Kava and Family – Creating Unity through Ceremony

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Ask Makaira | 8 comments

Kava and Family - Creating Unity through CeremonyAloha everyone!

Recently, one of our customers, Joel, asked me a very interesting question. He was curious which kava product I would recommend as an addition to a tradition that his family took part in several times a year. His family gathers at a specific spot on a river, where they sit around a campfire and tell stories about ancestors and local legends in order to create a strong connection to each other and to the past. The family had decided to include kava in this ritual, in order to enhance bonding and communication! Of course, I recommended our traditional powdered kava root, since it is the closest to the kava preparation that is traditionally used in kava ceremonies all over the world.

I was overjoyed to hear that kava was being included in such a ceremony, and, to be honest, I was even happier to know that there are people who are creating family bonding ceremonies in order to build unity and togetherness. In most indigenous cultures, including Hawaiian culture, it is traditional to hold regular ceremonial events in which family and tribe members gather together to build a strong feeling of group unity and to remember the blessings of the ancestors. Very often, these rituals include the consumption of one or more plant medicines, which create a shared experience, break down the boundaries of the individual ego, and allow all members of the ceremony to learn from each other and share wisdom easily and with openness. The addition of a plant medicine also recognizes our undeniable connection to nature, the earth, and plant life as our most ancient ancestors and valuable members of family and tribe.

Unfortunately, the modern Western society that has been spreading across the globe for the last few centuries does not innately contain any such rituals. Furthermore, with the demonization of many plant medicines by missionaries in places such as the Pacific Islands, indigenous peoples lost track of these essential unifying rituals. This often resulted the complete disintegration of the tribal and family group and the abandonment of traditional ways of life. So, nowadays people of all ancestries go through life without ever practicing rituals of unification and bonding in the family group or larger community. This has lead to a great societal feeling of loneliness, isolation, and alienation which can clearly be seen in modern literature, music, art, and consumer culture.

I am always incredibly grateful to be part of a family in which the traditional kava ceremony has been going strong for as long as anyone can remember. I have a feeling that is our tradition of building family unity through the kava ceremony that has allowed us to succeed so well while running a thriving family business and dealing with all of the challenges that such an operation brings. Every evening, after a long, hard day of work, we get together to share an informal bowl of kava and to laugh and talk about the experiences of the day. Every month or so, the whole extended family gathers, often with friends and their families, for a more formal, traditional kava ceremony. In this way, through ceremony and the bonding and warming social enhancement of kava, we reaffirm the importance of our connection as a family. We are able to deal with any conflicts that come up with compassion and love, and are constantly remembering and cultivating gratitude for the wisdom of our ancestors. I believe that it is the kava ceremony, more than anything else, that holds us together as a family.

So, as I said, I am overjoyed to learn that family bonding traditions are being revived in places all over the world, and am even happier to learn that kava and other plant medicines are being included in these rituals. Now, I’m a little biased, but I do feel that kava is an ideal plant for family ceremonies – after all, it creates a wonderful feeling of connection and closeness, allowing family members and partners to increase feelings of unity exponentially. However, depending on your family and the tradition you create, you may find that another plant is a more appropriate addition to your ritual. Whatever sort of plant you feel might be appropriate, and whatever form your ritual takes, I would strongly encourage all of you to consider creating a regular unification ritual – be it with blood relations, close friends, co-workers, or any other group in which you wish to cultivate unity. I think you will be surprised to learn just how valuable and powerful this connection is!

If you are already participating in group rituals of bonding and unification, regardless of whether they include plant medicines, please leave a comment and let me know what form your ritual takes. I’m very interested in learning about different forms of family bonding rituals!

Aloha no,

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Aloha,

    While I do agree most cultures do have ritual plant medicines, and that modern Western culture appears not to have such rituals, I disagree that the apparent lack of ritual is innate; its simply that we misuse the medicines today, using them more for their side effects than their intended use, or even as an end in themselves rather than as a means to communicate with others.

    Though there are many others, two of these Western plant medicines are coffee and wine. Today, coffee is often used as a morning jolt, and wine is used as a way to get drunk. In the past, though, coffee was used to stimulate discussion on religion, politics, and philosophy, and wine was essential in several religions. Even today, it’s not unheard of to go for coffee with a friend, or to share a glass of wine with a loved one–it’s just not as common as it used to be.

    Perhaps the loss of these rituals is a societal thing. There is a lot of pressure to always go! Go! GO! and to always go faster and do more in the same amount of time you had before. Sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and burnout are becoming more common in Western society these days. If many people decided to slow down and try to enjoy pleasures, rather than simply rush past as many feel pressured to do, and more people decided to sit and enjoy a bowl of ‘awa with their communities, maybe the world would be a better place.

    On the other hand, what if this “always need progress” society decides to misuse this plant medicine, as some individuals did early this century? It led to an indefinite legal status for ‘awa in many countries. Though the laws seemed to lighten up a little bit recently, another peculiarity of modern Western society is its occasional fits of moral panic, like with many plant medicines, including alcohol in the 1920s. Because alcohol was denounced as completely evil, it gained a kind of mystique that still hasn’t gone away completely in many countries. Hopefully, ‘awa doesn’t go through a similar situation.

    Do you think that ‘awa, if used correctly, could help Western society with some of its ills? Is that constant hounding to always be doing more when there’s no more time part of what’s driving Western society insane? What does Western society really need to learn to do from other cultures, so it doesn’t completely implode from all the stress it places on itself? Also, are you defining Western society in a similar way to me, counting the Near Eastern, European, and derived societies rather than indigenous societies in the Americas?

    Thank-you! This post you made was very thought-provoking. Though I only have tried ‘awa a few times, I feel it can really help my brother and I feel less anxious and stressed after the year we’ve gone through, and that it will help communication flow more freely between us.

    Take care! Good luck with business!

  2. Aloha April!

    Unfortunately, I haven’t much to tell you on this topic. There are no studies on kava for children that I know of, and my family initiates members into drinking ‘awa during the teenage years (although I’m sure different regions/tribes have different practices). I cannot recommend giving kava to children, as it is quite a strong herb. Especially if your son is struggling with kidney failure, it is necessary that you consult a medical doctor before giving any herbs…

    That said, I’m very happy to hear that you are connecting with kava and other plant medicines and I encourage you to keep exploring this path! I also believe that nature has provided us with all of the medicines we need to heal and survive any illness. Unfortunately, at this point we have lost so much of our ancient wisdom in relation to herbs that it can be difficult or even dangerous to make the appropriate choices, and it is important to be very careful when working with a new herb, especially with kids or in cases of serious medical troubles. However, we as a society are making great strides in this realm every day, and I’m sure that as time goes on, even your doctor will be willing to discuss herbal alternatives with you! 🙂

    Aloha no,

  3. Aloha, from a fellow pac islander, and family who seeks alternative, natural, earth gifted remedies!! There is NOTHING that nature hasnt provided to cure and treat all disease and symptoms of illness! I have 2 sons kota and kayano who are 3 and 9. The 9 year old Kayano has kidney failure since birth, stabalized at 50%. Im curious of benifits or warnings for children and/or any known info for renal hypodisplasia . Can you tell us more study or opinion about the standards for traditional/ ceremonies, for children? Thank u for this blog about KAVA!!! I recently understanding that Kava is a “part of me” . I was clueless of kava, but now, have found your blogs to help shed “light” and better understanding on my “initiation” with KAVA! Very exciting to now learn and experience. Thank u! APRIL iN CALIFORNIA 😉

  4. I am glad I put a big smile on your face. You are also such an insightful person. If I do experience a real Kava Ceremony one day, I hope it’s on your farm!

    Thanks again for everything,

  5. Aloha again, Gan! 🙂

    Thank you for your insightful comments. They’ve put a big smile on my face.

    I am not a Christian, but some of my family members are, and I do have a deep respect for the core principles of Jesus’ teachings. I, too, think it is very sad that many people choose to justify controlling or greedy behavior by citing Christianity. Nevertheless, I am always overjoyed and reassured when I come into contact with Christians who bravely uphold the true meaning of their faith and work to spread love, joy, and peace, and who are curious and open to the beliefs and rituals of other peoples. In my eyes, there is no conflict between practicing Christianity and working with kava or another plant medicine in a traditional ceremony – both are means of connecting more fully with the self, with the divine, and with the planet and each other. The more we can bring these sacred traditions together, the stronger we will be as a human family!

    Thank you again for stopping by! Please enjoy our kava, and I hope you have the opportunity to experience a traditional kava ceremony one day!

    Aloha no,

  6. Hey it’s me again. Quoting you earlier, “Furthermore, with the demonization of many plant medicines by missionaries in places such as the Pacific Islands, indigenous peoples lost track of these essential unifying rituals..”

    THAT is sad there were and are Christians like that. Those people were not true to the way real Christians are supposed to act and probably never touched a bible and ran by greed.

    True Christians do not judge and just try to spread love, joy, and family like you say. It is sad so many people do not know this because of fake Christians like that. I want to be a missionary myself one day, and I would LOVE to sit with your family, or any other indigenous group, and enjoy a traditional Kava Ceremony.

    Honestly, there is a lot of evil in the world today, and I’m not sure what it is anymore(I have a few good ideas, though). I don’t try to force Christianity on anyone, but I do try to let people know what a real Christian is who have had there opinion spoiled by others. True followers of Jesus Christ, and his number one message, is to forgive and forget, and to love everybody especially Children.

    I a glad your business is doing well and your life sounds like a wonderful one.

    Thank you=].

  7. Dear Bill,

    I’m not a doctor and can’t give out medical advice, and I really recommend you ask you doctor about this. My gut feeling is telling me that combining a sleeping pill with a relaxing herb like kava is probably not the best idea…

    Aloha no,

  8. What is your advise regarding taking Kava with Ambien?


  1. Kava Article Library - KEITH CLEVERSLEY - […] Kava and Family – Creating Unity through Ceremony Aloha everyone! Recently, one of our customers, Joel, asked me a very…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *