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Kava Ceremonies

Page history last edited by mtobin@... 13 years, 6 months ago

Kava and its Use in Ceremony                                                                                                                                                          

Samuel Timidaiski



Kava is a commonly occuring plant throughout the Polynesian islands with particular medicinal properties that was first encountered by Westerners on Captain Cook's voyages into the region between 1768 and 1771.  When prepared into the Kava brew, it is usually drunk during ceremonies and social gatherings by many of the native cultures.  However, exact practices both in its preparation and injestion vary from group to group.




Common Effects                                                                                                                                                        


Effects of kava are commonly compared to alchohol, however many users claim that they come without the common disorientation and clumsiness of drinking.  Effects of consumption stem from the reactions to the kavalactones in the roots.  Consumption generally results in ease of stress and calming of cramps and headaches.  However, it is considered an anti-depressant and can be consuemd to combat fatigue and increase overall alertness, with small doses often taken to improve cognitive function.  



Ceremonial Use                                                                                                                                                          



Despite cultural clashes against westernization and missionary efforts, kava culture continues in areas such as Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, Rotuma. 


The Samoan kava ceremony continued on in a very stable fashion after western missionaries arrived in the region.  The ceremony starts with the the presention of the kava root from one Tulafale, or talking chief, to the Talufale of the house.  After this exchange the root is given to the Taupou (village maiden) with her cadre of young maiden attendees.  The maidens wash their hands and the Taupou thoroughly rinses out her mouth.  The root is pounded on stone, then chewed in the mouth of the Taupou.  After mastication, the maiden spits the pulp into her hands then deposits it into the tanoa (kava bowl).  After the bowl is filled to an appropriate level, the maiden uses whisps of hibiscus bark to collect up remnants of pulp and insoluable fibers then strains out the fluid.  The brew is ready for consumption when all that remains is the light brown fluid without any solid remnants.

Comments (2)

marcyj@u.washington.edu said

at 9:03 pm on Jun 4, 2009

Is there a ceremonial way of dressing when preparing or drinking the kava?

Katelind Donahue said

at 12:36 pm on Jun 5, 2009

I was first introduced to kava when I was going to college in Hawaii and a few blocks away was a kava cafe. It was a cafe with none of the ceremony involved you could simply go in and pay for a cup of kava. Later on I realized how important the ceremony was to Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan, and Fijian societies. I wonder now how this cafe is viewed by the people of these countries. I really appreciate your description of the ceremony, very straight forward.

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