Author Archives: Marie Griffith

Nightmarchers – Hawaii

One of the most widespread ghost stories in Hawaii is the story of the Nightmarchers.  The story goes that all around the Islands of Hawaii, ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors still occupy the land.  They are most common around sacred places or old battle grounds, but no one really knows why they still march those lands.  If you were to ever be in the presence of the nightmarchers, you would hear loud beating drums, and they most often come out right before dawn.  You are never supposed to look at the nightmarchers, but instead either look away quickly, or get as far away from them as possible.  Because if they catch you looking at them or you interrupt their march, it could be deadly for you or loved ones.

 I was also told never to sleep with your feet facing the opening of a tent, or any door really, because ghosts and spirits can come and drag you out from where you are sleeping.  So still to this day I try not to sleep with my feet facing any openings, because that is apparently how ghosts take people from their rooms when they’re sleeping.

Tasia knows quite a few Hawaiian legends, but she said that her sister is much more tied to the land than she is.  They aren’t native Hawaiians, but living in Hawaii immerses you fairly wholly into Hawaiian culture (regardless of if you are a native).  I used to stay at the Royal Hawaiian when I was younger as an annual Thanksgiving vacation, and I remember always hearing that part of the hotel was haunted.  I can’t remember who exactly told me, but I just remember being told that there was a part of the hotel where customers claimed they saw and heard soldiers marching through the hotel.  I was never informed of the Nightmarcher tale, but now hearing this story I’m assuming the Nightwatchers were the source of the problem.

Raweno and the Owl – Mohawk/Iroquois

As a Child growing up in a small prairie community, we were constantly reminded of the “special ” relationship that the “Indian,” now native Americas , now aboriginal people’s, now First Nations, had with nature as manifest by the great spirit. As a child in a rural Canadian environment I  had developed my own personal relationship with nature and was always curious of how or what the native/Indian/aboriginal folklore and experience was different than my own.  I made it a point to educate myself on their heritage, and was fortunate enough to hear a folk creation story from a man of Mohawk/Iroquois descent.  The Mohawks used to occupy parts of Ontario, where I am from, so I was very exposed to their culture growing up.

The story of Raweno is a Mohawk creation story that a native of my small prairie community told me.  Raweno was the Great Spirit who created everything: all of the plants, all of the animals.  While molding the animals, Raweno would take requests from the animals so that he could create them as they desired.  The molding and decision process was supposed to be a private interaction between Raweno and the animal being molded, but the owl insisted on watching and giving his input.  Raweno told him to stop interfering, and to leave Raweno to his work.  But the owl continued to give Raweno suggestions, as well as making constant requests for Raweno to change his physical appearance as he saw a wider variety of creatures being created.  Raweno became very angry at the owl’s constant interferences, so he took the owl and shook him until his eyes went wide in fear. He then gave the owl a short neck so that the owl could not stretch his neck to watch things he shouldn’t watch.  He continued by giving the owl big ears to ensure that he can listen to what he is told, and gave him dull colored feathers solely because the owl wanted to be an extravagant bird. And finally, because Raweno worked primarily in the day, he made the owl nocturnal so that he could no longer disrupt Raweno’s work.

It wasn’t until I had you and your brother that I found the book Owl Eyes by Frieda Gates.  She made the story more kid friendly, although there wasn’t anything necessarily kid un-friendly in the original story, and I wanted to share this story I was fortunate enough to hear with you two.  I never told you or your brother that the story I read to you was a native American myth, but now that you are older, I am confident that you can appreciate the heritage of a culture I was surrounded with as a child.

It’s funny how different native creation stories vary from those of the more modern religions.  In Christianity, for example, creation stories are very human-oriented, while the creation stories for native cultures are very animal-oriented.  My father used to tell my brother and I this story from Frieda Gates Owl Eyes, but he would re-phrase it to make my brother and I to make us laugh, like saying Raweno like “Raweenie,” and giving the owl a very high pitched, annoying voice.  He used to tell us this story every night before we went to bed, and I didn’t realize until later that he changed the words, I was always so focused on the pictures (and I couldn’t read).  I actually miss hearing the story every night, as it was a really good bonding experience for me, my father, and my brother.  One of my fondest memories is sharing that moment with them every night.

Gates, Frieda. Owl Eyes. New York City: Harper Collins, 1994. Print.

Aswang – Philippines

My mom told me a story that my grandma told her, which was basically about one of our neighbors in the Philippines and how she is a shape shifter. 

In the Philippines we call these shape shifters aswang, and what happens is that the aswang actually eats young children.  And so in order to differentiate human beings from an aswang, because these shape shifters can be animals, they can be people, so you can’t tell.  The only way you can tell is through the reflection of a spoon, because when you look at your reflection in a spoon, your reflection is upside down, but for an aswang, if you were to show the aswang’s reflection it would be right side up. 

And so that’s what my mom would tell me about these creatures, and it really freaked me out when I was a little kid, because when I was in the Philippines I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t know who is who, and I could probably die right now.” I was so scared when I was younger. 

I asked my mom whether or not she was familiar with these kind of stories of the aswang, and surprisingly she said no. Where she is from, aswang refers more to monsters and werewolves and things of that nature.  It encompasses a lot of “mythical” beings, so I guess what the main “aswang creature” is really depends on where you’re from.  But the Filipinos do not see them as “mythical”; they consider the creatures real, and have no doubt in their mind that they exist.  That can be seen in this story, as Franceska’s mother and grandmother sincerely believed that their neighbor was a shape shifter.  So Franceska grew up believing she might be eaten at any moment by a shape shifter, and even said at one point contemplated carrying a spoon around with her.

Pele’s Curse – Hawaii

Growing up in Hawaii, I was told never to take any natural objects from the islands.  I’m not sure when I was first told that, I just remember always being told to leave everything where it was, and to make sure what belonged on the islands stayed on the islands.  I’m pretty sure tourists are told this legend, especially because when they want to bring back a cool souvenir from Hawaii they usually go for a lava rock or sand or something of that nature.

The legend goes that if you take a lava rock – I was also told not to take sand or Pele’s hair, a plant that grows on the islands – from Hawaii, Pele will curse you and you will experience bad luck until you return the rock to Hawaii.  Pele is the goddess of volcanoes, and is a very jealous and bitter goddess who holds grudges.   I’ve heard many stories of people who experience bad luck after taking a lava rock from the islands, and in order to break the curse and streak of bad luck they must personally take the rock back to Hawaii.  There are some companies that will take shipments and return the lava rocks for people, but according to the legend the person who took it has to return it themselves or else the curse will not be broken.

This legend taught me from a young age to respect Hawaii’s natural habitat, as well as nature everywhere.  People in Hawaii in general tend to have a lot of respect for nature, and I think this legend greatly contributes to that mindset.

Tasia knows quite a few Hawaiian legends, but she said that her sister is much more tied to the land than she is.  They aren’t native Hawaiians, but living in Hawaii immerses you fairly wholly into Hawaiian culture (regardless of if you are a native).  I go to Hawaii about 3 times a year, and have heard this legend before.  I too have known from a young age not to take anything from Hawaii’s habitat.  I have never experienced the curse as I have never taken anything from Hawaii, but when I used to go to the kids camps in the hotels, the people in charge would tell us stories of people who were cursed with very bad luck after stealing a lava rock from the island.  I too respect Hawaii’s natural habitat, probably even more so than the environment here, which is kind of sad.

How Bora Bora was Formed – Tahiti

So there is another Tahitian legend about how Bora Bora was formed, as well as the hole in the mountain of Moorea. 

One night there was a group of thieves who went to Bora Bora and tried to steal the island to take as their own.  They were pulling part of the island when Hiro realized what was going on, so he threw his lance all the way to Mo’orea to wake up the rooster and make him sing and scare off the thieves.  But as he threw his lance, he threw it across Mo’orea which made the whole in the top, which we now call Mouaputa.  He succeeded in waking up the rooster, who started singing, and scared the thieves away because they thought the sun was rising.  So they dropped the part of the island they were pulling and ran away, and that’s why there’s a piece of island called Toopua in the middle of the pass in Bora Bora and a hole in the mountain of Mo’orea.

Tam grew up in Tahiti, and her family has been there for many generations.  Her grandfather, the one who told her this story, was the primary storyteller in her family.  He spoke Tahitian, but Tam does not, so the Tahitian-language elements have been lost.  But according to Tam this was her favorite story, and her grandfather told her it quite often.

My best friend from high school, Montana, used to go to Bora Bora all the time with her family.  I vaguely remember her telling me a story similar to this one, but not exactly the same.  I believe that in her story, Hiro was the one trying to steal the island, and I don’t remember her saying anything about Mouaputa or Toopua.  I feel like hers was more tourist-y, and didn’t have the same amount of details Tam’s story had.  I feel like there is a disconnect between tourist versions of regional folktales and the versions told by the locals.