The reaction to my initial list of the Top Eleven Deities In Hawaiian Mythology has been nothing short of phenomenal. Many people indicated they had no idea that the islands had such a large and colorful pantheon of deities. They also indicated they wanted to know more about some of the other gods and goddesses in the myths of the Hawaiian Islands, so here is Part Two of my look at Hawaiian Mythology as a subset of Polynesian Mythology. I’ll be addressing other Polynesian Island groups in the near future. For Part One click here: https://glitternight.com/2011/02/20/the-top-eleven-deities-in-hawaiian-mythology/
For other pantheons I’ve covered click here:
FOR INUIT GODS AND GODDESSES CLICK HERE- https://glitternight.com/2011/06/06/the-top-12-deities-from-inuit-mythology-2/
*****NEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHOCTAW INDIAN GODS AND GODDESSES – https://glitternight.com/2012/06/03/the-top-twelve-deities-in-choctaw-mythology/
11. OPUHALA – The goddess of coral, coral reefs and canoe bailers. Because of the sharp, abrasive nature of coral, fish with spiny scales were also considered to be under her rule. She was the daughter of the sea god Kanaloa and the aunt of the demigod Maui. In some traditions it is said she provided enormous jagged chunks of coral for Maui to use as hooks when he was fishing up islands.
10. KALAIPAHOA – The Hawaiian poison god. His images were always carved from the nioi, a poisonous pepper tree sacred to him. He was believed to be able to ride comets across the sky. Kalaipahoa was originally worshipped only on the island of Molokai but his worship spread to all the other Hawaiian Islands after their unification into a single kingdom under Kamehameha I. Oddly, this god is also associated with gamblers.
9. PUENUI – The god of owls. He had the power to restore life to wandering spirits he would encounter during his nocturnal hunting. He and the night-flying birds he was the lord of loved to feed on the Menehune, the Hawaiian version of elves and dwarves who were the mythical original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. Being nocturnal, Puenui courted the moon goddess Hina, who rejected him and the nightly cooing of all owls is said to represent the god’s mournful longing for the object of his unrequited love.
8. KANA – Known as “the stretching god”. This unusual deity is noted for his ability to stretch his body over tremendous distances, like stretching his legs to so great a length he could walk from island to island like they were stepping stones. When the chief of Moloka’i and his men abducted Kana’s mother the god stood on the beach the abductors had set sail from and stretched his torso all the way out to sea to rescue her.
His greatest feat was returning the sun, moon and the stars when gods from Tahiti had stolen them. Various geographical features on the Hawaiian Islands are said to be footprints and battle aftermath from this god’s adventures.
7. POLIAHU – The Hawaiian snow goddess, who lives on the snow-capped mountain Mauna Kea on the Big Island. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the few Polynesian Island groups that ever receive snow, so such a deity is rare indeed in that part of the world.
Poliahu was courted and married by the semi-divine chief Aiwohi, but when he was unfaithful to her with a previous lover she surrounded the two of them with constant snowfall until the woman deserted him. Poliahu then abandoned him herself. Her younger sister is Lillinoe, the goddess of the mists.
6. RANGI – Also called Wakea, Rangi was the sky god who, with his wife Papa the Earth goddess, spawned many of the major deities in the Polynesian pantheon. His son, the god Kane, separated the Earth and sky to make room for himself and the other gods and goddesses to be born and so that the rest of creation could proceed.
Rainfall is said to be Rangi’s tears of sadness at being separated from Papa. In some traditions it is Rangi instead of Lono who was said to have used a net to fish up the sun and the moon and set them in orbit. After his separation from Papa he took to fishing up human beings to his position in the sky and devouring them. Maui put a stop to that by pushing the sky (Rangi) up even further away from the Earth, putting people out of range of Rangi’s fishing nets.
5. PULUPULU – The patron god of canoe makers, credited with inventing the adze, a tool used in chopping, shaving and hollowing trees out into canoes. He was invoked before chopping down sacred ohi’a trees used in building heiau temples. He was a son of the god Kane, lord of trees, forests and jungles and his vocation as canoe builder was appropriate to that filial role.
Since trees were part of Kane’s domain and canoes were built from wood obtained from trees, canoes and other ocean-going vessels were seen as an extension of Kane’s ages-old rivalry with his brother, the sea god Kanaloa. The idea went that boats allowed land-dwellers to survive out on the element commanded by Kanaloa as well as to fish and therefore feed on the sea god’s subjects.
Pulupulu was eventually banished from the Hawaiian islands by the fire goddess Pele for siding with their sister Hi’i’aka when she and Pele were both in love with the mortal Prince Lohiau. For details click HERE
4. HINA – The moon goddess who was the sister and eventually the wife of Maui, the sun god. Hina was the patron goddess of tapa beating and the figures on the face of the moon are said to be Hina beating tapa.
Hina’s beauty made her much sought after and she rejected the advances of the owl god Puenui in a famous myth. She supposedly first traveled to the moon to get some peace from the constant attentions of her suitors. At one point Maui transformed her husband Ika into the first dog, and that is why this goddess is often depicted with a dog at her side.
Eventually the eel god Tetuna stole Hina away to be his lover and when Maui came to free her he first had to defeat Tetuna’s legion of sea monsters, then Tetuna himself. Maui transformed the slain eel god into the first coconut trees, with his slender body the trunks and his head becoming the coconut fruit. Maui and Hina then married each other.
3. PAPA – The Earth goddess and the wife of Rangi, the sky god. Together they were the parents of the next generation of major deities, like Kane, Lono, Ku, Haumea, Kanaloa etc. When the constant lovemaking of Papa and Rangi was leaving no room for all the deities forming in her womb to be born, Kane, the god of trees and other wild plant life, was the only god powerful enough to separate the Earth and sky so that he and his siblings could be born and so that the rest of creation could commence.
Only Luau, the god of earthquakes, remained in Papa’s womb and he is still there today, with his stirring being the cause of earthquakes. Papa is a very complex deity and is sometimes worshipped as if she is also Haumea the mother- goddess and Milu the death goddess or, conversely,as if they are each aspects of Papa. Most often, however, they are regarded as three separate entities.
2. HI’ I’AKA – The goddess of journeys and journeyers, pathways and wayfarers. Lost travelers pray to her to guide them. In some traditions Hi’i’aka is credited with inventing the Hawaiian lei.
This sister of the fire goddess Pele is a central figure in a famous Hawaiian epic myth in which both she and Pele are in love with Lohiau, a mortal prince of the island of Kauai. Pele falls in love with Lohiau first and dispatches Hi’i’aka from Mt Kilauea on the Big Island all the way to Kauai to bring Lohiau back to be her husband. Complications arise when Hi’i’aka falls in love with Lohiau herself and he returns her affections.
Their journey involves many perils and menaces as well as encounters with many other deities in the Hawaiian pantheon. The tale also includes Hi’i’aka’s journey to the realm of Milu the death goddess to bring Lohiau back to life after Pele kills him in a jealous rage. Eventually she and Lohiau return to Kauai to live together happily. For the full story click HERE
Hi’i’aka is sometimes identified with Pele’s other sister Laka, the goddess of love and beauty.
1. KANALOA – Also called Tangaroa, he is the sea god and a brother of the gods Ku, Lono and Kane. He rules over the sea and all the creatures in it and is often depicted as part man, part squid. He was one of the gods who mated with the goddess Haumea and a popular myth holds that after the couple produced the lesser sea gods he and Haumea mated in the forms of each of the creatures of the deep, spawning the first brood of each species.
Not long after Kane separated Papa and Rangi Kanaloa fought with the gods under the leadership of Kane for supremacy of the world. The deities under Kane emerged triumphant, mostly due to the battle prowess of Ku, the god of war. In fact, on one front of the war, the island of Havaiki, the mythical homeland of all the Polynesian peoples, a son of Ku named Uenuku led tribes of Kane supporters against tribes of Kanaloa supporters.
Uenuku’s people emerged triumphant and drove the Kanaloa worshippers off the island but Kanaloa retaliated by gradually submerging Havaiki, forcing the victors to abandon the island as well, with this mass evacuation being the mythical cause of the mass nautical migration of the Polynesians to various scattered island groups.
This is also why submerged Havaiki is sometimes seen as the land of the dead in some tellings. In other versions there is a tripartite division of the dead with wicked souls going to Milu, virtuous souls going to Hunamoku and the souls of people who die at sea going to Havaiki. In some Polynesian myths Kane and Kanaloa came to be seen as two sides of the same god, causing creation on both land and sea.
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