Saturday, July 22, 2017

The 2 Legends of Kava: A Drink Enjoyed for 3,000 years.

Throughout the Pacific Islands, it is nearly impossible to have a discussion about the history of their various cultures without speaking of the mysterious, cultivated shrub known as kava. Kava has been a popular drink in the Pacific Islands for over 3,000 years.

It is consumed before the start of any important ceremony or religious ritual. It is commonly taken at formal functions, get-togethers of senior members of the village and social events. 

The islands however, witness a complete kava ceremony when guests of special reputation arrive for an important occasion. They come with a bowl of kava and the appropriate drinking tools. The drinking bowl is initially kept between the makers of the drink and the guest, the drink is then poured into a cup by a chosen person, who then turns to the visitor and serves it to the guest of honor.

How was kava traditionally prepared?

The preparation of kava-kava was elaborated by George Forster in 1777. He was a naturalist, journalist, and a revolutionary. He had accompanied his father who was a renowned naturalist too on many scientific adventures and of them the second Pacific voyage of Captain James Cook was one. According to George Forster, the kava juice is extracted from the roots of a kind of pepper-tree. The roots are first made into pieces and then are chewed by people who later spew out the pulp into a bowl containing coconut or cold water. After this, the mix is filtered through the coconut fibers and then emptied into a separate bowl for consumption.

Today, in more traditional, tribal cultures, children are given the task of chewing the roots and lower stems of the plant to produce the brew made from kava. The mouths of children are generally more disease free than those of adults, and their teeth are stronger as well, so they make ideal candidates for chewing the root. 

The root is chewed and the extract is then spit into a bowl. The kava root mixture is then diluted by the addition of water, and the mixture is strained into coconut bowls. One half of such a bowl is enough to induce a state of well being which may terminate in tranquility lasting for several hours.

The Legends of Kava

There are legends which point out that the origin of kava came into notice when a Samoa-born girl left for Fiji to marry a chief. When she was coming back to Samoa, she saw two hillside plants of which one was being chewed by a rat. After chewing, the rat fell asleep. This very incident made the girl realize that the plants contain some comforting properties. This was kava. She decided to bring the plant with her to Samoa. In Samoa, these plants found a more congenial environment to grow. A chief from a nearby island took roots of these two plants with him in return of two eggs laying hens.

In Tonga, there is a more grisly explanation for the origin of Kava. The legend is told of a great chief named Loau, who lived on the island of Eua Iki and was visited by his servant, Feva Anga. Ferva Anga wanted to serve a great feast for the chief, but it was a time of great famine. In desperation, he and his wife killed and cooked their only daughter. The chief recognized the human flesh in the food when it was served and would not eat it. He told Feva to bury his daughter and to bring him the plant that would spring forth. On receiving the mature plant, Loau instructed that a drink be prepared from it and consumed with due ceremony. That plant was Kava Kava

Of the various legends, the first is the most famous story which speaks about the growth and history of kava.

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Kalm With Kava. "History of Kava"
Dr. Christopher's Herbal Legacy. Lindsay Wolsey. "History of Kava"
Kava Dot Com. "History of Kava"

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