Geckos (lizards) are modest representatives of the great magical lizard, the powerful moʻo. They are guardians, not just against bugs.
The moʻo is an ancient mythological being which appears in legends throughout Polynesia. For the Polynesians, geckos were perfect mirror images of this dragon-like monster. It was believed that the great moʻo could simply use the body of the gecko for one of its many manifestations.
Naturally, the gentle, little geckos were deeply respected. They were sacred. The vigilant geckos, with their ability to change colors and to drop wiggling tails when threatened, resembled the moʻo and filled a crucial role in Hawaiian religion.
The moʻo was part of an intricate communication system with the gods. The Hawaiians, like many cultures, depended on sorcery as a means of mediation between divine and human worlds. They needed symbols which showed the effectiveness of their prayers and their rituals. They needed images to which they could adhere to magical powers.
The lizard or moʻo, shape-shifting and agile, was one of the oldest and most powerful of guardian spirits along with the shark, the owl, and the hawk.
These guardian spirits were called ʻaumakua in Hawaiian. Mortals did not harm or eat their living representatives, and their wisdom came through in visions and dreams.