In Hawaiian mythology, an ʻaumakua (//; often spelled aumakua) is a family god, often a deified ancestor. The Hawaiian plural of ʻaumakua is nā ʻaumākua ([naːˈʔɐumaːˈkuwə]), although in English the plural is usually ʻaumakuas. Nā ʻaumākua frequently manifested as animals such as sharks or owls. Nā ʻaumākua were worshipped at localities (often rocks) where they were believed to "dwell". The appearance of an animal one regarded as an ʻaumakua was often believed to be an omen (of good or ill). There are also many stories of nā ʻaumākua (in animal form) intervening to save their descendants from harm. It was extremely bad luck to harm a manifested ʻaumakua.
Nā ʻaumākua 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 ʻaumakua, the personal guardians of each individual and their family and the ancient source gods from whom Hawaiians were descended.
ʻAumakua can manifest in nature. The form varies family to family. Whatever its form, the ʻaumakua is only one specific shark, owl, etc. However, all members of the species are treated with respect by family members.
If family ʻaumakua, these manifestations were not harmed or eaten; in turn, ʻaumakua warned and reprimanded in dreams, visions, and calls.
"ʻAumākua 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
ʻAumākua could appear as:
- honu sea turtle
- moʻo gecko, lizard, or dragon 
- pueo, owl (on Manoa, Oʻahu, Kau and Puna)
- manō, shark (all islands)
- ʻalalā, crow (island of Hawaiʻi)
- ʻio, hawk (on island of Hawaiʻi)
- ʻelepaio, monarch flycatcher (also the goddess of canoe makers)
- ʻiʻiwi, honeycreeper (whose feathers were used extensively in featherwork)
- ʻalae ʻula, Hawaiian gallinule (whose cry was considered a bad omen)
- heʻe, octopus
- puhi, eel
- ʻiole liʻiliʻi, mouse
- ʻiole, rat
- ʻīlio, dog
- peʻelua/ʻenuhe/nuhe/ʻanuhe/poko, caterpillar
- pōhaku, rock
- leho, cowry
- ao, cloud
- mea kanu, plant
Hawaii spirit helpers who would either be permitted to continue on to the realm of spirits or, because they still had earthly obligations, be sent back to their bodies. Here is a photo of what could possible be a “spiritual aumakua!”
The Aumakua appear as protection deities in the Luke Coles Book Series, by Josh Walker.
In Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon Tapu Koko is called the guardian deity of Melemele Island and has a mask-like shell that looks like a stylized rooster head. Each other island also has its own specific guardian deity (the butterfly-like Tapu Lele for Akala Island, the bull-like Tapu Bulu for Ula ula Island and the fish-like Tapu Fini for Poni Island). There is also a line of dragon Pokémon based on the mo'o.
In the 2016 Disney movie, Moana, Maui transforms into a hawk, a gecko and a shark, reference to the ‘io, mo‘o and manō. Additionally, the concept of the Aumakua is evidently an inspiration for Tala's transformation into a manta ray; the Aumakua is referenced by name in pre-production artwork.
In the 1993 novel The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, Aumakua is discussed as a synonym for the 'oversoul' or 'morphogenetic field' of a virus as a collective entity in the ch'i world. The virus is a major plot device.
On the show Hawaii Five-O, Kono Kalakaua mentions that her family's Aumakua is the manō so she wants to protect them. This is in season 7 episode 15.
- Pukui, Mary Kawena; E. W. Haertig, Catharine A. Lee (June 1983). Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source). Hui Hanai. ISBN 978-0-9616738-0-2.
- |author= Pali Jae Lee
- Banko, Paul C.; Donna L. Ball; Winston E. Banko (2002). "Hawaiian Crow (Corvus hawaiiensis)". In A. Poole. The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Hollier, Dennis (August–September 2007). "Learning the Land". Hana Hou!. 10 (4).
- "Tapu Koko". Pokemon Sun-Pokemon Moon. Nintendo. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- Moana (2016)
- "Hawaii's Spirit Guardians" Article by Rita Goldman in Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine, Vol.14 No. 6 Nov 2010.
- "THE MEANING BEHIND HAWAIIAN SYMBOLS: The Guardian Spirits" Article by OluKai, THE MEANING BEHIND HAWAIIAN SYMBOLS, 3 Nov 2014.