Lava Rock and Pele’s Curse

Souvenirs are old as time. The desire to take home a small piece of paradise while visiting Hawaii is pretty common. No place on Earth is this truer than at Kilauea. However, a guest to Hawaii must remember that superstitions blow like a tropical breeze. One of the most well-known stories is about Lava Rock and Pele’s Curse.

Mythology is Not Myth in Hawaii

A popular tourist destination in Hawaii is Kilauea, an active shield volcano that spews molten hot lava daily. It is the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaii, known as the Big Island.

Halemaʻumaʻu Crater is a pit crater located within the much larger summit caldera of Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and home to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes.

What is Peleʻs Curse?

Pele’s Curse is the belief that anything natively Hawaiian, such as lava rock, sand, and stones affect bad luck on whoever takes it away from the islands.

The land, the lava rock, the plants sprouting up through the ash, and everything surrounding Pele’s home is considered sacred. These natural resources are her children. Hundreds of song and dance are dedicated to Pele and her home. Therefore, picking up a “souvenir” from Kilauea or Halemaʻumaʻu crater are akin to kidnapping. Not a good idea to mess with a fiery, hot-tempered goddess.

Furthermore, it’s illegal to take anything from a national park. That includes rocks, plants, and minerals. Removing things from Hawaii Volcanoes, or any national park represents a loss of physical artifacts and natural resources.  If you remove a lava rock from somewhere specific in the park, even if itʻs returned, the story of thousands of years of geologic events is altered.

Just donʻt do it

So is Pele’s Curse fact or fiction?  There are many accounts of tragedy and misfortune for those who have taken lava rocks from Hawaii.  The park deals with boxes of returned lava rock every day. Hawaiians believe the land takes care of us, rather than the other way around. So, travelers beware. Souvenirs are small trinkets, photos, and life long memories. Take all you want of those, and leave the land to Pele.


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