KAVA plays an essential role in the daily lives of many Pacific Islanders. Often thought of as one of the most precious gifts of the earth, it is a pleasant drink that can be used safely as an alternative to alcohol. Kava is a well known ‘folk-remedy’ to many Islanders and is used by tribal healers for it’s medicinal purposes. Ceremonial occasions are also marked with Kava such as weddings, festivals, holidays, and even funerals. It has become a status symbol in many cultures around the world and is still widely used in places like Fiji and Hawaii. Known as ‘AWA’ in Hawaii, native stories suggest the origin of Kava as being brought from the ancestral homeland of Kahiki (the ancestral homelands of various islands of lower and middle Polynesia), and was planted throughout the islands by gods Kane and Kanaloa.(Kane was the ancestor of the chiefs and commoners, forest, fresh water, sunlight and verdant growth; and Kanaloa was the Hawaiian god of the ocean, marine life, and healing. Some Fijian communities pound Kava root with a stone to make ‘yagona’ which may be passed around in a circle of gatherers by village elders using the sacred bowl or ‘tanoa’ . Each member of the circle then offers a toast ‘ Bula (meaning health or life). Traditionally a Kava drink or “tea” is prepared from the root (the only part of the plant that is used). The cloudy brew is made by pounding and grinding the root, a labor intensive task that is usually reserved for young eager males. Modern procedures usually involve power operated machinery such as a mulcher which turns the root into pulp. There are so many ways in which to drink your Kava but it is traditional to set a moment of the day aside “Kava time”, where a mood is set with friends and family to forget about your daily routines and sit back and relax. In the South Pacific Islands where coconut shells are abundant Kava is enjoyed from a shell but if a coconut shell isn’t handy it might be fun to use a special cup of your own choosing. Either way it is a time to share, appreciate and enjoy! So Drink up and Bula!
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