This is the first volume in a series in which we will be discussing a number of gods and goddesses in the Yoruba mythology.
In this first volume we will take a look at a goddess of the Santeria pantheon named AYAO. But first things first, Santería is a system of beliefs that combines aspects of Yoruba mythology that were introduced into the world at large by enslaved Yoruba people, along with Christianity and Indigenous American traditions. Enslaved Yoruba people carried with them various religious customs, including a trance and divination system for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice, and sacred drumming and dance. This was prompted as a result of the need to preserve the traditions and belief systems in a hostile cultural environment prompted those enslaved in Cuba, starting from as early as 1515, to merge their customs with aspects of Roman Catholicism.
Ayao is considered as only a minor deity of the wind who lives in the shadow of her sister, the goddess of wind, Oya the thundering storm. Regardless of this she is herself a fierce warrior and a crafty tactician. With her affinity to nature and wildlife she fights to maintain order and push out the chaos so that the eye of the storm may again become calmed.
Ayao is the orisha of the air, believed to take residence in both the forest and in the eye of the tornado. She works closely with Osain or Osanyin the healer god and is also a fierce warrior.
Ayao is portrayed with her inventory a crossbow with a serpent, a quill and nine stones. She is commonly placed next to her sister, Oya. The colours associated with her are brown and green. Ayao’s cult was thought to be lost among various adherents; however, a growing number of olorichas have her in their possession.