The hot sulfur wind was howling through the mountain trail.
The very same trail where she was left behind. She never knew tying her shoelaces could take this long. Where were the rest of them? Where is the tour guide? Where is-where is she? She ran up and down the streets between the woods and lakes everywhere fast as she could. Calling out for her batchmates. “phweep,” she whistled, hoping for someone to hear her.
When came a hollow rumble behind the trail. She heard footsteps, slow, firm, and many. It turns out someone did listen to her. Hopeful, she rushed towards the trail.
A gust of wind brushed through her hair, and an uncanny warmness filled her surroundings, occupied by a chilly December breeze; before she could figure out where the hot air was coming from, she heard sudden chants from afar; where exactly was she? Whose footsteps were those? Is it a meeting? Has she intercepted a Hawaiian culture she is unaware of? Or is she at the wrong place at the wrong time? What should she do to protect herself? Alas, if only she knew, she was at a Hawaiian Night Marcher’s trail.
Hawaiian Night Marchers
The significance of ancient cultures, traditions, rituals, and sculptures is deemed essential, and humans are expected to respect the same and are met with consequences if they don’t. According to Hawaiian legends, humankind’s violation of specific rules and cultures is handled severely by the spirit world.
Of many prevalent legends of Hawaii, the code of the Hawaiian night marchers is the most feared and valued.
As the legend goes, the Hawaiian night marchers carry torches as they walk along the night marcher trails. The sound of conch shells and aggravated war drums proceeding slowly in the night, getting closer and closer with each stomping foot as a whiff of sulfur, the smell of death leads them out and away to instant death at Ka’ena Point on Oahu.
What is the story behind this undead army of Hawaiian night marchers? Where did it begin?
1. Hawaiian Social Structure
The legend of the night has traversed through many bedtime stories and ghost stories told by Hawaiian residents until its written documentation in 1883.
Hawaiian night marchers, who are said to roam around mostly at night, used to be ancient Hawaiian warriors. The legend dates back to old Hawaii’s dark history of severe casteism. The story of this legend is rooted in the social structure of Ancient Hawaii. The system divided the Hawaii residents into high-ranking chiefs(Aliʻi), priests(Kahuna), commoners(Makaʻainana), and untouchables or outcasts(Kauā). The chiefs or Aliʻi prospered and grew river the hard work of commoners.
The Makaʻainana had no rights whatsoever and were treated harshly by their chiefs. The Hawaiian chiefs, or the Aliʻi, were thought to have a high spiritual value(mana) and were believed to be reincarnations of Hawaiian gods. The atrocity inflicted by these chiefs upon Hawaii residents was immense, and a part of this atrocity is the legend of the night marchers.
A Hawaiian Chief’s march across a village or a street proceeded with the sound of conch shells and war drums by ancient Hawaiian warriors, the chief’s footsoldier. During this, the commoners were expected to strip off their clothes, look straight at the floor and never make eye contact with any ancient warriors. If one dares to look straight in the eye, they would be met with instant death(Kapu).
2. Ghost Warriors of Hawaii
Even though this practice dates to 1400 AD, the legend of the night remains that the night marchers’ job does not end with their death but continues onto their next state of existence. There is no afterlife for these ghost warriors.
The ancient Hawaiian warriors used to believe their Hawaiian kings or chief to be reincarnations of Hawaiian gods. Their undying loyalty toward the same continues to their next state of existence, where their souls remain even after their physical body’s death.
It is believed that they make nighttime visits to sacred sites, burial sites, and sacrificial temples of areas surrounding Oahu’s windward coast. The Kamehameha Schools campus, Ka’a’awa Valley, Kalihi Valley, and Kualoa Ranch are some places where the night marchers have been rumored to be witnessed.
The Hawaiian night marchers can be seen in and around such areas on the last four Hawaiian moon phases until the night sky goes completely dark. They carry torches and wear distinctive ancient Hawaiian clothes, with the shrilling sound of a conch shell and war drums going around for their nighttime visits. One can only hope never to cross their path with the night marchers, for it is believed that their undying loyalty to serves a great purpose.
3. Purpose of Existence
In 2021, the video of an influencer climbing up the Mayan Pyramid surfaced on the internet, the consequence of which was not very good. Similar incidents of climbing Egyptian Pyramids in 2018 and 2020 have occurred, and such people have been punished severely by charging a fine to even five years of jail.
Human civilization grows ignorant of one’s s culture, religious beliefs, and practices with every development step. For instance, the late Victorian Era in England underwent a severe dilemma as Darwin’s theory of Origin started questioning humankind’s religious beliefs and faith. To preserve faith in sound, one has to fear the bad.
Storyteller Lopaka Kapanui says that the night marchers’ sole purpose is to protect its people, not to terrorize people. The night marchers are believed to be the guardian spirits of ancient Hawaiian chiefs, protecting the tradition they set off and ensuring they have proper respect.
4. An Encounter
While there have been instances of people falling off Ka’ena Point and ending up meeting their ultimate destination of instant death, there have been some instances where the night marchers showed mercy and spared people. A night marcher will spare your life if your body parts smell like urine (no, we did not make this up). It is said that the urine smell repels and disgusts the night marchers.
The presence of Ti plants nearby is often to believed to draw away the attention of night marchers.
If none is possible, you can only hope to hear the words, Na’u. The night marchers spare people who have an ancestor among the army of the dead.
While the truthfulness of mythological stories and legends can never fully be assessed, one can be warned of the dangers surrounding our physical world. The legend of the Undead Army has a history of immense political and economic inequality, casteism, and torture of the commoner.
Does this mythical story have its roots in the fear deeply internalized within ancient Hawaii residents? Is it another unresolved trauma passed down through generations, or does the undead army visit Hawaii during the Hawaiian moon phases?
Comment down below what you think of the legend of Hawaiian Night Marchers!