19.05.2011 83 °F
Yesterday, I took part in an ancient Hawaiian Awa Ceremony. Awa (pronounced Ava) is a plant whose roots are used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties without disrupting mental clarity. The Hawaiians use it as a way of connecting to their ancestors. But before Awa can be administered, a long, beautiful ceremony needs to be performed to please the gods and bless the Awa.
When we arrived, we couldn't help but notice what beautiful place we were in. We were on a private ranch called Kaula, or something like that. Films like Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Along Came Polly, and others were shot there for its aesthetic appeal. It is also, I was told, a very spiritual place because it is believed that the gods were buried on the mountain that sits directly behind the ranch.
They soon asked us to line up from highest rank to lowest. We don't have a real ranking system, so we did it by age. Then, we watched as they imitated barking dogs or pigs or something. It was actually very scary. That guy I in the in picture below was the guardsman, the biggest and strongest (and scariest) of all of the administrators.
Finally, after they had "transformed", they greeted us by going nose to nose and breathing out a little bit, thereby offering some of their "mana" (essentially their lifeforce). We sat down on straw woven matts and they passed out large banana tree leaves. Then, after some talk in Hawaiian, they passed out chunks of roots from the taro plant, some other yellow one, sweet potato, some salmon, and finally seaweed. Each had it's own symbolic significance. And as it turned out, most did not taste very good. Once we all at them, they poured Awa into our coconut cups and we drank together. It was also pretty bad. I've never tasted anything like it before. It has a numbing effect on your mouth, so it tingles a bit on the way down.
After everyone has finished, we went around saying whatever was on our minds, thanking the gods, or the people who lead the ceremony, to us for visiting Hawaii, etc. Some people talked about their ancestors, some people reflected on the lessons of humility they learned from the ceremony. From what I gather, it's an opportunity to say anything you want.
After the ceremony, we had a big potluck diner on the patio thing. It was delicious. After we ate, the Cats sang a few songs, including a spontaneous duet rendition of Orange Colored Sky with one Cat and his sister. It was really fantastic, and was especially fitting because they both have bright, orange hair. Then, the aforementioned guardsman sang and played ukelele, and two girls hulu danced.
It was a wonderful evening that I will never forget.