Shark spirits and gods

Spirits and gods who take the form of sharks are more widespread than you’d think, mainly occurring around islands kingdoms such as Fiji, Hawaii and Greece.  As sharks are massively powerful animals, whom evolution has turned into an efficient apex predator, perhaps it is no wonder that the shark has changed little since prehistoric times, and even less that certain cultures still revere them as mighty spirits and deities.

Akheilos was the sea spirit of the shark in Greek mythology, and had a shark’s head. In the Iliad, it was said to have saved Ajax the Lesser from death by Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. As a punishment for helping Ajax the Lesser, Akheilos lost his godly power to Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses, and was later killed by Athena

In Fijian mythology (specifically: Fiji), Dakuwaqa is a shark-god. He was greatly respected by fishermen because he protected them from any danger at sea and sometimes protected them from evil denizens of the sea. He was once going inland to conquer Kadavu Island through the river when another god challenged him in the form of an octopus. After a great battle, the octopus won (mainly due to his 8 arms which enabled him to hold off the massive shark god’s attack) forcing Dakuwaqa to promise to never attack Kadavu again. That is how Dakuwaqa became the god and protector of Kadavu. Dakuwaqa can also change shape into anything, but his real form is that of a muscular Fijian man with the upper torso of a shark.

In Hawaiian mythology, shark gods protected shipwreck survivors and swimmers from man-eating sharks.  They also chased fish, or schools of fish towards the shore to help provide food.  Shark gods were one of the most popular guardians of fishing families,to bring luck and protection at sea.  Ka-moho-aliʻi is a shark god and a brother of Kāne Milohai, Pele, Kapo, Nāmaka and Hiʻiaka.  Ka-moho-ali’i swam in the area around Maui and Kahoolawe. When a ship was lost at sea, Ka-moho-aliʻi shook his tail in front of the fleet and the kahuna would feed him “awa” (a name for kava, a narcotic drink), and Ka-moho-aliʻi would guide the men home. He is sometimes said to have guided the ships of the original inhabitants of Hawaii from the mainland to their island home in this way. This god was Pele’s brother.  Ka-moho-ali’i had the power to take on the form of any fish.  Alternative: Kalahiki (Kahoolawe)

Hawaii has many species of shark which live in the waters.  Above are shown the inshore species, the offshore ones include the Thresher Shark and the Oceanic White Tip.  In Hawaiian mythology, Ukupanipo is a shark god who controls the amount of fish close enough for the fisherman to catch. He occasionally adopted a human child who gains the power to transform into a shark. There is also Kauhuhu, a story about whom can be found HERE and manoauka, a name for protective shark spirits

For more on the Polynesian mythology, check out this awesome website

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3 thoughts on “Shark spirits and gods

    • Hail and Welcome! Glad you found us again :) It was good to meet and talk at the Craft Camp, Do you mind if we put your link as a permanent one on the sidebar?

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