USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘night marchers’
Legends
Narrative

Hawaiian Legend Night Marchers

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mother’s mother’s mother and even from before her are from Hawaii but some England roots are interjected into the bloodline as well. My mother’s father’s father’s father hails half from Hawaii and the other half from China and Portugal. But what is funny about most Hawaiians, is that they are not only Hawaiian. They are also Caucasian, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, Samoan, Japanese, Korean, e.t.c…….Plantation workers were brought in to work the sugar and pineapple fields and they brought their culture with them.

Piece:

Adults loved telling us Night Marchers stories as kids and scare the bejezzes out of us!!! So scary.

I was told that the Night Marchers are spirit warriors on the way to war. They are souls that do not want to be bothered and we have to respect their anger for they fight to avenge their deaths. Especially when it’s a full moon, night marchers are welcoming new warriors to join them. They often chant and grunt, and bang their weapons. Their torches has a frighteningly deathly fire that is easily seen at night. They rarely march during the day.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within her piece that she learned about the legendary Night Marchers through adults when she was a young kid. 

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Context of Performance:

Via email.

Thoughts on Piece: 
Similar to the way in which La Llorana is meant to keep kids from wandering out at night the legend of the Night Marchers might be a way for parents to keep their children from wandering about. The fact that my informant still, to this day, finds them so scary reflects that the legend was effective in doing just that. Upon further research, the legend of the Night Marchers might tie into a history of colonialism.
For more information on Night Marchers, see Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian mythology. Honolulu: U of Hawaii Press, 1971. Print.
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Protection

Night Marchers

Night marchers are a legend in Hawaii … um about … so traditionally when Hawaiian royalty had to travel long distances, they would do it at night for their safety and the night marchers were their security that walks with them, and as tradition goes you’re not supposed to look at night marchers, so like, it was also at night so that people weren’t out in the open when they would travel. So people could not see them and if they did, they would die or something, but now… so now there’s a legend that the night marchers still will sometimes be seen in the most sacred areas of the island and they’re really scary. They’re pretty feared by people… you don’t want to get near them. I camped in Olowalu, a spot on Maui, and it’s a super sacred spot… it has a lot of ceremonial sites, and they told us to watch out for the night marchers, so we were really scared that night but we didn’t see anyone.

 

One man was camping one time at another sacred spot on Maui, and he saw a line of torches of lights on the mountain above him, and he thought it was pig hunters maybe, but he realized they were all carrying these torches… but no one carries torches, so he realized they were night marchers. And they didn’t come down to the beach, so he didn’t see them face to face or up close, but he was really spooked. He never went back there or camped there again. Maybe it was the spirits of the night marchers. They, apparently, don’t look like ghosts and they’re supposed to look like real people.

 

Background: I had heard a version of this story earlier when my friend was telling me a little about this, but to hear an in depth version was very interesting for me. I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me live. What was very interesting for me was to hear how even though these people served as seemingly benevolent people to protect Hawaiian royalty, people were still very afraid of them and could not even look at them or they could expect death. Perhaps this is a continuation of a belief that if people even dared to approach the night marchers and harm the royalty, they would be killed instantly. I thought this was a very interesting piece of Hawaiian folklore that I had not really understood or even heard of before I met my friend and then subsequently had this in depth description of them.

Legends
Narrative

The Night Marchers

The informant is an 18-year-old college student attending university in Hawaii. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California, but has a great deal of family living in Hawaii who she visited frequently when growing up. While I was on a hike with the informant in San Ramon, California over spring break, I asked if she could talk about some traditional Hawaiian beliefs, and she described the Night Marchers.

“Basically, the Night Marchers are a tribe of old Hawaiian warriors that walk certain paths throughout the Hawaiian Islands, usually during the night. They don’t necessarily go around killing things, but if you’re caught in their path then you have to get naked and lay in the fetal position to show submissiveness. You’ll know they’re coming because you’ll hear the sound of beating drums and see torchlights. Sometimes to show that you are truly submissive to them you even have to pee yourself. You also have to keep your eyes closed and can’t look them in the eye. If you have Hawaiian blood in you, hopefully one of your ancestors will notice you and save you, but if you do not, and especially if you aren’t submissive or don’t get in the fetal position, there’s a chance the Night Marchers will kill you. Not necessarily on the spot, but there have been cases where someone encounters the Night Marchers and has died a few nights later.”

By representing warriors that fought to protect Hawaii in the land’s past, the Night Marchers are a manifestation of the island’s tumultuous past and the lengths that native Hawaiian’s ancestors have taken to protect their customs and traditions. The way in which a person is supposed to react when caught in the Night Marchers’ path highlights the considerable respect that Hawaiian natives have for their ancestors. By stripping and laying in the fetal position, anyone who encounters the Night Marchers must make themselves entirely vulnerable, showing that they do indeed have respect for their ancestry and the land. This legend shows the importance that islanders place on nativity, as having a blood-relative in the Marchers can guarantee one’s safety. It seems that the ultimate purpose of this legend for Hawaiians is to warn anyone against disrespecting their native islands, or else be prepared to suffer the consequences.

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