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On the rocks

Tourists turn to mail to avoid curse

A portrait of Pele by artist Herb Kane. Image: Honolulu Star Advertiser
A portrait of Pele by artist Herb Kane. Image: Honolulu Star Advertiser

Customers rely on the mail to connect with family and friends and conduct business — and in some cases, to break curses.

The Hilo, HI, Post Office regularly receives packages from tourists who fear they’ve run afoul of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes.

According to legend, Pele curses tourists who leave with the island’s lava rocks. When visitors return home and learn about the curse, they become so fearful, they mail back the rocks.

“They’re taking the time to send these packages because they believe they did something wrong,” Postmaster Alton Uyetake told the Huffington Post this month.

USPS permits customers to mail ordinary rocks as long as they are properly packaged and the postage is paid.

One recent package to Hilo contained black volcanic sand and a note that read: “Tell Pele I’m so sorry.”

Uyetake mails as many of the items as he can to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Post Office, which returns them to park officials.

So much comes in, however, that Hilo employees often place them in their parking lot.

Some people question the curse, but tourist Karen Wade believes it’s real.

After leaving with a bottle of sand and a piece of coral in 2007, her two dogs went missing and she lost her home and got divorced.

When Wade returned to the island with her new partner this year, she left the rocks untouched.

“We brought back only suntans and memories,” Wade said.

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