Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blog #5
Aumakua



My father would not eat shark. If it was served to someone nearby at a restaurant he would sit so he was unable to see the diner eating. His father, a seaman for fifty two years, once told me that big sharks would lead voyagers through difficult channels in Pacific Island areas. 

When you see a Polynesian person with lines of triangular tattoos running down the outsides of their legs you are seeing sharks teeth; an indication that the person has a shark as his or her Aumakua. At my Hawaiian family's reunion a few years ago T-shirts with shark logos were given to all.

Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary defines the word as: Family or Personal Gods, deified ancestors who might assume the shape of sharks, owls ...etc. 

Hawaiian people did not eat their Aumakua. They would feed it if they could. My father told me his uncle John was a strong swimmer who was hired to swim out into Hilo Harbor with a small rope to attach onto a hawser line used to winch the barges in to their landing. Each time he did so, he would bring spoiled meat from the slaughter house and feed a large shark that hung around the pier. According to my dad, the shark would swim with his uncle out to the barge and back and no other sharks would come near.

I have two Aumakuas. Because I'm only part Hawaiian I can't count on the shark to recognize the Hawaiian part. One might come in for a meal of the white meat part when I'm swimming in the ocean. I acquired a second Aumakua while hiking up the Halemau'u trail in Haleakala some years ago. On that day a Pueo, a Short Eared Owl, was day hunting on the slope of the mountain. The big owl swooped back and forth as I stopped to watch and then it flew right over me, paused momentarily and flew off down the mountain.When the owl paused, a remarkable thing happened. I could see into the depth of the gold flecked eyes and they seemed to communicate something to me. 

The owl is Asio flammeus. It wanders to every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and is the only owl native to Hawaii. When I was building my cabin in Gustavus, Alaska in 1974, my late wife Susie and I had a disagreement about where the cabin should be sited. One night when I left the tent we were living in to urinate, I walked to the site I favored and, as I was preparing to do my business, a Pueo flew out of a tree and screamed at me while it flew right over my head. We built the cabin where Susie wanted it.

In my novel, the Pueo plays a major role. Thanks for reading my blog.
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