Marching from the Mists of Hawaii History

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My new office location in an ancient valley is said to be a favorite of Hawaiian spirits. Working too late at night might cause an accidental introduction to Night Marchers, I’m told.

The warnings are said in a hushed tone with big eyes and an almost smile. But they’re also made in the same tone as people in New Orleans speak of voodoo: not exactly believing but certainly not willing to risk offense just in case. Part of the legend is fairly consistent: what to do if you encounter a Night Marcher. The instructions are to lie face down on the ground, avoid eye contact, remain still and quiet and not respond even if you feel a nudge. Less clear is who these Night Marchers are and why they walk. Some say they are ghosts of warriors and are especially h3 in areas of old battlefields. Others say that the marches include the sounds of drums and the blowing of a conch shell, along with gods or symbols of gods.

Hawaii certainly is a place filled with spirits and enough conflict to support legends. I’m fully willing to leave open the possibility that some of them may pass through my new basement office on their way from the mountains to the sea. It does bother me a little, though, to see the legend treated as a “ghost story.” It seems to trivialize the idea that many, many Hawaiians have died on these islands, some at the hands of invaders but many thousands more by the diseases they carried. Some estimates place the number of Native Hawaiians living on the islands at nearly a million in 1778 which plummeted to only 22,600 by 1919. Surely this is a tragedy of a different sort than the fabrications told around camp fires to frighten youngsters.

I may settle for keeping ti leaves in my office. They are mentioned as a sort of talisman to ward off the Night Marchers but also are used to wrap offerings or in food preparation. Their many applications seem to suit my multi-dimensional and misty feelings about Night Marchers.


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