In looking backward, we see that it is the male Hawaiian deities who get most of the glory and while there is not as much information available today about the goddesses of old Hawaii - they were important in the daily life of Hawaiians. With that said, Hawaiian Goddesses are actually more invoked today than the four major gods Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono.
Madam Pele, the goddess of the volcano is the most well known. We’ve devoted a separate blog post to her here. In this particular article, however, we’d like to introduce you to four more of the most important female ‘akua in the Hawaiian parthenon.
Haumea is the goddess of childbirth. Some claim she is actually Papa, the Earth mother - but others say she was a mortal woman who achieved so much mana delivering children that she became a deity. Still other stories say that she is the sister of Kane and Kanaloa, the mother of Madam Pele, or the first human woman - the Hawaiian Eve.
Hina is the goddess of the moon and sometimes said to be the wife of Ku. In most stories, it is Hina that is the mother of Maui, the demi-god. Hina is the goddess of fishing and tapa cloth making. She is the goddess of herbs and many Hawaiian herbalists still practice only collecting herbs in the light of Hina, the full moon.
Laka is the goddess of the forest and Hula. Yellow was the color associated with Laka and she is the reason why most Hula Halau are predominantly yellow. In some hula chants she is referred to as the sister of Lono. There is still an active temple dedicated to Laka on Kaua’i at Ke’e Beach which most serious hula practitioners visit at least once in their lifetime.
Hi’iaka, the younger sister of Pele is also a revered Goddess. She is the goddess of fresh water and the clear sky. It is said that she would often warn sailors of approaching storms. She is also known to have brought the dead back to life. She is a healing deity often invoked by healers in chants. She is most associated with the red flower of the ohia lehua.
There are scores more of Hawaiian gods and goddesses but these are the main female deities one is likely to encounter while in Hawaii.
While it is true that the male 'akua of Hawaii are more visible today and there is certainly more information about them readily available than the female 'akua - one should also note that the female deities are the ones who have active worshippers. On the Big Island, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't believe in Madam Pele, every Hula Troop is actually a clergy for Laka and/or Hi'iaka, and the herbalists and midwives in Hawaii (and elsewhere) frequently invoke the names of Hina and Haumea.