A shapeshifting half-man, half-shark that lures people to their death and feasts on their rotting flesh weeks later.
General: Chicken Skin
General: Legends / Mythology
|Guide Series: Hawaiian Mythology
With many cases of Hawaiian mythology, it's often difficult or illegal to visit the places in the stories we hear. When it comes to the legend of Makua Cave's Shapeshifting Shark-man you can both legally and easily check this one out for yourself. If you dare!
First up is the location which is Kaneana Cave / Makua Cave and it's located in Waianae on Oahu's west coast. It's located roadside shortly before you get to Keawa'ula Beach (Yokohama Beach) and the Ka'ena Point Trail - West Shore. The cave itself is also home to the Upper Makua Cave Hike that offers amazing views but isn't for most hikers.
When you get to the cave, which is also known as Kaneana Cave, you'll likely be a little unimpressed if you don't know the legends and history here. That's because it's not much of a cave and doesn't go back far at all. People also leave food offerings on one of the rocks so it often stinks of rotting food.
But the legend here is pretty impressive and it's about all about a half-man, half-shark creature. That creature's name is Nanaue and he's the Shark God and son of Kamohoali'I (who is the King of Sharks). Kamohoali'I is the brother of Pele - The Volcano Goddess. Remember Pele from some of the other mythology about Lava Rock & Sand Souvenirs and Don't Bring Pork Across Pali? Interesting family for sure!
Back to Nanaue since he's the star of this tale. It's said that when Nanaue was a young boy his mother was warned to never let him eat meat. Doing so might give him a taste for flesh. But when the boy turned 7 years old, making him a man in ancient Hawaiian times, he got his first taste of meat and eventually that led to a hunger for human flesh.
This shape-shifting man-shark took up residence in what is now Kaneana Cave / Makua Cave and would disguise himself as a man to trick humans who he would then kill. After that he'd let their flesh rot for a few days or weeks to enjoy the dead when they were at their tastiest.
Some still believe that Nanaue still occupies the cave today and that's why you'll see so many food offerings here. Sometimes fruit, meat, and even rotting fish will be on display. It's said that if you see an old, wrinkled Hawaiian man trying to lure you into this cave or otherwise cooking / eating meat around here that it could be Nanaue. In general, if anyone is trying to lure you anywhere it's likely in your best interest to not stick around and find out who they are and what their intentions are!
On top of the myth of Nanaue the shapeshifting shark-man, there is also the myth of the dead that haunt this cave. All of those deaths over the years are said to bring about a lot of spirit activity in this area. Reports often include seeing dark, shadowy figured in the cave as well as hearing voices.
One thing is for sure, if you go to the cave you may want to err on the side of caution and show some respect for this place. Many will do a prayer or ask for permission before entering to show their respect of this sacred Hawaiian site.
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