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Discover the meaning behind the Hawaiian Fishhook Makau

ancient hawaiian fishhooks

The ancient Hawaiians have a deep connection and reverence for the ocean not only because of its vast and majestic nature but because it was a source of food and means of travel. Imagine a time where there were no cars, motors, or electricity. When all you had was a canoe and the stars to navigate your way across the ocean. Hawaiians were expert celestial navigators who used the stars and sound of the oceans waves to guide them on sailing expeditions traveled by canoe.

The ocean was also plentiful and provided fish and shell fish like crabs, clams, oysters, lobsters, octopus, and more as a source of food. Not only were fish caught by fishing hooks but the ancient Hawaiians created fish ponds to lure the fish into shore so they could grow big and tasty, they fished with nets (now illegal), spears, and fish hooks.

In the early days of Polynesian settlement in Hawaii, the fishing hooks were made from anything durable and chiseled with hand made tools like sharp stones, lava rock, and coral. Some of the materials fish hooks were made from include but are not limited to teeth, tusk, bone, and shells. Once the fish hook (makau) was chiseled out it could be used to catch fish in the open ocean and the fisherman were so skilled that they created different sized and shaped fishing lures to catch different types of fish. Larger fish were caught using fishing lures from human and animal bone and the smaller fish were generally caught with mother of pearl and turtle shell makaus.

Hawaiian makau:

In todays culture the fishhook is worn as a talisman or amulet and stands for everything that is good and promises its wearer prosperity, strength and good luck. It can also mean that you are a great provider just as the ancient Hawaiian fisherman were providers of food for their families and friends.

When I carve a traditional Hawaiian makau I try to stay as true to the original shapes as possible to keep a historical look and feel.