Marchers of the Night

The Marchers of the Night are in Hawaiian lore, a procession of gods and spirits that marches on certain nights to visit sacred places or to welcome the dying to the land of ancestral guardian spirits, the aumakua.

The Marchers of the Night, or nightmarchers as they are also called, are part of the beliefs in the unbroken connection between the living and the dead and the ability of the dead to revisit the places they knew on earth. They appear on nights sacred to the deities Ku, the ancestral god of productivity; Lono, god of the heavens; Kane, the chief creator god; and Kanaloa, god of the underworld. Winds will blow and snap off tree branches to clear a path for them. Thunder, lightning, heavy surf and sudden downpours of rain are common. Each of the Hawaiian Islands has certain paths believed to be used by the Marchers of the Night.

The processions are either of chiefs or of gods. Chiefs dress in ancient garb and are accompanied by aumakua. They may march in silence or to the accompaniment of drumming, chanting and the playing of nose flutes. Gods move five abreast with burning red torches to the accompaniment of chanting. The Marchers of the Night will appear during the day when necessary to welcome the dying.

On Maui, the processions are joined by supernatural dog people who look like humans but have the tails of dogs.

Witnesses are almost exclusively Hawaiian natives, though some foreigners have had the experience.

It is dangerous to encounter a procession. Usually, a spirit precedes the procession and warns away the living by calling out “Kapu!” If a person is met by the procession, the leader calls out “O-ia!” or “Let him be pierced!” Unless a dead relative or aumakua of the living person is in the procession to protect him or her, the person is struck dead by a ghostly spear. According to lore, one can avert such disaster by removing all clothing and lying face up to feign sleep.

See Also:

Further Reading:

  • Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1970. First published 1940.
  • Grant, Glen. Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1996.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

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