S. E. PALE
Candidate of Historical Sciences
Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Oceania, cava, culture, low-narcotic drink
Kava is a weakly narcotic drink. It is made from the root of the plant of the same name, which has up to 100 varieties, differing in strength. It has been popular on the islands of Oceania since their settlement - that is, for at least two millennia.
Oceania is the region from the coast of Australia to South America, which includes about 25 thousand islands, on which 13 independent States are located and about the same number of Non-Self-Governing territories belonging to Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States. The largest state in Oceania is Papua New Guinea, twice the size of Japan, and the smallest is the island - state of Nauru (only 17 km long and 15 km wide).
Oceania is also commonly divided into three cultural areas: Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
Even at the dawn of the study of Oceania, European scientists adopted a classification of Oceanic crops based on the principle that their carriers use either kava or betel, another local weakly narcotic plant. Presumably, the "kava culture" developed in southeastern Melanesia, from where it spread to Polynesia and Micronesia. And the "betel culture" appeared later in northwestern Melanesia, while betel, unlike kava, did not receive a sacred meaning. Kava, associated with an earlier migration wave, became deeply embedded in the life of the islanders and received a ritual function. It was among the carriers of the "kava culture" in Oceania that totemism* appeared, associated with a complex social structure, and the "betel culture" forced the Oceanians to submit to a rigid tribal system, supported by the cult of veneration of the skulls of supreme leaders.
Today, kava has received recognition on all the islands of Oceania without exception. The most heated debate about which kava is better is between the two largest Melanesian states-export ... Read more