Huaka‘i-pō – The Night Marchers

By: Kimo Jenkins, Director, Product Development & Implementation Cultural Guide

Many Hawaiian believe in the power of spirits (‘uhane) to return to the scenes / places they knew on earth; that such ties to the underworld remain to this day unbroken. It is a generationally held thought that these huaka‘i pō or night marchers are a procession of “gods and spirits” that visit certain places on certain nights, or to welcome a dying relative into their realm. These huaka‘i pō or night marchers are known spirits – ancestors, kūpuna –with whom interaction or observance brings familiarity instead of fear. Many people – Hawaiian and koko‘ole (non-Hawaiian) alike claim to have heard “chanting voices and beating drums (pahu), and seen flickering lights of torches”, usually on nights of no moon.
I don’t claim to have encountered the huaka‘i pō, but can attest to experiencing the sound of drums and chanting in Waimea valley, O‘ahu on more than one occasion in the wee hours of the night – I was at one time an apprentice archaeologist in the valley. It wasn’t a spooky or scary interaction, but rather comforting to know my kūpuna (ancestors) choose to acknowledge my connection to them. If you honor the past, its knowledge and mysteries may someday be revealed to you; if you don’t honor the past – it will march right on by …