connection to whirlwinds and Oya’s association with winds and storms merge, creating a synergy that reflects the resilience and adaptability necessary for survival in challenging circumstances.

In Brazil,  they know Ayao as Yasan, a deity that is sacred in Candomblé and Umbanda. Yansan carries the attributes of Ayao and Oya, embodying their shared powers. They celebrate her as the Orisha of winds, lightning, and female warriors. They invoke her presence for protection, strength, and guidance. The rhythms and vibrant dance rituals dedicated to her reflect the dynamic energy and fierce spirit that is in associatistion with Ayao.

In exploring Ayao’s influence across borders, it is essential to acknowledge the dynamic nature of cultural exchange and adaptation. As the Yoruba diaspora encountered new environments and encountered other spiritual traditions, syncretism and blending of beliefs occurred. Ayao’s essence, characterized by their powers of protection and stength, integrated with the existing spiritual practices, resulting in unique expressions of worship and devotion.

Final Thoughts

Ayao is closely connected to Oya, the Orisha of winds, storms, and change. They share a profound bond, with Ayao serving as the messenger between Oya and the spirituality of death, Ikú. Ayao also assists Oya in various aspects, including accompanying her at the cemetery gate and tending to the Egunguns, the masquerades guarding Oya.

One of Ayao’s remarkable attributes is her ability to perform powerful spells, regardless of their nature. When invoked, she can respond with formidable consequences, often at Oya’s request, to resolve conflicts and free spirits from fights. Ayao’s presence brings balance to Oya’s energy, promoting calmness and spiritual equilibrium in the lives of Oya’s children.

Ayao possesses a range of powers and abilities associated with her role as a guardian of the spirit realm. She has command over whirlwinds, using their energy for protection and guidance. Her psychic abilities enable her to navigate the spiritual realm and offer insight and guidance to those seeking enlightenment. Ayao also provides strength, both physical and spiritual, to individuals, empowering them to face challenges and overcome obstacles.

Ayao’s significance extends beyond the boundaries of Yoruba religion and mythology. In America, Ayao is often associated with Oya, embodying the forces of transformation and rebirth. In Afro-Caribbean traditions like Santería and Candomblé, Ayao and Oya’s powers merge, reflecting resilience and adaptability. Brazil knows Ayao as Yasan, a sacred deity in Candomblé and Umbanda, embodying winds, lightning, and female warriors. In Cuba, Ayao is associated with Osun, the goddess of love, beauty, and rivers. Ayao’s influence is also felt in Trinidad and Tobago during the annual Orisha festival known as “Egungun,” where her role as a guardian of the spirit realm aligns with the reverence for ancestral spirits.

Featured Image Credit: Robbie Bailey on Pinterest

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Oluwaseun Ayodele

My name is Oluwaseun and I'm a freelance writer and nutritionist with a passion for exploring the rich cultural heritage of Yorubaland. I've always been fascinated by the beliefs and practices of traditional religions, and I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of Yoruba mythology and its many deities. As a writer, I enjoy crafting engaging and informative content that educates and entertains readers, and I believe that my background in nutrition helps me to approach health and wellness topics with a unique perspective. When I'm not writing or practicing yoga, you can find me exploring the great outdoors or indulging in my favorite foods.