In Hawaiian mythology, or Kūkaʻilimoku is one of the four great gods. The other three are Kanaloa, Kāne, and Lono. Feathered god images or ʻaumakua hulu manu are considered to represent Kū. Kū is worshipped under many names, including Kū-ka-ili-moku (also written Kūkaʻilimoku), the "Snatcher of Land".[1] Kūkaʻilimoku rituals included human sacrifice, which was not part of the worship of other gods.

Names of KūEdit

Owing to the multiplicity inherent in Hawaiian concepts of deity, Kū may be invoked under many names, which reference subordinate manifestations of the god.

Forest and rainEdit

  • Ku-moku-haliʻi (Ku spreading over the land)
  • Ku-pulupulu (Ku of the undergrowth)
  • Ku-olono-wao (Ku of the deep forest)
  • Ku-holoholo-pali (Ku sliding down steps)
  • Ku-pepeiao-loa/-poko (Big and small-eared Ku)
  • Kupa-ai-keʻe (Adzing out the canoe)
  • Ku-mauna (Ku of the mountain)
  • Ku-ka-ohia-laka (Ku of the ohia-lehua tree)
  • Ku-ka-ieie (Ku of the wild pandanus vine)

Husbandry and FishingEdit

  • Ku-ka-o-o (Ku of the digging stick)
  • Ku-kuila (Ku of dry farming)
  • Ku-keolowalu (Ku of wet farming)

Ku-ula or Ku-ula-kai (ku of the abundance of the sea)


  • Ku-nui-akea (Ku the supreme one)
  • Ku-kaʻili-moku (Ku snatcher of land)
  • Ku-keoloewa (Ku the supporter)
  • Ku-hoʻoneʻenuʻu (Ku pulling together the earth)


  • Ku-waha-ilo (Ku of the maggot-dropping mouth)[2]


He is known as Akua, (god) of war, politics, farming and fishing. He is also known as the husband of the goddess Hina. Hina[3] Some[who?] have taken this to suggest a complementary dualism, as the word in the Hawaiian language means " to stand " while one meaning of hina is " to fall ".[4] This analysis is not supported by evidence from other Polynesian languages which distinguish the original "ng" and "n". Hina's counterpart in New Zealand for example, is Hina, associated with the moon, rather than Hinga, "fallen down". Thus, the Hawaiian name Hina is probably rather connected to the other meaning of hina, denoting a silvery-grey color[4] (like the full moon); indeed the moon is named Mahina in the Hawaiian language. Kū, Kāne, and Lono caused light to shine in upon the world. They are uncreated gods who have existed from eternity.[5]

Guardian statues of King Kamehameha IEdit

Kūkaʻilimoku was the guardian of Kamehameha I, who unified the Hawaiian archipelago under one ruler and established the Hawaiian kingdom. He had monuments erected to the deity at the Hōlualoa Bay royal complex as well as his residence at [[Kamakahonu], both in the district of Kona, Hawaiʻi. Three colossal statues of the god Kū were reunited for the first time in almost 200 years at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu in 2010.[6] They were dedicated by Kamehameha I at one of his temples on the archipelago in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. These very rare statues (no others are known extant) were later acquired by the Bishop Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and the British Museum in London.[7][8] One feathered god image in the Bishop Museum is thought to be Kamehameha I's own image of his god. However it is still unclear whether all feathered god images represent Kū.[9]

Kinolau (Body forms)Edit

In the animal world Kū was believed to embody the forms of Manō (shark), Kanaka (man), ʻIo (Hawaiian hawk), Niuhi (man-eating shark), ʻĪlio (dog), Moa (chicken), Iʻa ʻUla (red fish). In the plant world, he was believed to embody the forms of ʻIeʻIe (Freycinetia arborea) vine, ʻŌhiʻa Lehua (metrosideros collina)flower, ʻulu (breadfruit), niu (coconut), and noni (Morinda citrifolia) fruit.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Beckwith, Martha (1970). Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 15. ISBN 0870220624.
  2. ^ Beckwith, Martha (1970). Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0870220624.
  3. ^ Beckwith (1970): p.12
  4. ^ a b Pukui et al. (1992): p.25
  5. ^ Tregear (1891): p.540
  6. ^ Honolulu Advertiser Article
  7. ^ Peabody Essex Museum Oceanic Collection
  8. ^ British Museum Highlights
  9. ^ "`aumakua hulu manu Kuka`ilimoku (feathered god image)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 16 November 2010.