When we were in Maui, my ex asked his best friend what he would like as a souvenir.
The friend requested some sand from Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano. Unfortunately, this was one item my ex wasn’t willing to give.
“Why not?” I asked, surprised. He was the most generous person I know, and it wasn’t like him to refuse a friend anything.
He asked me if I’d heard of Pele’s curse and all the bad luck it’s supposedly caused. I hadn’t, but the fact that he would pay any attention to such superstition surprised me. He not only doesn’t believe in the supernatural–he’s openly skeptical, even when people he knows and trusts have experienced something beyond the norm. This definitely merited some investigating.
For those unfamiliar with Pele, she is Hawaii’s volcano goddess. The sand, rocks and shells of the Hawaiian Islands are viewed as her children, and apparently she takes the removal of such items very seriously.
As I read about the Pele curse, one account in particular kept coming up in my research.
Timothy Murray took home a bottle of sand from the Big Island, and as a result, his pet died, his long-term relationship crashed and burned, he became an alcoholic, and was arrested by the FBI. Murray believed the curse was to blame and sent the sand back to Hawaii.
The myth-busting website Snopes doesn’t go so far as to say the curse is real, but they do say that a lot of people believe in it. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and quite a few hotels receive tons of packages containing sand, shells, and rocks from vacationers hoping to reverse their bad luck. Many of the packages include notes begging the goddess’s forgiveness and detailing the catastrophes that have befallen them.
My sarcastic response was that it sounded like some harried park ranger had made up the curse to keep tourists from stealing all the rocks, and apparently that’s a common theory too.
When bad things happen to us, it’s human nature to ask “Why?” An ancient (or not-so-ancient) Hawaiian curse might just be a convenient answer.
Or maybe Pele is more than mythology, and it’s best not to piss her off. As my ex said, “Why tempt fate?” We got his friend something from the aquarium gift shop instead.
Have you ever taken rocks, sand or shells from any of the Hawaiian Islands? Or perhaps you know someone who has? Any bad luck stories to share?
Do you think the Pele Curse is real? Why or why not? Would it keep you from bringing something home from the Islands?
As for me, I’ll stick with the disgruntled park ranger theory, but it sure could be great material for a new book!