“Leave rocks alone, don’t take them home!”
The subject of sacred rocks was highlighted in a post on the Haleakalā National Park’s official Facebook page Thursday morning.
Park officials say that they receive hundreds of returned lava rocks every year. In fact, so far this year the number has climbed to 1,275 rocks, an average of over 100 each month.
“Letters of apology to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, often accompany these rocks,’ the Facebook post reads. “Expressions of regret over taking the rocks are common; people attribute misfortune in their lives to the taking of rocks and they apologize to Pele for their error.”
This view may be rooted in the Native Hawaiian belief that plants, animals, and rocks are imbued with spiritual significance. Hawaiian culture teaches that nature is the physical manifestation of Hawaiian gods and goddesses. The Hawaiian value of malama ‘āina, caring for the land, is connected to this belief and promotes respect of the natural world.
Due to concern over introducing foreign bacteria and diseases, the National Park Service freezes the returned rocks for one month, before placing them in the gardens in front of our Summit District visitor centers.
“We can’t return rocks to the crater because doing so confuses the geological story—we don’t know what part of the volcano the rocks came from.”