In Hawaiian mythology, an ʻaumakua (//; often spelled aumakua) is a family god, often a deified ancestor. The Hawaiian plural of ʻaumakua is nā ʻaumākua ([naːˈʔɐumaːˈkuwə]), although in English the plural is usually ʻaumakuas. Nā ʻaumākua frequently manifested as animals such as sharks or owls. Nā ʻaumākua were worshipped at localities (often rocks) where they were believed to "dwell". The appearance of an animal one regarded as an ʻaumakua was often believed to be an omen (of good or ill). There are also many stories of nā ʻaumākua (in animal form) intervening to save their descendants from harm. It was extremely bad luck to harm a manifested ʻaumakua.
Some families had many ʻaumakua. Mary Kawena Pukui's family had at least fifty known ʻaumakua.
Nā ʻaumākua were thus animals, places or rocks, and people. Ancient Hawaiians would have seen no contradiction in a powerful spirit being able to appear as all three, switching from form to form as convenient—as is indeed seen in many stories of gods and demigods.
A symbiotic relationship exists between person and ʻaumakua, the personal guardians of each individual and their family and the ancient source gods from whom Hawaiians were descended.
ʻAumakua can manifest in nature. The form varies family to family. Whatever its form, the ʻaumakua is one specific shark, owl, etc. However, all members of the species are treated with respect of family members.
If family ʻaumakua, these manifestations were not harmed or eaten; in turn, ʻaumakua warned and reprimanded in dreams, visions, and calls.
"ʻAumākua are intimate members of the human family, spiritual relationships with them are especially close and their presence is sought for feast and festivity, as well as in time of crisis. They act as healers and advisors, counteracting troubles and punishing faults." - J. Gutmanis
ʻAumākua could appear as:
- honu (turtle)
- mo'o (gecko)
- pueo, owl (as at Manoa, Oʻahu, Kau and Puna)
- manō, shark (all islands except Kauaʻi)
- ʻalalā, crow (island of Hawaiʻi)
- ʻio, hawk (on island of Hawaiʻi)
- ʻelepaio, monarch flycatcher (also the goddess of canoe makers)
- ʻiʻiwi, honeycreeper (whose feathers were used extensively in featherwork)
- ʻalae ʻula, Hawaiian gallinule (whose cry was considered a bad omen)
- heʻe, octopus
- puhi, eel
- ʻiole liʻiliʻi, mouse
- ʻiole, rat
- ʻīlio, dog
- moʻo, lizard, or dragon
- peʻelua/ʻenuhe/nuhe/ʻanuhe/poko, caterpillar
- pōhaku, rock
- leho, cowry
- ao, cloud
- mea kanu, plant
The Aumakua appear as protection deities in the Luke Coles Book Series, by Josh Walker.