Shark Week Shark Gods
Next week , Shark Week on Discovery Channel is set to air. I happen to dig shark week ,but every year while they play the shows, most of them talking either about folks who got harmed by sharks or about people who harm sharks with some science thrown in here and there, I think about Mano, the shark gods of Hawai’i.
In Hawai’ian culture, when one dies they can come back to earth in the form of animal to help protect the family. They are ʻaumakua. ‘Aumakue links Hawai’ians with Po( or the Great Darkness), the realm where ancestors and Gods live. Most families have the same ‘aumakue. And they take care of the ‘aumakua through prayers and sacrifices. The sacrifices are of animals Pig, chicken and other animals and plants, taro but Awa is the highest of all the sacrifices. Awa is a plant, called kava kava in other islands. The caring of your ‘aumakua is reciprocal. You feed and take care of your sister or brother and they take care of you. If your ancestor is Mano, the Shark then one would never, ever eat or harm any shark or shark like animal in the ocean. You would literally be eating your brother sister or ancestor. In exchange, your brother would protect you.
Hawai’i is not the only place that has a Shark God. In the Fiji islands, he is also a protector. His name is Dakuwanga and the stories that he fiercely guarded the reef at the entrance to the Fiji Islands. One day he became engaged in a fight with a giant octopus outside the entrance to Kadavu . Dakuwanga, knowing he was losing the fight plead for his life, promising he would never harm the people of Kadavu. The octopus agreed and to this day, a shark has never harmed the people of Kadavu.
The Cook Islands have a story of Ina the love of the God of the Ocean who lived on a floating island. One day she decided to go find Tinirau but evry time she jumped into the ocean, the waves pushed her back. She asked some fish to help her but they were too small to carry her. Finally A shark agreed to take her. For her journey she took some coconuts and when she became thirsty the shark very kindly raised his dorsal fin so she could crack the coconut in half. After she drank the milk, she had to go to the bathroom and since there was nowhere to go she urinated on the back of the shark. (The islanders still complain that Shark meat smells like urine).
Later she was thirsty and hungry again. This time she cracked the coconut on the sharks head which caused a bump
(called Ina’s bump to this day). The crack with a coconut hurt his head so bad, the shark threw Ina off and dove in to the deep to nurse his pain. Ina floundered for a bit until Tekea the King of all Sharks rose up and rescued Ina. He took her to Tinirau’s island where they were reunited.
In the South Pacific, legend has it that there was a mighty battle between a man-eating shark and the God of the Seas, Ohav-Lai. The shark had challenged the God for supremacy of the seas and the battle was fierce and lasted for an entire day. Finally, after the battle, Ohav-Lai emerged from the deep w ith a sharks tooth around his neck. To this day, if you wear a shark’s tooth necklace while diving or swimming in the ocean, you will be protected from harm.