The Religions and Superstitions of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Hawaii Culture |

Hawaiian religion is as diverse as its rich culture. The earliest Hawaiians practiced what is called a polytheistic religion. That is they believed in a number of demi-deities. This gods ranged from Pele, a goddess of fire and volcanoes, to Maui, a prankster god. This particular strain of religion still remains but in more of a traditional folklore among the Hawaiians of the islands.

Though this ancient religion is largely only folklore now, many Hawaiians still adhere to some of the customs. That said, some live in fear when ancient graves are dug up, or remains are disturbed. These superstitions are quite common among the Hawaiian people as compared to American superstition. Though much of the old ways of religion are gone, some remnants remain until this day.

Around 1820, the first Christians arrived and began to convert some of the population. Soon afterwards, a number of religions found their way to Hawaii such as Methodists, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Mormons.

The Chinese were very important to the religious choices of the Hawaiians. The Chinese, largely believing in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism became one of the largest groups of religious teachings in the Hawaiian islands.

Though Christianity is spreading throughout the Hawaiian chain, the largest groups seem to be the Buddhists. There are also a number of the old school polytheists still around, but they are surely in the minority.

The superstitions of Hawaii are largely based on the religious beliefs of the older Hawaiians. Some of the superstitions are quite elaborate. Here are some selected customs and superstitions of the Hawaiian people.


Some Hawaiian people believe in the “Night Marchers.” These were the ancient warriors of the land that would travel the paths along the ridges of the Hawaiian coastline. They are often seen carrying torches at night to light the way to the battlefields.

One of the biggest and most well known customs is the handling of the discovery of bones or burial grounds. While clearing land, if bones or burial grounds are found, a foreman must contact archeologists and Burial Council Officials so that they can properly process the scene. This can cause significant delays in construction but it keeps the spirits of the island happy.

Lava rocks play a prominent role in Hawaiian superstitions as well. It is a well known Hawaiian belief that if anyone takes away lava rocks as a keepsake, that bad luck will follow them everywhere they go. This belief stems from the demi-god Pele, who would create and destroy with fire. This was a clear example of volcanic gods.

Feng shui is another Hawaiian custom that has spread to every corner of the islands. It is a manner of living in which you are one with the environment. The Chinese are masters of Feng shui, and brought this custom along with them when they came to Hawaii.

While these are a few of the better known religions and customs of the Hawaiian people, it is far from all inclusive. The Hawaiian culture is varied and deep, and many variations of all of these ideals are in existence. The Hawaiian people are a true melting pot of societies, and this is part of the allure of this beautiful place nestled in the Pacific Ocean.

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