The Hawaiian Honu (sea turtle) represents longevity, safety and Mana (spiritual energy). Native Hawaiians consider her the bearer of good luck and peace. Many Hawaiians worship the Honu as their ‘aumakua or ancestral spirit guide whose wisdom protects and leads them throughout their lives.
The Honu is honored for the wisdom that comes with age. It is believed that it can live up to 80 years. Sea turtles have evolved about 180 million years ago, long before the Hawaiian Islands were formed. They are one of the few ancient species who outlived the dinosaurs.
Punalu’u Black sands Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii is the sanctuary of the sacred sea turtles. It is the feeding ground for the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Honu) and the nesting ground for the Hawaiian Hawksbill Turtle (Honu`ea). Both species are seriously endangered due to increasing coastal development, illegal hunting, toxic runoffs, and many other issues. Much effort has been made to save these ancient creatures from extinction.
The sea turtle is the only indigenous reptile of Hawaii and has become a significant symbol of the islands. The word for land in the Hawaiian language is 'aina honua. Native Hawaiian’s deep love and respect for the Honu is revealed in their mythology, petroglyphs, and artwork.
A well known story of the Honu is the legend of Kauila, the Hawaiian Turtle Goddess:
The mystical sea turtle Kauila was born on the black sandy shores of Punalu'u, in the district of Ka'u on the Big Island of Hawaii. Her mother and father were Honupo'okea and Honu’ea.
Honupo'okea gave birth to a very special egg with the color and shape similar to a piece of kauila wood. She buried her egg in the black sand to be warmed by the Hawaiian sun until it was ready to hatch. Before returning to the sea, Honupo'okea and Honu’ea used their flippers to dig deep into the earth forming a fresh water pond near their precious nest.
When the egg hatched a beautiful baby turtle emerged. She was dark and glossy, like kauila wood. Mother and daughter lived at the fresh water pond until Kauila was old enough to be on her own.
Punalu'u became Kauila’s home. The bottom of the fresh water pond was her resting place where the air bubbles from her breath would rise to the top of the pond delighting the children of Ka'u. Kauila loved the children so much that she would sometime change herself into a little girl to keep watch over them and play with them on the black sandy shores. The people of Ka'ū loved Kauila as the guardian of their children and also for her spring that gave them pure drinking water.
Kauila’s presence can still be felt today by observing the sea turtles who inhabit this special place.
A bronze plaque at Punalu'u Black Sands Beach honors Hawaii’s Honus and "The Legend of Kauila".
My deep respect for the ancient wisdom of the Honu inspired the creation of Honu Boy, a miniature, collectible Hawaiian Menehune Doll.