The earliest history of Hawaiian civilization dates as far back as 400 C.E., when Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands voyaged over 2,000 miles to colonize the islands of Hawaii. The people brought with them Polynesian myths that became the foundation of the Hawaiian pantheon. One of the four main gods is Kanaloa. In Polynesian myths, Tagaloa (his Samoan name and one of many) is known as the god of the underworld and death, somewhat resembling the devil. This dark depiction comes from the creation of man: Kanaloa was the only god who was unsuccessful. His jealousy for the other gods led him to create other things, meant to bring bitterness and sorrow. Yet in Polynesian culture he is also credited as one of the world’s creators. Hawaiian myths acknowledge these powers, but limit them to creating water. In the stories he arrives with Kāne, another one of the major gods, from the Kahiki Pillars, which held up the sky. The two gods roam Hawaii, expanding the powerful ocean and creating springs on the islands. In this way Kanaloa’s significance is transformed, and he eventually takes his place as the main ocean deity in Hawaiian culture. Kanaloa has many sea creatures as his kino lau (many embodiments). He is the lord of the ocean and its winds, deity of the ocean currents and navigation, and god of fisherman and healing. Besides the healing plant Waltheria indica, the octopus, squid, dolphin, and whale are among many plants and animals of Hawaii associated with the powerful god. In chants honoring Kanaloa, Hawaiians ask for assistance in healing a patient, or ask for protection on the sea when fishing or sailing. The ocean’s spiritual importance dates as far back as when the first canoes reached the shores of Hawaii.
Ng, Olivia, "Kanaloa Transformed" (2020). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 413.