Monday, November 9, 2009

Lingering Ghosts


"What is—"Paradise"—
Who live there—
Are they "Farmers"—
Do they "hoe"—
Do they know that this is "Amherst"—
And that I—am coming—too—"
Emily Dickenson

Moe (Sleep)
Maluhia (peaceful)


"Family ties in the after-world remain unbroken, and all Hawaiians believe in the power of spirits to return to the scenes they knew on earth in the form in which they appeared while the were alive. Especially is this true of the procession of gods and spirits who come on certain sacred nights to visit the sacred places, or to welcome a dying relative and conduct him to the `Aumakua (ancestral spirit) world."

- Martha Beckworth, "Hawaiian Mythology"

". . . I was allowed a glimpse of a world where the spirits were so ever-present, their manifestations so powerful, that the living and the dead knew no separation...The first direct assault on this [Hawaiian] world of spirit came from the materialism of Westerners who did not recognize the sacredness of all life, animate and inanimate. . . When the Hawaiian spiritual world was altered with the coming of merchants and missionaries, (Samuel M.) Kamakau wrote that much of the Mana left the islands, as new religions, economic systems and attitudes prevailed. In the ancient days, the `Aumakua, family spirits, were healers and 'havens of forgiveness.' They guided the living and even restored life to the dead.' "

- Glen Grant, Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters of Supernatural Hawaii, Mutual Publishing

"We must be skeptical about everything, even skepticism" - Cornell West


Spiritual energy seems almost tangible here in the Islands of Hawaii. The seas, skies, and mountain forests are rich with presence; perhaps it is the Mana, the spiritual "force" that animates every pebble, every boulder, every plant on these islands. In this magic land, this `Aina, it is very easy to believe in spirits. The soil itself seems alive.

Watching the volcano fountaining one night years ago, my brother suddenly saw Madame Pele, the volcano goddess dancing hula and surfing on the molten lava. He immediately turned to his friend (who turned to him at the same second) and they both blurted out: "Do you see that?!!!!!" Stories of an old woman hitching rides at night, lighting proffered cigarettes with the tip of her finger, and then disappearing after lengthy conversations, are not uncommon, and the drivers SWEAR that it happened; in some cases thanking Pele for keeping them awake and away from the sea cliffs as they drove home drunk in the wee hours.

I myself have experienced the mischievous spirits of our wilder places. One night they awakened me in my Kona coffee shack, way up on the mountainside. I thought it was a large group of partiers approaching. As I awoke completely, I still heard the voices and I saw darting lights about the shack, but I knew that these were not living visitors. After a few moments they disappeared into the silence of a moonlit night. And no, it wasn't a dream . . .

. . . As Glen Grant wrote, the torches still burn right here in Waikiki too! One Christmas eve a few years ago my husband and I were walking along the bustling, crowded, festive sidewalk of Kalakaua Avenue when I looked beyond the beach and out to the dark ocean to see a procession of torches moving slowly along the shoreline. Never had I seen anything like this: not lights, but torches. No one else seemed to notice, and my husband gave only a perfunctory response when I pointed them out to him. He didn't seem to see what I was talking about. Only later did I learn that processions of Hawaiian spirits are thought to travel from Diamond Head to visit the downtown tombs of ancient of chiefs, kings and kahuna. . .

. . .Diamond Head itself once had a Heiau, (temple) called: Papa-ena-ena which was known as a place of processions and occasional human sacrifice. Mark Twain wrote of visiting it's crumbling walls and of the human bones still interred there. In 1874 Queen Emma (brave lady!) used rocks from the site on her Waikiki property, where they remain today at the International Market Place. Maybe that's why it's so easy to get lost in that warren of shops, carts, and bargains? By 1920 all traces of the temple were erased, and a noted girls' school now thrives on that particular slope of Diamond Head. . .

. . .Downtown Honolulu has always been rife with ghosts and their stories. The voices of crying children are heard in the night where the old orphanage was. A young wahine (woman) is seen at dusk on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Its grounds have long been considered a portal to the world of Po (darkness, night). Queen Liliuokalani herself is seen to patrol the precincts of her capitol (and ours!) keeping a watchful eye on the idiocy of our elected officials who bear her Kuleana (responsibilities) today. . .

. . . Honolulu's most famous ghost story was even reported in the newspapers! When King Lunalilo died in 1874 he was buried at midnight (the custom) at the Royal Mausoleum in Nu`uanu Valley above town. His father, however, asked King Kalakaua to remove his sons royal remains to Kawaiaha`o Church where the first elected Hawaiian king could lie with his people. The King acceded to the families wishes deciding, however, that no cannons would sound the 21 gun salute for the procession and re-burial; it seemed inappropriate under the circumstances. So the Punchbowl cannons were ordered to remain silent. As the procession of torches and high Kahili (feathered staff, emblems of High Chiefs and Royalty) approached the city a slight rain (a blessing) baptized the mourners and coffin. Then they heard the first "boom!" Had the King changed his mind about the artillery salute? No! It was thunder from on high! 21 loud, distinct claps of thunder were heard over the town. The clouds parted to reveal a brilliant star-filled tropic sky only as the coffin was re interred. "Thus did the gods overrule the will of a mortal." reported a local paper of the day. I have been to Lunalilo's tomb in the historic churchyard. Locals say that in the depths of night a voice is sometimes heard calling from the tomb, calling for "paka" (tobacco) of which the the King was very fond.

Photos above are from the Kawaiahao churchyard, and the old King Street Cemetery at Ward Avenue. If you are a serious ghost fan, your library MUST contain at least one book by Glen Grant (RIP)! oh, and . . . . . . . .