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In Hawaiian mythology, an ʻaumakua (/ʔmɑːˈkuə/; often spelled aumakua, plural, 'aumākua) is a personal or family god that originated as a deified ancestor, and which takes on physical forms such as spirit vehicles. An 'aumakua may manifest as a shark, owl, bird, octopus, or inanimate objects such as plants or rocks.[1]

Hawaiian-born actor Jason Momoa has a halfsleeve tattoo on his left forearm that is a tribute to his family god, or aumakua which is a shark.[2] Some families had many ʻaumākua. Mary Kawena Pukui's family had at least fifty known ʻaumākua.[3]

Physical forms[edit]

'Aumākua could appear as:

In media[edit]

  • The 2016 Nintendo video games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, which are set in a fictional archipelago inspired by the real-world location of Hawaii, make reference to various aspects of Hawaiian culture, including the 'aumakua. Tapu Koko is called the guardian deity of Melemele Island and has a mask-like shell that looks like a stylized rooster head.[5]
  • In the 2016 Disney animated film Moana, the concept of the 'aumakua is an inspiration for Tala's transformation into a manta ray; the Aumakua is referenced by name in pre-production artwork.[6]
  • In "Ka laina ma ke one" ("Line in the Sand"), a seventh season episode of the U.S. television series Hawaii Five-O, Kono Kalakaua mentions that her family's aumakua is the manō, which motivates her to protect them.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barrow, Leonard J. (June 1999). "'Aumakua (Guardian Ancestors) in the Context of Contemporary Hawaiian Religious Beliefs". Rapa Nui Journal: Journal of the Easter Island Foundation. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  2. ^ Friedman, Megan (2018-07-23). "Are Jason Momoa's 'Aquaman' Tattoos Actually Real?". Men's Health. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Banko, Paul C.; Donna L. Ball; Winston E. Banko (2002). "Hawaiian Crow (Corvus hawaiiensis)". In A. Poole (ed.). The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Archived from the original on August 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
  5. ^ "Tapu Koko". Pokemon Sun-Pokemon Moon. Nintendo. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Ryan Lang's Portfolio - Moana". Ryan Lang's Portfolio.

External links[edit]