In the traditions of ancient Hawaiʻi, Kanaloa is symbolized by the squid or by the octopus, and is typically associated with Kāne in legends and chants where they are portrayed as complementary powers. For example: Kāne was called upon during the building of a canoe, Kanaloa during the sailing of it; Kāne governed the northern edge of the ecliptic, Kanaloa the southern. In this way, they represent a divine duality of wild and taming forces like those observed like the popular yin-yang of Chinese Taoism.
Kanaloa is also considered to be the tiki god of the Underworld and a teacher of magic. Legends state that he became the leader of the first group of spirits "spit out" by the gods. In time, he led them in a rebellion in which the spirits were defeated by the gods and as punishment were thrown in the Underworld.