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.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

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