In Hawaiian mythology
Hawaiian mythology
Hawaiian mythology refers to the legends, historical tales and sayings of the ancient Hawaiian people. It is considered a variant of a more general Polynesian mythology, developing its own unique character for several centuries before about 1800. It is associated with the Hawaiian religion...

, an aumakua (icon; often spelled aumakua) is a family god
Household deity
A household deity is a deity or spirit that protects the home, looking after the entire household or certain key members. It has been a common belief in pagan religions as well as in folklore across many parts of the world....

, often a deified ancestor. The Hawaiian plural of aumakua is nā aumākua (naːˈʔɐumaːˈkuwə), although in English the plural is usually aumakuas. Nā aumākua frequently manifested as animals such as shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

s or owls
The Pueo is a subspecies of Short-eared owl that is endemic to Hawaii. The pueo is one of the various nā aumākua in Hawaiian culture....

. Nā aumākua were worshipped at localities (often rocks) where they were believed to "dwell". The appearance of an animal one regarded as an aumakua was often believed to be an omen (of good or ill). There are also many stories of nā aumākua (in animal form) intervening to save their descendants from harm. It was extremely bad luck to harm a manifested aumakua.

Some families had many aumakua. Mary Kawena Pukui
Mary Kawena Pukui
Mary Abigail Kawenaulaokalaniahiiakaikapoliopelekawahineaihonuaināleilehuaapele Wiggin Pukui , known as Kawena, was a Hawaiian scholar, dancer, composer, and educator.-Life:...

's family had at least fifty known aumakua.

Nā aumākua were thus animals, places or rocks, and people. Ancient Hawaiians would have seen no contradiction in a powerful spirit being able to appear as all three, switching from form to form as convenient—as is indeed seen in many stories of gods and demigods.

A symbiotic relationship exists between person and aumakua, the personal guardians of each individual and their family and the ancient source gods from whom Hawaiians were descended.

Aumakua can manifest in nature. The form varies family to family. Whatever its form, the aumakua is one specific shark, owl, etc. However, all members of the species are treated with respect of family members.

If family aumakua, these manifestations were not harmed or eaten; in turn, aumakua warned and reprimanded in dreams, visions, and calls.

"Aumākua are intimate members of the human family, spiritual relationships with them are especially close and their presence is sought for feast and festivity, as well as in time of crisis. They act as healers and advisors, counteracting troubles and punishing faults."
-J. Gutmanis

Aumākua could appear as:
  • honu, (turtle)
  • pueo
    The Pueo is a subspecies of Short-eared owl that is endemic to Hawaii. The pueo is one of the various nā aumākua in Hawaiian culture....

    , owl
    Short-eared Owl
    The Short-eared Owl is a species of typical owl . In Scotland this species of owl is often referred to as a cataface, grass owl or short-horned hootlet. Owls belonging to genus Asio are known as the eared owls, as they have tufts of feathers resembling mammalian ears. These "ear" tufts may or may...

     (as at Manoa
    thumb|240px|right|Vintage shot of University of Hawaii, Manoa240px|thumb|right|Vintage photo of Manoa ValleyMānoa is a valley and a residential neighborhood of Honolulu CDP of the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States; the community is approximately three miles east and inland from...

    , Oahu
    Oahu or Oahu , known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous of the islands in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state capital Honolulu is located on the southeast coast...

    , Kau
    Kau, Hawaii
    thumb|right|300px|The districts of the [[Hawaii |Big Island]]. From Northernmost, clockwise; [[Kohala, Hawaii|Kohala]], [[Hamakua]], [[Hilo, Hawaii|Hilo]], [[Puna, Hawaii|Puna]], Kau , [[Kona District, Hawaii|Kona]]...

     and Puna
    Puna, Hawaii
    Puna is one of the nine districts in Hawaii County, Big Island, Hawaii. The District of Puna is located on the easternmost portion of the island and shares borders to the north with the District of South Hilo and a border to the west with the District of Kaū...

  • manō, shark
    Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

     (all islands except Kauai
    Kauai or Kauai, known as Tauai in the ancient Kaua'i dialect, is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of , it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the "Garden Isle",...

  • alalā, [[ʻAlala|crow]] (island of Hawaii)
  • io, hawk
    Hawaiian Hawk
    The Hawaiian Hawk or Io, Buteo solitarius, is a raptor of the Buteo genus endemic to Hawaii. Buteos tend to be easily recognized by their bulky bodies relative to their overall length and wingspan. The Io is the only hawk that is native to Hawaii, and fossil evidence indicates that it inhabited...

     (on island of Hawaii
    Hawaii (island)
    The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

  • elepaio, monarch flycatcher (also the goddess of canoe makers)
  • [[ʻIʻiwi|iiwi]], honeycreeper
    Hawaiian honeycreeper
    Hawaiian honeycreepers are small, passerine birds endemic to Hawaii. Some authorities still categorize this group as a family Drepanididae, but in recent years, most authorities consider them a subfamily, Drepanidinae, of Fringillidae, the finch family...

     (whose feathers were used extensively in featherwork
    Featherwork is the working of feathers into a cultural artifact. This was especially elaborate among the peoples of Oceania and the Americas, such as the Incas and Aztecs....

  • alae ula, moorhen
    Common Moorhen
    The Common Moorhen is a bird in the Rallidae family with an almost worldwide distribution. The North and South American Committees of the AOU and the IOC have voted on or before July 2011 to split the American forms into a new species Common Gallinule, however, no other committee has voted to...

     (whose cry was considered a bad omen)
  • hee, octopus
    The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

  • puhi, eel
    Eels are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species. Most eels are predators...

  • iole liilii, mouse
  • iole, rat
    Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus...

  • īlio, dog
    The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

  • moo, lizard, or dragon
  • peelua/enuhe/nuhe/anuhe/poko, caterpillar
    Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

  • pōhaku, rock
  • leho, cowry
    Cowry, also sometimes spelled cowrie, plural cowries, is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries...

  • ao, cloud
  • mea kanu, plant

External Links

  • "Hawaii's Spirit Guardians" Article by Rita Goldman in Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine
    Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine
    Maui Nō Ka Oi Magazine is a bi-monthly regional magazine published by the Haynes Publishing Group in Wailuku, Hawaii.The phrase Maui nō ka ʻoi means "Maui is unparallel" in the Hawaiian language. Maui Nō Ka Oi Magazine features stories relating to the culture, art, dining, environmental issues,...

    , Vol.14 No. 6 Nov 2010.
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