The Gods of Oceanic Mythology
The trouble with Oceanic legends is that there are more islands and peoples than fishes in the sea. And every culture has its own twist on the legendary themes. Gods from one island pop up in another. They change their names. They hide and sneak about. They impersonate one another. It’s a nightmare for dedicated Godcheckers!
Where do we start? Well, we have already cut Australia adrift because that is a whole continent with its own Gods and traditions. We have tried to keep track of all the Oceanic Gods, even if we have to nail them to the seabed. Every time we see waving palms we shall wave back and examine the coconuts. Maps are being flapped and boundaries are being pushed and lots of skirting and scouting has been invoked.
Once upon a time it was just the South Seas and a setting for ripping yarns involving pearls, buried treasure, typhoons, a thrilling battle with a giant octopus and escape from sacrifice and the cannibal cooking pot as a volcano erupted.
Oceanic Gods The current Top Ten:
ABEGUWO, TANE, WAHINI-HAI, TIKI, TANGATA-MANU, JARI, KANE, ABERE MAUI, RANGI
The world is her lavatory. Abeguwo lives in the sky, and whenever she needs to relieve herself she has no inhibitions about letting loose all over the planet.
God of Light. He lets light into the world every day by lifting up a corner of the dark sky He’s also responsible for forests and trees, and invented the tasty Tui bird. Tane seems to work overtime under the name Tane-Mahuta He’s also associated in some obscure way with the Hawaiian Kane, and son of Polynesian Creator God Rangi.
A nasty demoness.
These are protective idols representing the first man created by Tane
The Bird-Man deity of Easter Island, and Earthly representative of Make-Make
A thousand years ago, the Rapanui people were quite content to worship their ancestors, pay homage to Make-Make and build rather a lot of huge MOAI statues. But due to greed and a complete lack of ecological savvy, the flourishing forests were destroyed, the land was over-farmed, and Easter Island became a pretty tough place to live
Daughter of GOGO, a primitive snake Goddess.
7. KANE: Part of the Hawaiian Creator trinity.
With KU and LONGO, he’s the God of Procreation and the Sea. Having made the world and created humans, he dwelt among them for a while but got bored and ascended to a heaven which he’d just made. KANE is associated with the Polynesian TANE , although we’re not sure why apart from a similarity in spelling. It must be a conspiracy by Oceanic rhyming poets.
A Cannibal Demoness who lurks in the marsh and lures people to their doom.
A Pest of a God.
He would nick his brother’s fish off their lines with his own hook and they wouldn’t take him fishing any more. Mum (Queen Taranga) was not pleased and sent him off to his dad MAKEA , King of the Underworld.
God of the Sky.
He fell madly in love with PAPA, the Earth Mother Goddess. In the passion of their embrace, the Earth and the Sky were so tightly cuddled together that there was no room to move.
(Melanesia/New Guinea) Rain goddess whose urine turns to moisture.
(Melanesia) An evil demoness who attacks males.
(Polynesia and Melanesia) A sea god. In the myths of the Solomon Islands, an adaro is a malevolent sea-spirit in the shape of a fish-man with all fins on his feet and gills behind his ears. He has a horn like a shark’s back fin and a pike on his head like a sword fish or sawfish. An adaro can travel along rainbows and koll men by shooting poisonous flying fish at them.
The Samoan Storm-God.
(Melanesia/New Guinea) The creator goddess.
A legendary King Tonga, grandson of Kohai who may have been a primeval earth serpent.
An ahu is a burial platform on Easter Island. There were 160 on the island, where the ancestors lay entombed.
(Polynesia) One of the seven guardians of the world. Her function is to predict death. The others are Fa’a’ipu, Firifiri’Aufau, Nihoniho teitei, ‘Orerorero, Tahu’a, and Tamaumau’orero.
(Polynesia) Goddess of healing and of war.
(Polynesia) A river goddess who takes the form of a dragon.
(Polynesia) Goddess of love.
(Hawaii) Chief of the Little People. The aboriginal little people of long, long ago were called menehune; Alii means highest: thus Alii
(Micronesia) God of knowledge.
A Polynesian deity of the sky who ‘angles’ for mortals on earth, pulling them up in baskets to devour them.
The God of Clouds.
A god of storms. God of the ‘Fierce Squall’.
The Maori god of storms, God of the ‘Howling Rainfall’.
The daughter of Tawhaki and Tangotango.
Ara Tiotio (or Awhiowhio)
The Polynesian God of the Whirlwind and Tornado.
Aremata-rorua and Aremata-popoa
‘Long-wave’ and ‘Short-wave’, two ocean demons who destroy mariners. They are greatly feared by Polynesian mariners because they were totally at the mercy of their immense power.
In the mythology of the Tuamotu (Society) Islands, a religious order first organized by the gods Oro-Teteta and Uru-Tetefa, two brothers living in heaven but later settling on earth. Like the Knights of St John, they were celibate warriors, who recruited their members from among the nobility.
The Maori Goddess of Marages.
An island in the Tongan archipelago. The story runs that Ata was thrown down from heaven. Such stony islands were called Maka-Fonua ‘Thrown-Land’.
A dawn goddess in some South Pacific islands, who created the seas when she miscarried and filled the hollows of the earth with amniotic fluid.
(‘Space’) Atea was the Sky-God in the cosmology of the people of Tuamotu. He married Fa’ahotu. Their first son was Tahu, ‘Knowledge’, who became a great magician. Their second son was Tane, according to some versions of the myth, and another son was Ro’o. Tane and Atea were later cocked in a deadly struggle, like Zeus and Kronos. Finally Tane, using the thunderbolt Fatu-Titi, slew Atea, Many kings of the Tuamotu islands trave their descent to Atea. See also Tangaroa.
The Maori chief who managed to catch a lovely fairy in a net, and married her.
In Samoan myth, a hero who is half-human, half-spirit. He built a miraculous canoe which he completed in one night. Then he summoned the birds from heaven to carry the light craft to the beach of Upolu where chief Alutanga Nuku was awaiting it impatiently.
Name of the first man on Fiji and the first man on Tonga, according to Samoan myth.
An ancestor’s spirit revered as a god.
Atutuahi (or Autahi)
The south star, Canopus, Alpha Carinae, God of the Heavens, which guided Polynesian navigators on their voyages lasting many months. Atutuahi is addressed in hymns as the ‘Mother of the Moon and the Star’.
Auahi-Turoa and the Fire Children
According to Polynesian myth, Auahi-Turoa was the son of the Sun-God Tama Nui-Te-Ra, who sent him down to earth as a comet, carrying the Seed of Fire. On earth, Auahi-Turoa married Mahuika, the Fire-Goddess, or Mother of Fire. They had five sons, the Fire Children, who bear the names of the fingers: Koiti (little finger), Konui (thumb), Koroa (index finger), Manawa (ring finger) and Mapere (middle finger).
(Caroline Islands) The earth goddess.
(Hawaii) Means « Ghost of Your Ancestors ». Huna, the religion of early Hawaii, taught that each person had two souls. When one died the earthly soul (unihi-pili) remained earth-bound and descended to the underworld. The aumakua (higher soul) ascended to the heavens to rejoin the deceased ancestors.
(‘The All-Devouring’) A deity of death in Polynesian mythology.
A king in Kiribati mythology. See Nei Tituabine.
The Maori Storm-God.
(New Guinea) A cannibalistic ogress. When she died she became the crocodile ancestor.
A Kiribati demi-god.
In Kiribati there is a myth of the Sun-God in which he sent a ray of light to a woman on earth and so made her pregnant. She gave birth to a son whom she called Bue. She told her son who his father was, so he built a canoe and set out one night towards the east, hoping to meet his father.
The Fijian Shark-God, eater of lost souls.
(Melanesia/Fiji) The Serpent-God, a judge in the Land of the Dead.
In Fijian mythology, Degei is the Serpent-God in the Kauvadra hills. After death the soul faces a long journey from the sunny land of the living to the cold, misty Land of the Dead. Degei will interrogate the souls as soon as they arrive.
(Micronesia) Mother of the sun, moon, and sea.
(Melanesia) A malignant spirit who tried constantly to frustrate human enterprise by making crops fail, scaring fish away from nets, etc. Some places he was a male god, in other places she was a female goddess.
The Samoan first woman.
In Hawaiian mythology, a kabuna, a diviner who can see the spirits, cure diseases and return the dead to life. One day, Eleio set out to find the root of the awa (kava) plant. Ahead of him he saw a lovely girl. He walked faster to catch up with her but so did she. e ran, but so did she. Over hills and woods she flew ahead of him. At last, on top of a high rock overlooking the ocean, by an old tower in which the kings of the past lay buried with their families, she turned to face him, saying, ‘Leave me alone. I am a spirit. This is my home. Now go to that house there in the valley. My parents live there. Tell them you saw me and they will give you presents.’ After these words, the ghost vanished. Eleio entered the tower and there he saw the dead body of the girl. She had not been dead for long. She was as beautiful as her spirit had been. Quickly, Eleio left the mortuary (you must not stay long near the dead), and went to the house she had indicated. There he found her parents mourning their beloved daughter. He told them that he had seen their daughter, and what she had told him. He ordered a pig to be slaughtered, a meal to be cooked and various objects to be brought. Then he went back to the old tower, accompanied by the dead girl’s family. He chanted his magic incantations continuously. Suddenly he saw the girl’s spirit again. This time he caught it. Bringing it back to the body, he held it there, pressing it against the insteps. It went in and up as far as the knees. There it stoppe4d and only Eleio’s untiring incantations induced it to go further and spread out into all the parts of the body. The girl woke up and rose. Her parents, weeping with joy, helped her to place her first steps in her new life. Bringing her home in triumph, they offered the meal to the gods, after which they gave a feast. The girl, whose name was Aula, suddenly felt hungry. The parents spoke to Eleio: ‘You have created our daughter anew. Without you we would have been inconsolable for life. Please take her as your wife.’ The leaves of the awa or kava plant are believed to have the power to revive the dead if administered with the right formulae.
(Melanesia) Both a war goddess and a fertility goddess.
The Samoan Wind-God.
(Polynesia) Goddess of fertility.
In Samoan mythology, he is the War-God, who is described as a huge octopus, living under the sea with his tentacles reaching to the far corners of the known world like a huge compass with eight hands. Fe’e was believed to cause thunderstorms in which his voice would be heard. The king’s diviners would listen and if the god’s voice was inauspicious, all war plans would be postponed. Fe’e courted the daughter of the King of Upolu, and when the king refused him, he knocked a hole in the barrier reef protecting the island, there the city of Apia now lies. There he had a stone house built for himself, the ruins of which have been pointed out to researchers. Under the sea he had a palace called Bale-Fe’e.
In Melanesia-Papua New Guinea and nearby islands the story of how humans got fire goes like this: The primal being was an ageless old woman named Goga. In her body she nurtured fire, which a human boy stole from her. She pursued the boy who, trying to elude her, accidentally dropped the burning branch onto a tree, which caught fire. Inside the tree was a snake, whose tail caught fire. Though Goga deluged the world with rain, hoping to quench the stolen fire, the snake’s tail continued to smolder, and humans used it to light the first earthly blaze.
God of Mists and Fog.
(Hawaii) Goddess of childbirth.
The God of Wild Roots and ferns
1. (Polynesia) Sister to Pele and her helper in keeping the fires of Kilauea burning.
2. (Hawaii) Patroness of hula dancing.
(Hawaii) Goddess of the moon.
(Polynesia) Goddess of darkness.
The Moon-Goddess, wife of Marama the Moon-God, whose forms are Hina-keha (bright moon) and Hine-uri (dark room).
Goddess of the Night, of Darkness and Death. Hine is actually a universal goddess with many functions. She is represented with two heads, night and day. One of her functions is as patroness of arts and crafts. She loved Tuna the fish-man, out of whose head grew the first coconut.
The Lady of the Ocean Waves. Hine in her fish form.
A benevolent goddess of the wind who blows vessels to their destination.
(Tahiti) God of war.
The mother of the trickster demi-god Maui.
(Polynesia) The first woman.
Polynesian myth tells how their supreme god, Io, created the world. In the beginning there were only waters and darkness. By his word and thought Io separated the waters and created Earth and sky. He said: « Let the waters be separated, let the heavens be formed, let the Earth be. »
The Supreme Being, the « Old One », greatest of the gods who dwells above the sky, in the highest of the twelve upper worlds.
(Hawaii) God of the sea.
(Hawaii) God of fertility, fresh water, and the woodlands.
(Hawaii) Goddess of abortions, childbirth, and fertility.
(New Guinea) Creator of the world.
(Hawaii) The god of power and war.
Hawaiian god of war.
(Polynesia) God of war.
Goddess of mirages.
The Polynesian God of the Winds.
(Hawaii) Goddess of fertile land and dance.
In the mythology of Ata, one of the Tongan islands, Laufakanaa is the God of inds. The heavenly god Tamapo sent Laufakanaa down to earth to rule the winds. He landed on Ata and became its ruler.
(Loyalty Islands) Creator of the world.
The Polynesian God of the Dead.
The one-armed Fijian god of drums.
In Micronesian mythology, she is the great goddess who was never born. She created the world and all that is in it. She lies on her back beneath the sea and when she stirs, it is an earthquake. Her son became the ruler of the ocean and the Underworld, her daughter rose up to heaven where she married the Sky-God. They had a son, Aluelap, who is the possessor of all knowledge.
According to the myths of the people of the Marshall Islands, Loa was the name of the Creator. Living alone in the primeval ocean, he created the colourful reefs and barriers which gradually filled up with sand. Then he made the plants, trees, birds and colourful fish. He placed a god as guardian over each of the islands. Then he created, from between his legs, Wulleb and Limdunanji, the first man and woman. They had many children who, when they had grown up, conspired to kill their father. Wulleb fled and landed on an uninhabited island. There, out of his leg, he gave birth to two more children. The youngest son was called Edao; he became the first magic-worker.
The Moon-Goddess in north Polynesian mythology, who fell in love with a mortal man, Ai Kanaka, and married him. She carried him on her wings to the White Kingdom she ruled. They lived very happily until Ai Kanaka died because he was an earthling.
(Hawaii) God of the sky, rain, and agriculture who descended on a rainbow to marry a Hawaiian girl who was the goddess Laka.
In the mythology of some Caroline Islands peoples, Lugeilan was the God of Knowledge who descended from heaven to teach the people one earth how to cultivate crops. He is associated with the coconut palm.
The great white shark, a monster fish able to swallow a pahi canoe whole.
(Easter Island) Half human, half bird, he was the protector of birds.
(Polynesia) Ruler of the underworld, and as Mahuika is goddess of fire and earthquakes.
The great wind-god, father of the many storm-god, including « howling rainfall » and « fierce squall ».
God of the moon, husband of Hine-keha, Hine-uri.
First woman and divine ancestor, wife of Tiki. She was fashioned by the goddess of mirages out of the noon day heatwaves.
(Melanesia) God of earthquakes.
1.The most famous folktale character of Polynesia is Maui, the trickster hero who steals fire for man (The legend describes the descent of Maui to the underworld, where he learns the art of making fire by rubbing two sticks together), fishes up the islands of the South Pacific, traps the sun to lengthen the day, and helps raise the sky. Maui is also known in Micronesian and some Melanesian folklore.
2.The great Oceanian trickster hero, with powers almost equal those of a god. Maui was born to Taranga, who wrapped the child in her hair and gave him to the sea-fairies. Maui is responsible for many things, including the birth of the myriads of islands in Oceania, the coconut, and the length of the day, which was once too short until Maui beat Ra with a stick and forced him to travel across the sky more slowly.
The « little people » of Polynesian folklore are also called « menehune ».
Ruler of the underworld.
(Hawaii) God of dreams.
Goddess of punishment, who waits at the entrance to the land of the dead for bachelors.
The spider-god. (See Kiribati Mythology at Oceania Mythology Home Page for further information on Nareau).
(Fiji) God of adultery, fire, and fishing.
(Micronesia) Goddess of trees.
(Melanesia) Initiation goddess.
The god of sleet.
(Fiji) The creator, and head god of all the original Fiji gods. Supporter of the world; every time he moves we have an earthquake. He is also the god of good harvest and the king of the land of the dead. He is half snake and half rock.
(Vanuatu) In part of Vanuatu he is considered the creator of the world.
God of war and peace, commander of the warrior hordes of the spirit world. In peace time he is « Oro with the spear down » but in war he is « killer of men ». Patron of the Arioi.
(Fiji) Creator of the world.
(Hawaii) A son of a guardian of the king, who serves the king so well himself that he becomes the greatest chief of all.
Papa (or Enua, Hotu-Papa, Whenua)
Mother earth, wife of Rangi, first woman.
(Hawaii) Goddess of the Underworld.
The earth, a goddess, and the first woman in Polynesian mythology. Her husband is variously called Wakea, Vatea or Tangi. Some traditions relate that this first couple came to Hawaii from the Society Islands in a canoe with two pigs, two dogs and two fowls. Others relate that their original homeland was Ilolo (Jilolo) or Ololoi in the Moluccas, now part of Indonesia. This name, Muluka or Moloka ( ‘Molucca’ ), was the origin of the name of Molokai, one of the Hawaiian islands.
Goddess of fire and the volcano.
Goddess of the waters which surround islands.
Her mother was Tahinariki or Haoumea, or Papa. She married Wahiaroa. One morning Pere wanted to travel so her mother gave her the ocean in a jar to take with her and later to carry her in her royal yacht. In the beginning there was no sea at all, so Pere poured it out whenever she wanted to go. At first she carried the ocean in a jar on her head, and later, when she had poured it all out, the ocean carried h3r in her lovely divine ship. Thus a mother will give birth to a son who will one day ‘support’ her.
Melanesian sun god.
Tama. Nui-te-ra, the sun-god.
God of the upper sky, originally coupled to his wife’s Papa, the Goddess of the Earth, but separated by their children, mainly Tane the God of Forests whose trees pushed the couple apart and provide a space between the brown earth and the blue sky, to make room for creatures to walk and fly.
(Fiji) The god of hell is a man with only one tooth with which he devours the dead.
(Fiji) God of fertility.
The star-god, son of Rangi and Papa, ancestor of the demi-god Maui.
A demi-god, wife of the trickster demi-god Maui who became tired of his mischief and left him to live in the netherworld.
God of agriculture, fruits and cultivated plants. Along with Tane and Tu he forms the creative unity, the Trinity, equal in essence but each with distinctly attributes. They are responsible for making man, in the image of Tane, out of pieces of earth fetched by Rongo and shaped, using his spittle as mortar, by Tu Constructor. When they breathed over him, Man came to life.
God of the sweet potato, staple diet of the people of Oceania.
God of comets and whales.
The healer-god whose curative chants were taught to men to help them drive out evil spirits which cause sickness.
(Tahiti) God of crafts.
Unborn God of Earthquakes, trapped in Papa’s womb.
(Tahiti) A sea god.
God of death in battle.
(Tahiti) Supreme deity.
In the myths of the people of Kiribati, Taburimai was the ancestor of the people, son of the demi-god Bakoa. He had a brother Teanoi, the hammer-headed shark. One day the people of his island plotted to kill Taburimai but Bakoa got wind of the evil plans. He asked Teanoi to carry his brother to safety. This he did by swimming away across the sea. Then, having left his brother safely on the beach at Samoa, Teanoi flew up into the sky where he can still be seen (probably as the constellation Pisces).
(Vanuatu) Creator of the world.
Son of Rangi, the sky-god and himself the god of artisans and boat builders. He is also the God of Light (especially to underwater swimmers because to skin divers light is where life is), the God of artistic beauty, the God of the Forest, and Lord of the Fairies. As creator in one of his minor forms, he is the God of Hope.
(Polynesia) The Maori peoples’ God of the Forests, Birds and Insects.
God of the ocean who breathes only twice in 24 hours thus creating the tides.
(Polynesia) The Maori peoples’ lord of the ocean, and the supreme god who created all the other gods and mankind.
The Samoan Ocean-God See Tangaroa
God of Thunder and Lightning. Tawhaki gives birth to Uira (lightning) out of his armpits. Tawhaki is also the God of Good Health, an artisan god particularly adept at building houses and plaiting decorative mats.
(New Zealand) God of clouds and thunder.
The God of Storms and Winds, leveller of forests, wave-whipper.
A fish-god and vegetarian-god. Tuna lived in a tidal pool near the beach and one day Hine went down to the pool to bathe. Tuna made love to her while she did so and they lived for some time on the ocean bed.
The divine ancestor of all Oceanians who let his people in their fleet to the first islands of Oceania.
(Polynesia) He is sometimes identified as the first man.
A wave-god of monstrous size whose enormous power and quick flaring temper are to be greatly feared.
Lord of the Fishes. (Polynesia) God of the sea.
(Polynesia) The war god.
The God of War, the first man
God of all the Sharks.
(Polynesia) Goddess in charge of keeping the volcano Kilauea burning.
(Samoa) Creator goddess of the world.
(Polynesia) God of fish and reptiles.
The Rain God, whose many sons and daughters, such as « long rains » and « short rains » are responsible for providing the earth with water.
Lightning (see Tawhaki)
(Hawaii) God of sharks.
A minor god of evil, decapitated in a battle amongst the gods and whose head now rolls along beaches looking for victims.
(Polynesian) The demonic mother figure of Polynesia looked like a seductive woman (except for her protruding eyes and her tongue hanging to her toes!). She sneaked through the world at night stealing and eating small children.
(Melanesia) The eight-fold snake goddess was born to a human mother; the woman was afraid of her husband and hid the serpent girl. But he discovered the deception and was so shocked he cut Walutahanga into eight pieces. After eight days of rain, the girl’s body rejoined into a whole. Walutahanga traveled through the islands, tormenting humans in retaliation for her murder. Captured, she was again chopped into eight pieces; everyone, except a woman and her daughter ate the body, and threw her bones into the sea;. It rained for another eight days. Then the bones under the sea again formed themselves into the goddess. To punish humanity, Walutahanga covered the islands with eight huge flooding waves, which killed everyone but the woman and her child, the only ones who had not eaten the goddess’ flesh. The goddess gave these two many gifts, including the coconut and clearwater streams, before again retreating to the ocean.
(Polynesia) This goddess was a coconut-shell divinity who parthenogenetically produced the other gods from her right and left sides. Wari symbolizes the fertile slime of primordial times and literally means « mud ».
(Polynesia) She was a powerful figure who owned the thunder and ate human flesh. Once she descended to earth to marry a warrior chief, misunderstanding his title, « mankiller. » When Whaitiri had taken up residence with her husband, she found that he did not, after all, share her affection for eating humans. Not only that, but he complained about the smell of their children’s excrement. She invented the toilet, showed humans how to use it, and returned to the sky, where she still lives.
The Maori God of Hail.
The Maori Lizard-God of the Dead who lives in the dark misty Underworld and inspires evil thoughts in the minds of people.
A god and the first man according to the myths of some of the Marshall Islands peoples. He was born in an oyster shell from between Loa’s legs. When he lifted the top half of the shell, it became the sky, while the bottom became the earth. This myth aptly explains the Pacific’s colours. See also: Loa