Na Akua ~ Hawaiian Gods

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North Shore Eco Tours / Myths & Legends, Traditional Culture / Na Akua ~ Hawaiian Gods

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Filed Under: Myths & Legends, Traditional Culture by Noah March 4, 2011, 8:29 pm

Hawaiians are a deeply spiritual people.  Their inspiration and mana (spiritual power, energy, and life force) come from the powerful forces of their natural world.  This world was immense.  It stretched beyond the eight main Hawaiian Islands and encompassed Kahiki, Aōtearoa, Te Pito o te Henua and everything in-between.  It spanned the breadth of earth’s largest ocean and included a sea of stars in an endless night sky.  Based on the enormity of their world, it is no wonder why ancient Hawaiians were polytheistic.

There are over 400,000 different gods recognized in Hawaiian culture.  These include the principal deities, demi-gods, ʻaumakua (ancestral gods), and many lesser akua (gods).  Each had their own realm of influence over some aspect of Hawaiian society.  In this pantheon of akua were those who had greater kūleana(responsibilities) such as war or politics and others with less important roles.  Not all akua Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian gods) were worshiped by each individual.  Gods varied from place to place and from island to island.  Gods also differed according to a person’s area of expertise, for example, a canoe maker wouldn’t necessarily pray to the gods of hula (dance) for support and vice versa.  There were, however, some deities and spiritual beliefs that all Hawaiians adhered to regardless of status or class.

Listed below are the major gods collectively known as Ka Hā (lit. the four) that influenced every aspect of the Hawaiian world.  They were equally revered amongst all islands in ancient times and are recognized throughout Polynesia as some of the most powerful gods in Oceania.

In this list, readers will find the common name for each god, along with their sphere of influence.  Also included are some of the main kinolau belonging to each akua.  Kinolau literally means “many forms.”  They are the physical manifestations of an akua and even though they often take the form of a plant or animal, kinolau are not limited to only flora and fauna.

Common name:
Other names: Kūnuiākea, Kūkāʻilimoku.
God of: War, politics, sorcery, farming, fishing, bird catching, canoe building.
Kinolau: ʻIeʻie, ʻŌhiʻa Lehua, Loulu, ʻUlu, Niu, Pueo, Manō, ʻIo, Niuhi, ʻĪlio, Koa.

 

Common name: Lono
Other names: Lonoikaoualiʻi, Lonoikamakahiki.
God of: Peace, fertility, agriculture, prosperity, sports, healing (medicinal herbs), love making.
Kinolau: Puaʻa, Kukui, Hāpuʻu, Ipu, Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa, ʻAmaʻama, ʻŌhua Palemo, thunder, clouds, lightning, rain.

 

Common name: Kāne
Other names: Kanenuiākea.
God of: Freshwater, life, procreation, canoe builders, increase of ʻoʻopu, healing.
Kinolau: Wai, ʻOhe, Kō, Lāʻi, Wauke, Kalo, forests, sunrise.

 

Common name: Kanaloa
Other names: N/A
God of: Deep ocean, ocean winds, fishing, voyaging, healing.
Kinolau: Ocean, Maiʻa, Mūheʻe, Heʻe, ocean winds, sunset.

 

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Noah Keola Ryan is a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and educator on the island of O’ahu. He is a lecturer of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi and owner of North Shore EcoTours and Pa’ala’a Cultural Farms.

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