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In Hawaiian mythology, an ʻaumakua (/ˈmɑːkə/; often spelled aumakua) is a family god, often a deified ancestor. The Hawaiian plural of ʻaumakua is nā ʻaumākua ([naːˈʔɐumaːˈkuwə]). ʻAumākua frequently manifested as animals such as sharks or owls. 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.

Some families had many ʻaumākua. Mary Kawena Pukui's family had at least fifty known ʻaumākua.[1]

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:

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.

In Media[edit]

  • As the 2016 video games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon by Nintendo take place in a fictional archipelago inspired by the real-world location of Hawaii, the story makes 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] 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). Also, Decidueye is a Ghost-type Pokémon inspired in the aumakua, along with other motifs.
  • In the 2016 Disney 3D computer-animated musical movie Moana, Maui transforms into a hawk, a gecko and a shark, reference to the ‘io, mo‘o and manō.[6][improper synthesis?][verification needed] Additionally, the concept of the Aumakua is believed to be an inspiration for Tala's transformation into a manta ray; the Aumakua is referenced by name in pre-production artwork.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • On the seventh season's fifteenth episode for the U.S. television series Hawaii Five-O, Kono Kalakaua mentions that her family's aumakua is the manō so she wants to protect them.
  • The name of Amy Hanaiali'i's 2008 CD with the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaiʻi.


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ |author= Pali Jae Lee[full citation needed]
  3. ^ 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. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
  4. ^ Hollier, Dennis (August–September 2007). "Learning the Land". Hana Hou!. 10 (4).
  5. ^ "Tapu Koko". Pokemon Sun-Pokemon Moon. Nintendo. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  6. ^ Moana (2016)[full citation needed]
  7. ^ "Ryan Lang's Portfolio - Moana". Ryan Lang's Portfolio.
  8. ^ Starhawk (10 August 2011). "The Fifth Sacred Thing". Random House Publishing Group – via Google Books.

External links[edit]