- "The Spirit Temple was built by the ancient ancestors of the Gerudo people. Since only a single male child was born to the Gerudo every hundred years, the massive shrine was built by female masons and engineers."
- — Nintendo Power Player's Guide
The Goddess of the Sand, also known as the Desert Goddess, is a character first mentioned in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. She is a Deity worshiped by the Gerudo and is the inspiration for the construction of the Spirit Temple found in the Desert Colossus of the Gerudo Desert. What is presumed to be the Goddess also appears in the architecture of the Arbiter's Grounds in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
The Spirit Temple is said to have been created by female masons and engineers that were the ancient ancestors of the Gerudo, indicating that the Gerudo established themselves as a desert-dwelling tribe quite some time in the past. From this information, it would seem that the Goddess of the Sand has been worshiped by the Gerudo since their establishment as a race, as she was obviously worshiped by their ancient ancestors who were responsible for the construction of the Spirit Temple. It would seem that since the Gerudos' ancient patron deity is associated with sand that they have always been desert-dwellers and that their culture has always been inclined toward the desert. Their Goddess of the Sand appears to be a subject of great worship by the Gerudo (who are an almost entirely female race) as she is a deity the Gerudo look up to and pray to for various reasons concerning the tribe's well-being.
It is unknown if the Goddess of the Sand is in fact a real deity however, as she is never physically seen aside from statues depicting her and there are no explicit signs of her divine power at work within the series. Provided she is in fact a real deity that merely has yet to be physically seen in-game or a is re-interpretation of another pre-existing deity, she could be the reason the Gerudo are a predominately female race, as well as the deity the Gerudo pray to for children in the absence of men in their tribe.
The Goddess of the Sand is first mentioned in Ocarina of Time in the legend of the five temples told to Link by Sheik; the Hero of Time is told that he will find one of the mythical Seven Sages "inside a Goddess of the Sand." After rescuing three or four of the Sages, Link journeys to Gerudo Valley in search of the final Sage, the Sage of Spirit. After matching wits with the Gerudo, Link is told the location of the Spirit Temple far across the Haunted Wasteland, inside a Desert Colossus. Braving the two trials of the Haunted Wasteland (the River of Sand and the Phantom Guide), the Hero finds his way to the Desert Colossus and discovers the Spirit Temple is housed inside a giant statue of a female deity resembling a Gerudo woman. It is likely that this was the Goddess of the Sand spoken of by the Gerudo, and according to the history of the Spirit Temple, the Gerudo had built the temple as a tribute to her and shaped it in her image as a result. Another large statue of her is seen within the temple itself in the main chamber. Behind the face of this statue is the boss room of the temple, where Link faces the evil Gerudo witches Twinrova and saves Nabooru, the Sage of Spirit.
Statues similar in appearance to those found in Ocarina of Time are found both within and at the very top of the Arbiter's Grounds, an ancient prison found in a similar location to the Spirit Temple within a colossus at the far end of the Gerudo Desert. The new hero, Link, seeks out the Arbiter's Grounds in order to find the Mirror of Twilight, use it to enter the Twilight Realm and put an end to the evil reign of the Usurper King of Twilight, Zant. He finds the ancient prison far across the desert and finds it to be covered with ancient wall murals and wall writing from ancient times. Statues similar to the statue of the Goddess of the Sand are found within the Grounds, but the most imposing image is the massive statue seen on top of the Arbiter's Grounds, which Link must scale using his Spinner in order to raise the Mirror of Twilight out of the sandy floor of the prison's roof. Using the Spinner on a small gear-shaped depression at the top of the statue, he causes the giant statue to sink into the sand as the Stone upon which the mirror projects is raised out of the sand alongside the platform of the Mirror of Twilight.
The Goddess's image appears within the grounds as well, one example being the statue seen in front of the array of torches deep within the Grounds, in which Link has to guess which two of the torches had to be lit to open the way forward through an ancient wall. This statue is almost identical in appearance (though much smaller in size) to the statue of her at the top of the Grounds. It is unknown why the Goddess of the Sand appears in this particular place and in multiple locations within and around it, but some fans have speculated that the Arbiter's Grounds are likely the Spirit Temple renovated to serve as a prison following the events of Ocarina of Time, thus explaining why the Goddess of the Sand appears multiple times throughout the prison.
Strangely, the statues appear to be holding flames, possibly a reference to the Goddess of Power, Din, who has a close relationship with fire. Another odd fact is that they all have snakes entwined around them, ready to strike.
Connections to Din
It is unknown if there is any connection between the Goddess of the Sand and the three Golden Goddesses that created Hyrule. However, there are some interesting things to indicate she could indeed be associated with one of the Golden Goddesses in particular: Din, the Goddess of Power. Din was noted to have "cultivated the land and created the red earth" in the legend of Hyrule's creation, and the Goddess of the Sand is associated with a type of "earth," specifically sand. Also, Din's piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Power, is closely associated with Ganondorf, a member of the Gerudo tribe. Also, in Twilight Princess, the statue of the Goddess of Sand in Arbiter's Grounds shows her holding flames, a possible reference to the spell Din's Fire. Due to these facts, some fans speculate the Goddess of the Sand could be another title for Din herself. This would be in keeping with the theory that Nayru is the Goddess of Time spoken of in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nayru created the laws governing nature, including the laws of time) and Farore being the "Goddess of Wind" spoken of in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for whom the Wind Temple was built to honor (Farore has long been associated with the element of wind, and the spell Farore's Wind is named after her). Furthermore, although not the goddess herself, the Oracle of Ages, Nayru, has powers over time. Since naming the Oracle the same as the goddess is very unlikely to be a coincidence, having the related figure possess power over time strengthens the notion that the goddess herself would be related to time. This would provide each of the three Golden Goddesses with a separate title in addition to their formal titles: Din, the Goddess of the Sand; Nayru, the Goddess of Time; and Farore, the Goddess of Wind.
Another speculation could be that the Goddess of the Sand is Nayru. Nayru's association with water, and therefore time, is evidenced by Sheik stating the flow of time is "like a river". This could also tie in with sand being a popular symbol for the passage of time. Though the relationship between sand and water is less evident, only the presence of sand near water and on beaches, it is still an arguable point.
Confusing the elemental consistencies, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the Southeastern desert region is referred to as Lanayru Desert, and the Dragon Lanayru, is actually of the element of thunder. Furthermore, Faron is obviously associated with Farore and the forest, yet is a Water Dragon. Only the Fire Dragon Eldin maintains elemental consistency with his associated Goddess, Din.
This would yield different goddess associations: Farore would be associated with the elements Life and Wind, and the elements would be embodied through Forest and Air, respectively. Din would be associated with the elements Stone and Shadow, and their embodiments would be Fire and Earth, respectively. This leaves Nayru to be associated the elements Ice and Time, embodied through Water and Sand, respectively. This yields, collectively, six element and embodiment pairs, two per goddess. This explains the presence of six sages, one per pair, and two per goddess.