Kava Drinking Rituals

Kava has been enjoyed throughout Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia for over 3,000 years. The rituals and reasons for drinking kava vary from region to region and often involve colorful rituals.

Fiji

In Fiji, kava is known as yagona and is used for most ceremonies, from weddings to funerals. Drinkers gather around a large bowl with three legs called a tanoa and drink kava from hollowed half coconut shells. Before drinking Fijians clap three times, say, “Bula” which means life, or to live, and is also used as a greeting and salutation. After drinking the entire shell, kava drinkers clap twice more. Clapping is believed to scare off any evil spirits.

Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, where kava originated, traditionally men gathered after sunset at local nakamals, which are sacred structures built specifically for kava consumption. The men would wait for tribal virgins to prepare the kava, which only the men would then drink, spitting a small amount on the ground at the end of each serving.  Today kava bars have also become prevalent in Vanuatu as a commercial endeavor. At most of these kava bars women are allowed to enjoy the kava with the men.

Hawaii

Kava, called awa in Hawaiian,  was endorsed by chiefs for social cohesion and was also used by farmers as an offering for a successful growing season. Kava drinking ritual in Hawaiian culture involves pouring the kava into a coconut shell, sprinkling a small amount on the ground for allowing it to grow, another sprinkle for the ancestors who brought the kava to the islands, and one more sprinkle for future generations. The drinker then claps once, lifts the shell to head level before drinking the kava all in one gulp. Drinking is followed with two claps.

At Bula Kava House we respect the traditions of all kava drinking areas. We encourage visitors to partake in any ritual they like (unless it involves spitting on the floor), combine multiple rituals, or to make up their own.  Have fun with it!

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