aumakua In Hawaiian mythology, a family GUARDIAN SPIRIT god. The aumakua are linked to the nature gods, and they inhabit everything in nature similar to the kami of SHINTO. They are worshipped and propitiated in order to ensure the protection and well-being of the family. The aumakua are inherited and have a limited jurisdiction in the locality of a family. The aumakua have laws that must be followed. Transgressions are punished, sometimes for generations. Offspring of the aumakua can be born into human families.
Various legends tell of such people, who are endowed with supernatural powers, such as the ability to assume the shapes of animals, plants and rocks. In this respect, they are similar to a totem spirit (see Totemism). The aumakua serve as Psychopompoi and escort the souls of the dead safely to the afterlife in a ghostly procession (see Marchers of the Night).
According to lore, they take the entire body. If for any reason the body is not taken, the family prepares the corpse for burial and its transformation into the aumakua form (such as a snake or shark). It is of vital importance to be on good terms with one’s aumakua, lest a soul be abandoned before reaching the land of the dead. Such abandoned souls haunt the places where they were left, feeding on spiders and moths and maliciously leading travelers astray.
They remain in this limbo until another aumakua takes pity on them and leads them out. If one has not rectified sins and transgressions against the aumakua prior to death, one has a chance to beg for pardon when procession makes the first stopping place.
- Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1970. First published 1940.
- Grant, Glen. Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1996.
Aumakua are the guardian ancestral spirits of Hawaii. The word derives from Au, meaning “far traveling,” and Makua, meaning “ancestors.” In Hawaiian cosmology, Akua are presiding spirits while Aumakua are specific ancestral spirits. A spirit may be an Akua, an Aumakua, or both. Thus Pelé is an Akua (spirit) but also an Aumakua for those who are her descendents.
• There is an actual family lineage involved with Aumakua.
• An Akua is a spirit for everybody, but an Aumakua is only an ancestral spirit for those who are their descendents.
Veneration passes from generation to generation. Aumakua and their descendents are bound with sacred ties. Aumakua are sometimes described as guardian angels. They guide and protect living family members and have, on occasion, been known to resurrect the dead. Aumakua will engage in ritual possession, speaking through a medium’s lips.
Traditional Hawaiian religion was abolished in 1819 but active veneration of Aumakua survived. Devotion to Aumakua was private, secret, and esoteric. Rituals and knowledge were restricted to family members and so were difficult to suppress.
Aumakua sometimes serve as Night Marchers, psychopomps who meet newly dead souls, offering protection and escort service to the beyond. Many claim to have heard the flutes and chanting voices that signal their presence. It is dangerous to encounter Aumakua in their guise as escorts of the dead. If you can’t avoid them, the traditional remedy is to remove all clothing, fling yourself on the ground, lie faceup with your eyes closed, and be very still. Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.
Aumakua are shape-shifters who appear as animals, insects, wind, mist, and rainbows, as well as humans.
Aumakua are traditionally represented by stone or wood Tiki carvings.
Akua; Ancestors; Kamohoali’i; Kanekua’ana; Kihawahine; Kua; Kukauakahi; Pelé; Psychopomp; and the Glossary entry for Possession
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.