Ocean gods: Poseidon, Neptune and Namaka

The sea, a diverse environment which covers 2/3 of the surface of our planet. From shallow tropical waters, to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the Pentland Skerries to the great ocean currents used by whales to migrate, the sea is as diverse and changable as any land environment.  Perhaps it is no surprise that there are plenty of cultures with deities whose association is an aspect of the sea.

Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as “Earth-Shaker,” of earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades.



Neptune was the god of water and the sea.  Unlike the Greek Oceanus, titan of the world-ocean, Neptune was associated as well with fresh water. Georges Dumézil suggested that for Latins, who were not a seafaring people, the primary identification of Neptune was with freshwater springs. Like Poseidon, Neptune was worshipped by the Romans also as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester, a patron of horse-racing

In Hawaiian mythology, Nāmaka (or Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi, the eyes of Kahaʻi) appears as a sea goddess or a water spirit in the Pele cycle.



In Aztec mythology, Huixtocihuatl (pronounced we-sto-key-WAH-tl) (or Uixtochihuatl, Uixtociuatl) was a fertility goddess who presided over salt and salt water. Her younger brother was Tlaloc, and the rain gods, the Tlaloques are her sisters, or, in some sources, the children of Tlaloc.  In the month of the Little Feast of the Lords, a woman was sacrificed to Huixtocihuatl and salt makers performed special dances in her honor. She is usually depicted wearing a skirt adorned with waves and jadeite, with golden bells around her ankles. She carried a special shield with a picture of a waterlily and decorated with parrot, eagle, and quetzal feathers. Huixtocihuatl’s name, which means “salt lady”

Arnapkapfaaluk (big bad woman) was the sea goddess of the Inuit people of Canada’s Coronation Gulf area. Although occupying the equivalent position to Sedna within Inuit mythology, in that she had control of the animals of the seas, she was noticeably different as can be seen by the English translation of her name.  Arnapkapfaaluk was not the beneficent goddess that Sedna was. Instead, she inspired fear in hunters. Rather than providing the Copper Inuit with the seals and other marine mammals, she would withhold them. The breaking of a taboo or other indiscretion would result in an unsuccessful hunt.



Susanoo (romanised as Susano-o, Susa-no-O and Susanowo), also known as Tatehaya Susanoo-no-Mikoto is the Shinto god of the sea and storms.  Tempestuous brother to the sun goddess Ameratsu, he was banished from Heaven and went to have a series of adventures, including slaying the Eight Forked Serpent.

Olokun is experienced in male and female personifications, depending on what region of West Africa He/She is worshipped. It is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).  Olokun also signifies unfathomable wisdom. That is, the instinct that there is something worth knowing, perhaps more than can ever be learned, especially the spiritual sciences that most people spend a lifetime pondering. It also governs material wealth, psychic abilities, dreaming, meditation, mental health and water-based healing. Olokun is one of many Orisa known to help women that desire children. It is also worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.



In Māori mythology, Tangaroa (also Takaroa) is one of the great gods, the god of the sea. He is a son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Sky and Earth. After he joins his brothers Rongo, Tūmatauenga, Haumia, and Tane in the forcible separation of their parents, he is attacked by his brother Tawhirimatea, the god of storms, and forced to hide in the sea. Tangaroa is the father of many sea creatures. Tangaroa’s son, Punga, has two children, Ikatere, the ancestor of fish, and Tu-te-wehiwehi (or Tu-te-wanawana), the ancestor of reptiles. Terrified by Tawhirimatea’s onslaught, the fish seek shelter in the sea, and the reptiles in the forests. Ever since, Tangaroa has held a grudge with Tāne, the god of forests, because he offers refuge to his runaway children.
The contention between Tangaroa and Tāne, the father of birds, trees, and humans, is an indication that the Māori thought of the ocean and the land as opposed realms. When people go out to sea to fish or to travel, they are in effect representatives of Tāne entering the realm of Tāne’s enemy. For this reason, it was important that offerings were made to Tangaroa before any such expedition .

Aegir and Ran are the Norse equivalents, Ran, the goddess of love, who catches drowned sailors in hers nets, and Aegir her husband, god of the ocean and king of the sea-creatures.  They have nine daughters, each representing a different type of wave.

Mannan mac Lir is a sea deity from Irish mythology.  Son of Lyr, he has further affiliations with the weather and the mists between worlds.  He features heavily in Irish, Scottish and Manx legends.


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