Mythological Creature Archive

Mythical Creature, ‘the Aitu,’ general term for ghosts of Polynesia-with writing prompt


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Polynesian Ghost Stories

Within the Polynesian languages, the word aitu refers to general ghosts or spirits… often malevolent. According to Wikipedia the word is common to many languages of Western and Eastern Polynesia. In the mythology of Tonga, for example, ʻaitu or ʻeitu are lesser gods, many being patrons of specific villages and families. They often take the form of plants or animals, and are often more cruel than other gods. These trouble-making gods are regarded as having come from Sāmoa. The Tongan word tangi lauʻaitu means to cry from grief, or to lament.

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There was widespread belief in ghosts in Polynesian culture, some of which persists today. After death, a person’s ghost would normally travel to the sky world or the underworld, but some stay on earth. In many Polynesian legends, ghosts were often involved in the affairs of the living. Ghosts might also cause sickness or even invade the body of an ordinary person in a possession, to be driven out only by strong medicines. The patient would be treated with strong-smelling plants such as beach pea, island rue or ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa.)

In some societies, the tattoo marks on the Polynesian’s face told a story. A spiral symbol meant that the man favored the sky world, but before ascending there the

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wind his ghost had to travel to his people’s homeland, situated in the navel of the world. Different markings indicated that the ghost chose to live in the underworld. The Hawaiians believe in “aumakua“, ghosts who did not go down into Po, the land of King Milu. These ghosts remained in the land of the living, guarding their former families.

According to Wikipedia, all Polynesian societies have stories of ghosts or spirits and they play a role in their culture. William Drake Westervelt collected and published eighteen of the stories in Hawaiian Legends of Ghosts and Ghost-Gods (1915). Read it for free here. Read about the legend of Maui, the demi-god for free here.



Here are a few of short stories, for your writing inspiration!

The legend of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanic fire, is about how she fell in love with a man, but found that he had died. She found his ghost as a thin presence in a cave, and with

great difficulty, used her magical powers to restore him to life. He was destroyed again, but his ghost was once more found, this time in the form of a bird flitting over the waters, and he was once more restored to life.

Another Hawaiian legend tells of a young man who was captured by the hands of the priests of a high temple. They sacrificed him to their god, and then planned to treat his bones dishonorably. Oh no!

The young man’s ghost revealed the situation to his father through a dream, and aided his father in retrieving the bones through great exertions and to place them in his own secret burial cave. The ghost of the young man was then able to joyfully go down to the spirit world.


Writing Prompt –

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On the island of Tonga, there is a house. Three Aitu live there, a man, a woman and a child. They make up the Kalama family. The Kalama’s have lived in the house since it was built, because they were the family that built it. The three were killed long ago in a fire off of the property. They inhabit their old home, using it in the same way that they once did. Hanging laundry out to dry, cooking and sweeping. The new family in the house, the Iona family don’t seem to mind them too much.

The Kalama’s have gotten used to the Iona’s over time, of course, but there is one thing that is really starting to bother them. The eldest daughter of the Iona’s is starting to date. She is very beautiful and the young man in whom she is showing interest is the son of the couple who caused the Kalama’s death.

How and why did the Kalama’s die? What will happen now that this young man is constantly coming to the house? What will the Kalama’s do?

If you find this article fun and interesting and you decide to expand on this story -let me know how it continues in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!



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