In sunny Hawaii, the island of Oahu is hot, palms swaying in the wind. Along the streets, people from all over the streets are walking side by side. No one thinks of these modern marches of the modern people. But there are other types of marches that are still held in high esteem by the locals. The day time Hawaii is a light place, a sunny place. That is during the day. Then the night comes and darkness prevails. You know, the nights are long, even though they are hot. And the ghost walks among us, just as any other place.
A majority of Hawaii residents can tell about a supernatural or at least creepy encounter in their life. But these encounters are not only creepy, they are holy. One of the most popular to tell is of the Night Marchers, or the Hukai’po.
The Warriors of the Afterlife
They come in groups, beating their pahu drums, pounding out a rhythm, keeping everyone in the march in line, giving everyone around a heads up. Make way, a march is on the way. The locals claim they are the spirit of warriors from, or more ominous, to a battle. Why are they doing this? What war are they still fighting?
Some claim it is the reclaiming of lost territory, a battle gone wrong, to avenge their death. And considering the Hawaiian history, they might consider the battle still ongoing. They are the proud Hawaiian warriors, bound to protect their ali’i in life, and the afterlife. They are also said to be spirits, either going somewhere or welcoming new warriors to their beating band.
Although some accounts have been reported during the day, most is marching through the night. They are recognized with their torches held high and chanting the same olis over and over again. Perhaps they at first glance just looks like a group of living human beings are doing a traditional march, but when one looks more closely, one can see their feet are a couple of inches above ground. Local accounts tell that the only remains that they ever marched there, is the mysterious footprints in the soil or sand just after passing.
The Night Marches has been documented by white settlers as far back in 1883 by Captain Cook’s arrival on the islands. Hawaiian language was only a spoken one, so this is one of the first written account. But of course, the marches have been going on, long before any white settler put their foot on the islands. And the stories the locals know about, is the ones that have been passed down for generations. The reports from Captain Cook though, tells of a mighty phantom army, led by spirit of King Kamehameha, marching angrily over the Big Island of Hawaii. In these account, the night marchers were written down as ‘oi’o.
Honor the Ancestors
Over the years the marchers have become somewhat of a boogeyman tale for children. But this is not the origin story of them. They are originally holy processions, a manifestation of Hawaiian gods. The Hawaiian also had a strict caste system were the ali’i (chief) passed, commoners was not to look at them. Consequence of disobeying was death. Hawaiian storyteller Lokaka Kapanui says to OluKai: “The night marchers’ job wasn’t to terrorize people. It was simply to protect the most sacred, high-ranking chiefs (depending on kapu status, the Chiefs marched in front or behind the procession). The night marchers showed mercy by traveling at night to spare people from harm.”
It is not all cozy history though, as the marchers have been blamed for many accidents of the road. Especially along he Oahu’s Pali Highway after dark, an established pathway for the marches, and there have been reports about car accidents elsewhere as well. Perhaps a note city planners should keep in mind. Listen to the old lores of the land. In any case, just to be safe: Do not travel alone on these paths.
How to Show the Marchers Respect
You must never interrupt these marchers, they have been going on long before your time, and will continue to do so, long after you’re gone. This is a custom that have been in place, even when the marchers was done by the ancient living warriors. It was so sacred, their mission that they could not be interrupted. This is why they are known to travel at night as well, because you disturb less people then.
If you can’t get out in the way before the marchers are right by you, there are some things to keep in mind: You can’t meet anyone’s eye or look at them. Unless some of your relatives are one of the spirits and acknowledged you, you are most likely dead. It is considered a bad omen and bad luck for you, your friends or family.
A foul scent of decay comes before anything else, before anything is seen. They blow their conch shells and beat their drum to announce their arrival. So what to do? Especially if there is a marching path, right through your house? Hawaiian people plants Ti plants around their home, to keep them away. But if you don’t have time to cultivate plants? It is advised that the best thing is to run and get the hell out of there. But if it’s too late it is advised to crouch down and play dead. Remember, don’t look at anyone. The Night Marchers already have their destination, don’t let it be to you.
Where Marches have been Observed
La Perouse Bay (Maui) – a lava landscape visited by night marchers.
Kamehameha Schools Campus – In Kapalama on Oahu
Kualoa Ranch – It is said to be housing the remains of hundreds of Hawaiian chiefs and the night marchers have been spotted here several times.
La’ie – a place where criminals were held.
Oahu’s Highway – once there was a site for a famous Kamehameha battle
Kaunakakai town on Molokai – a sacred temple site of the Ili’ili’opae Heiau is nearby.
When to see it
Po Kane – Nights of the Hawaiian God Kane
Po Akua – 14th night of the new moon
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