Traditional Purposes of the Kava Ceremony

Kava can be found in recreational and social gatherings. It has been used as a social drink for high-ranking chiefs and elders, drank as a form of WELCOME and PEACE for honored guest, consumed for preparation and completion of an even or of work, to validate status, observe births, marriages and deaths, to relieve stress, remedy illnesses, etc.

Types of Kava Ceremonies:

  • Full ceremony -- on every formal occasion
  • Meeting of village elders, chiefs, and nobles, and for visiting chiefs and dignitaries
  • Less formal -- social occasions

Preparation for ceremony:

Originally to prepare the Kava drink, a young boy or girl would cut the root, chew, and spit the macerated mass into a bowl where some milk of coconuts was poured on top. The coconuts were then strained, and the chips were squeezed until all the juices are mixed with the coconut milk. The whole liquor was decanted into another bowl and drank as fast as possible. Now a more sanitary preparation is required since the previous method is unsanitary, and therefore illegal. The new method involves grinding and grating instead of chewing and spitting.

After the preparation, a group of young men dressed in ceremonial attire carry the Kava bowl and deliver it to the chief guest. If the whole bowl is drank without stopping everyone yells "a maca" (pronounced "a matha"), meaning "it is empty" and then claps three times. The Kava bowl is then served to the next person of importance or rank.

It is the drink of pleasure for chiefs and essential on occasions of hospitality and feasting. Commoners were subject to penalty of death if caught drinking Kava at one time, and therefore the sacred nature of the drink warrants that its preparation and use are always done with respect.

In Hawaii, Kava is drank during divination ceremonies, naming of children aged one years old, the consecrating of a male child, or initiating of young girls into traditional hula and chanting.

It is drank in kinship and chiefship rituals, for public atonement of misdeeds. Many people were pardoned for their crimes after a Kava ceremony.

Sharing a Kava bowl allows for socialization and friendship to occur. Fears are allayed and friendships cemented.

Kava has a key role in social ceremonies. It is usually the only way to welcome honored visitors. Former Pope John Paul II drank upon their visit with the Fijian prime minister and guests during the pontiff’s visit to Fiji in 1986.

In Fiji, Kava ceremonies allows participants to communicate with the supernatural.

We expect that the religious, economic, and political functions and meanings of Kava ceremonies will continue to evolve, both within the Pacific and beyond.

The story of “‘AWA” is far from ended.
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