Kauila, Hawaii’s Legendary Maternal Turtle

In nature, one of the most dangerous things a person can do is get between a mother and her baby. Regardless of species, mothers have a fierce instinct to protect the young. An ancient Hawaiian myth tells us about one of the most protective mothers ever. Kauila the sea turtle had a maternal instinct that was not limited to her own young. She watched over the human children, keeping them safe and protecting them from harm.

Long, long ago, Kauila’s mother emerged from the sea and like all mother turtles, she dug a deep hole with her flippers. But unlike other mother turtles who lay up to a hundred eggs at a time, she laid just one egg. One very special egg. Because she was nothing like the other mother turtles, and neither was her offspring. She dug such a large hole, that later when her hatching Kauila dug her way out of it, rain filled it in and created a pond.

Turtle mothers lay their eggs at about the same time in large groups. The eggs hatch at roughly the same time, and all the baby turtle hatchlings rush to the sea together. This helps keep them safe from predators, although many are eaten on that short but perilous journey. When Kauila hatched out of her egg, she was an exceptional dark, beautiful color, the same shade as a native tree called Kauila, hence her name.

Playmate and Protector

She rushed out to see with the other hatchlings, but when she grew up she returned. Female turtles always return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs when they mature. This amazing ability is called natal homing. Experts think they can do this because of a combination of two skills they have. Turtles can identify their home beach, probably by both smell and memory of geographic features. They can also navigate by detecting the Earth’s magnetic field and using it to determine exactly where they are.

When Kauila returned with the others, she did not lay a nest of eggs and swim off. She stayed.

Kauila was not an ordinary turtle (explore: sea turtle necklaces). She was a goddess, and she loved human children as much as her own hatchlings. She loved to play with them, and she also protected them. The children would come to the pond created when Kauila’s mother buried her egg, and Kauila would be there to watch over them. She would sometimes take the form of a little girl so she could play with them.

The local people loved Kauila. Not only did she watch over their children, her special pond gave the community fresh water. Generations of Hawaiians told the legend of Kauila, and today there is even a monument to her at Punalu’u Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. The sand there is rich and dark, like the colour of the legendary turtle Kauila, because it is made of basalt from volcanic eruptions.  Kauila is not the only turtle who enjoys Punalu’u Beach. The area is home to many green turtles, and all of them are a bit magical.

If you know a mother like Kauila who is as fun-loving as she is protective, she might love some of our mother and baby turtle jewelry.

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