In Hawaiian folklore and mythology, there are hundread of gods and goddesses. These gods vary from terrifying, like Ku the great god of war and sorcery who demand human sacifices to appease him to the non-threathening like Nuakea the beneficient goddess of milk and lactation. Some gods have been thought to have died off of been killed, others are still active and very present in everyday life.
While history and tales about gods vary, here are some of the more famous, popular and fascinating Gods:
Perhaps one of the most well known, Pele is the Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes. Described as “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land” in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess, Pele, was passionate, volatile, and tempermental. Throughout the years, she has become the most evident among the gods and goddesses. She is thought to live inside Kilauea Volcano, a still active volcano. In stories, she is related to a number of other well-known gods of Hawaiian lore such as the Shark God, Kamohoali’i, a god that despite being named after what many consider a terrifying animal is known to guide lost sailors home, providing that they feed him the narcotic plant, “awa.”
Haumea is the goddess of childbirth in Hawaiian mythology and thought to be the mother of Volcano God Pele. Her children also include the sea goddess Namaka and Hi’iaka – the goddess of hula dancers, among many others. In one Hawaiian story, it was believed that her children were born arising from different parts of her body. Hi’iaka sprang from Haumea’s mouth while Namaka came from her mother’s thigh. The God Kaulu who is known as the trickster God eventually killed her.
Ku was the much-feared and terrible god of war and sorcery. He was also god of the deep forest, mountains, dry and wet farming and the god of fishing. His images were often carved on the red flowering ohia lehua tree. It was said that akua or image of the god was a roughly carved, small wooden figure with a headdress made of yellow feathers. He was recognized as the husband of goddess Hina, the goddess most frequently associated with the moon. Ku one of the few gods that required human sacrifice, making him one of the most horrifying gods of Hawaiian mythology.
Papa or Papahanaumoku and Wakea
Papa is the goddess of earth and is known as the mother of gods. She married the god of sky Wakea. Together they created the islands of Hawaii as well as “The Heavenly one who made the stars” Ho’ohokukalani. Wakea and Ho’ohokukalani, would go on to have two children being the first instance of incest in Hawaiian mythology.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument was renamed the Papahanamoku Marine Naional Monument in 2007. Native Hawaiian women also worship her and the Hale O Papa is a structure dedicated to her.
The leader of what are known as the four deities. He is the god of procreation, the creator, the giver of life. According to the Kumuhonua legend, he formed the three worlds: the upper heaven of the gods, the lower heaven above the earth, and the earth itself as a garden for mankind; the latter he furnished with sea creatures, plants, and animals, and fashioned man and woman to inhabit it. It is thought that the first man was created in the image of Kane.
With these gods we are only scratching the surface of Hawaiian gods as there are literally hundreds more, each with their own fascinating origin. You can learn more about Hawaiian mythology from the wikipedia page, where we got a lot of our information for the article. Additionally, there are fantastic books on the subject such as Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Wareen Bechwith or The Legends and Myths of Hawaii by King David Kalakaua.
As with any culture that has been around for such a long period of time cultural stories have developed and been passed on from generation and Hawaiian culture is no different. Legends about their gods and goddesses are not fascination but important to understanding this timeless culture.