Kukauakahi is King of Hawaiian owls and a powerful, aggressive guardian spirit. He may be a manifestation of Ku; his name is interpreted “Ku the Single Battle.”
Owls are considered the most primeval Aumakua, family guardian spirits and Kukauakahi is their leader. Owls remain the most frequently encountered of all Aumakua.
In many places, owls are considered harbingers of death and greeted with dismay. Not in Hawaii, where Kukauakahi is a savior who performs feats of resurrection. Kukauakahi’s appearance on the battlefield was greeted by joy, at least by those for whom he was a protector. He led armies to victory or, if things weren’t going well, found escape routes for fleeing warriors.
A man once found and stole a nest of seven owl eggs but before he could abscond with them, the owl father appeared and pled for mercy. Eventually the man relented and the owl revealed himself as Kukauakahi and ordered the man to build him a heiau (sacred stone shrine). The man did as told, enraging the island’s chieftain who had commanded that no heiaus be constructed without his permission. He sent men to destroy it before it could be consecrated but they were attacked by dive-bombing owls. Kukauakahi’s power was acknowledged; the heiau remained.
In the most famous Hawaiian owl story, an owl Aumakua resurrected Kahala O’Puna, a beautiful young woman from the Manoa Valley beaten to death by her fiancé. He killed her three times and her owl guardian dug her up and revived her three times.
Once upon a time, some corpses were exposed to owls so that they could ritually transform the dead souls into Aumakua, too. Modern stories describe owl Aumakua saving a man from falling off a steep cliff by beating its wings before the man’s face to restore his equilibrium or keeping a drowning swimmer alert at night and leading him to shore in the morning.
If the owls are your guardian spirits or if one performs a feat of rescue for you, offerings on behalf of owls, many of which are critically endangered, are appropriate. The native Hawaiian owl species is the Pueo.
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.