There are places on earth were nature invites the visitor to take something, something small, a stone, or maybe sand, just because the color is beautiful, or the shape of the stone is unusual. Or simply because a souvenir from a special place is such a simple thing to wish, and a natural remembrance is often so much more interesting than something you buy at the souvenir shop.

I have been a sand collector for many years, a very interesting hobby, I assure you. I also have great sands from Hawaii, red and green and white and black. Volcano sands, most of it.

The island of Hawaii, also called Big Island, is one of the chain of volcanic islands that make up the 50th State of the USA. Honolulu is on Oahu, another of the Hawaiian islands. On Big Island there are big volcanoes: Kilauea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is, reckoned from the bottom of the sea, higher than Mt Everest, and it bears one of the biggest astronomical observatories of the world.

But Hawaii has a volcano goddess: Pele. And Pele is a fiery woman, not likely to forgive the people who take stones or sand from her mountains.

Volcano stones are beautiful, often with glittering colors, and it’s hard not to pick them up. Guides always tell their quarry not to be tempted, but human nature dictates to challenge fate nevertheless, and sneekily put some stones in their backpacks. Or brag about having defied the ‘curse’ of Pele.

And so it happens that the post offices of Hawaii receive multiple packages a year, about 1000 kilo stones, sent back from all over the world, with sorry notes accompanying them:

” I lost my job soon after returning home”, “I broke my leg”, “My wife filed for divorce” , ” My son had a motorbike accident” , “My dog died” etc. And then : Please….put the stones back to where they belong, they brought me nothing but bad luck. I’m so sorry…..

The question is, is there really a curse of Pele?

I wasn’t aware for years that the sand I own from those volcanoes is under the same spell, and so I never blamed any mishap on it. I never went to Hawaii myself, the sands were swapped with other collectors, so maybe that’s why Pele didn’t blame me. But I got emails from other sandcollectors asking about the risks, and if they should dare to pick some of the wonderfull sands from under Pele’s skirt…

The legend lives on. And so does our subconscious fear. Does KNOWING about the curse bring about accidents? I suspect that is the cause. Forbid yourself to think about something and that thought will come up again and again.

Recently Matt Cook placed a group post on TCF , about the stones from Clava Cairns in Scotland. There are a lot of stones there, and the place is about 4.000 years old. No one seems to know what this place is doing there, but tourists are eager to take a stone with them. One stone, no big deal, right?


And so Inverness post office gets stones sent back with letters telling the same old stories: “since I took a stone home, my life is not what it used to be….”

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is another of those places. It’s forbidden to take souvenirs from the Civil War Battlefield of 1863, and when found out, a large fee has to be paid. Next fragment is from The Washington Post, July 8, 2016

The boxes of rocks have shown up in the mail for many years according to a park official. The blog says the packages are usually addressed just to the park without any department or person noted. There is rarely a return address. Sometimes a note is enclosed. , claiming lives had been ruined because of a long-ago visit to Gettysburg and what was then considered an innocent picking up of a stone or two. 

A fourth place where it is dangerous to pick up stones is the island of Blå Jungfrun (Blue Maiden), near the coast of Sweden. I read about it in Fortean Times years ago. The island has beautiful blue stones, polished by the sea, and tourists are always tempted to take a few home. According to legend witches gathered there in the past, and maybe some of their magic is still around in the stones on the beaches. Same story as everywhere: people sending back the stones because they felt they had something to do with unlucky happenings after their visits to the island.

There’s a fifth place where you shouldn’t take anything: Uluru, in the Northern Territory of Australia. We all know the beautiful red rock standing like an island in the sea of read sand. Uluru, Ayers Rock in the past, is holy ground for the Aboriginals, and it shouldn’t be climbed. Nevertheless some tourists can’t resist climbing…and taking away stones. They regret it.

As did the guy I met some years ago. He had been there, and took a stone or two. Right after he came home, he broke his knee. Working as a contractor in construction he lost his job. Then his girlfriend, and shortly after his home. He never sent the stones back to Australia, but gave them a decent ritual burial in the woods near where he lived. As a sign that the old gods had forgiven him, he found a broken didgeridoo somewhere. He repaired it and learned to play, and now he is earning a living from playing that instrument and repairing broken ones.

Are these places really magical? I like to think they are, in some way. The gods of Nature never leave them out of their sight, and even if you don’t believe that, chances are your subconscious does it anyway.