A friend of mine just returned from Costa Rica, smuggling a 2000-year-old jade god figurine back with her. She didn't know it was illegal to remove the item from the country until after the purchase, when the the seller pointed out, "Oh, and if customs stops you, just tell them you brought it with you here." (Expect supernatural payback to ensue shortly.)
Supposedly the item has special powers. If you wear it over your solar plexus, it calms your emotions and heals you when you are sick. And for the ladies: "He also explained to me in very funny English without saying any gross words that if women have cramps, you put it in a glass of water for a while and then take it out and drink the glass of water and you'll feel better," she told me. Oh and mysteriously it "can't touch metal." The cost: a chunk of change, plus a chunk of soul.
Reminds me of a souvenir my parents brought me from Hawaii when I was in first grade. A black medallion shaped like a Tiki head, with glowing orange eyes. Turns out, the necklace was not so much badass as evil. For example, one day when I wore it to school I pulled down the pants of a fat kid at recess so everyone could laugh at his fat bottom. As I recall, the faces of my classmates reflected not so much glee as horror (at this ass, not his ass) and I got into big big trouble. Rather than blame it on my severe early behavioral problems, I blamed it on the power of the medallion and cursed its influence on me.
Such was my deeper curse at that stage in life. I always believed I was a victim of something. The ominous precursors to depression should have been obvious. I believe I had already diagnosed Thursdays as my unlucky day by then. Later, Tuesdays became my unlucky days too, and then Sundays, and I did not stop to remark on the ridiculousness of the mentality until the entire week was blackened in.
Back to the medallion. I surely cannot blame its evil, if it had any, on unwarranted extraction from its homeland. It was cheap plastic. The Hawaii tourist industry would no doubt take a sizeable hit if it could no longer sell schlocky trinkets made farther across the Pacific.
[Digression alert!] My friend's ancient booty also reminds me of a 1997 party I went to in the Cambridge penthouse of the founder and then-still-CEO of a large tech corporation. In one room sat two ancient antiques he had just purchased at auction--a vase and a sculpture of some sort--precariously on the floor. In the other rooms, an impromptu (and innocent) food-fight was taking place between the host and a couple of female undergrads. In a grand temptation to fate, I don't believe the relics had been Scotch-guarded yet.
The host by the way, is a very smart man. Later that night we had a mutually intoxicated discussion of consciousness studies, a pet interest for each of us. Looking at his bookshelves, I asked him his favorite volume on the subject, and he immediately named Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained, a recommendation I pass on. I believe he had removed the cake from his face at that point.