V: Pig

Puzzling over the tale of Hawaii's pig-god, Kamapua'a.

quintidi, the 5th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI
A pig in the ocean? Photo by Forest Simon / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is quintidi, the 5th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le cochon, an animal with multiple personalities.

There are approximately 1 billion pigs alive right now. They are, by far, the most measurably intelligent animal raised as livestock. Pigs are opportunistic eaters, social bonders, playful cuddlers, and viciously territorial – a mélange of traits shared with humans. Wherever humans have gone, pigs have come along, adapting to the same climates and inevitably escaping captivity to go feral and become a whole ecological problem. Perhaps only rats have been as successful at piggybacking (pun very intended) on human migration to conquer the world.

While many cultures believe pigs to either be too sacred or untouchable to eat, there are surprisingly few religions, modern or ancient, that have elevated the pig to godhood. Lots of cows, lots of dogs, lots of birds ... and almost no pigs.

Hawaiians are an exception. Their pig god is one of the most complicated and unusual deities in any mythology I've encountered. Let's look into Kamapua'a, demi-god of the common people, avatar of lust, and creator – one way or another – of the islands' lush waterways.