and other faqs
IS IT SAFE FOR ME? WHO SHOULDN'T DRINK CACAO?
For most people, cacao is very safe! However, there are some specific contraindications so please check below.
Please note these ceremonies are for over-18s only.
Cacao is essentially a very pure, unrefined form of what is better known as chocolate. In the west, until recently it was only known in a very bastardised, industrially processed form. But the ancient, traditional form of "chocolate" is cacao - a rich, bitter, nourishing and heart-stimulating sacred beverage made from the seeds/nuts ("beans" found in the fruit pods of the theobroma cacao tree. This drink was first consumed thousands of years ago by the ancient Olmec and classical Maya peoples of Mesoamerica. Even today, contemporary Maya people continue to use as one of several important offerings in traditional rituals including fire ceremonies, celebrations and also for medicinal healing purposes. Over the last couple of decades, westerners have begun to discover what the Maya have known for millennia...In most cases, cacao is not only safe but wonderfully beneficial for health.
In my ceremonies, I share a potent form of cacao as a medicine: the cacao itself has properties which some may be sensitive to, and the ceremonial context itself can also be impactful, so the main safety concerns are usually a matter of checking if you are on any medication, or if there are specific sensitivities or other health issues which make it inadvisable to consume cacao in this form, and in this setting.
As a plant medicine, cacao is comparatively gentle and loving, but a medicine all the same - often she calls to those of us who are of a more sensitive constitution, so it's good to start off with a smaller dose if this is your first cacao experience. (I actually no longer serve what's typically regarded as the "ceremonial dose" - this was simply an invention of the westerner who coined the term "cacao ceremony", and in my personal experience (in over 5 years of sharing cacao and consuming daily myself) different sized bodies, different metabolic rates, different sensitivities and constitutions mean there's no single "correct" dosage. For how I share the medicine, huge servings are not necessary to experience the inner journey and the energy of the cacao, nor the emotional release. I prefer a gentler approach so emotional purging isn't necessarily part of it for everyone either.
It is important to respect the more subtle but still very profound power of cacao's medicine - she is not for everyone, but she will be fine for most people. This is one reason I think it's so good to use cacao in a sacred, held space, with a trained, experienced cacao practitioner: when we come to the medicine with a specific intention, and with respect for & awareness of the power of the plant to affect us, we create the best circumstances in which to get we what we need from the experience in the most beneficial way.
It's often said that cacao will open up a doorway but won't push you through - you will still be fully in control of yourself in the journey. Cacao is mildly psychoactive, in that it contains compounds which cross the blood-brain barrier and affect your mood - but cacao is NOT a psychedelic. This medicine contains a lot of serotonin-boosters, which is why you need to be careful if youre on any medication which also works on the serotonin levels in your system.
Cacao is also a stimulant, containing a unique combination of caffeine (which stimulates the nervous system) and theobromine (which stimulates the heart); most people find it much gentler than coffee but still good to go gently your first time.
Health factors to be particularly aware of are:
* if you are on antidepressants, SSRIs or other medication, have a heart condition or are pregnant: Be aware that the theobromine in cacao is a vasodilator: it increases the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Cacao in the concentrated doses we consume in ceremony therefore increases blood flow to the brain & heart by at least 40% so you may be better off with a smaller dose. I usually offer a half-dose to people on SSRIs. Please see below for more info...and contact me if in doubt.
* if you are taking 5-htp (5-Hydroxytryptophan) it's advisable to have a smaller dose of cacao.
* If you are taking St John's Wort, please refrain from taking it for a few days before & after the cacao circle.
* If you are on MAOI antidepressants, cacao (& all forms of chocolate) is contraindicated because it contains tyramine.
*If you take antipsychotic medication, (for any reason), consuming ceremonial cacao in this way is also contraindicated. (And if being treated for psychosis, I also don't feel it's wise to engage in practices which involve exploring how to tune into and hear an inner voice, the voice of a plant spirit or other guide.)
* if you have low blood pressure, be aware that although cacao is a stimulant, it lowers blood pressure. Depending on your condition, a smaller dose might be appropriate - in some cases it may be contraindicated eg if you have had epileptic fits triggered by low blood pressure (bear in mind that the whole ritualised experience of lying down & being guided on a nidra & deeply introspective journey is also likely to lower your blood pressure even without the cacao!). Please contact me if you want to ask more.
* some people are allergic or sensitive to theobromine - it can trigger headaches or migraines in some people. (You will probably already know if this is you.) In some cases, a smaller dose will be fine depending on how sensitive you are.
* if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be aware that theobromine is a stimulant & increases heart rate & lowers blood pressure. Some western people advise avoiding it completely during pregnancy, others suggest a smaller dose (I can discuss this with you). However, I think it's also worth noting that for thousands of years, indigenous Mayan women have consumed cacao safely throughout pregnancy and even during childbirth (in the final stages of labour, to assist with the final big push!), as well as afterwards - in their culture, midwives know that cacao is such a nourishing, energising food that it gives women great strength. So if you are pregnant or breastfeeding this does not rule cacao out for you - I simply present this information so that you can make your own informed decision, and if you are new to cacao especially, I would certainly serve you a smaller dose so you can see how you respond. Cacao contains roughly a tenth of the caffeine found in coffee so depending on your stance on coffee during pregnancy you may be ok with the smaller dose of cacao. Similarly, some people prefer to avoid all sources of theobromine & caffeine while they are breastfeeding.
* if you are epileptic: high consumption of cacao stimulates the brain and there is also scientific research to suggest a possible connection between caffeine & cacao consumption and increased seizures. Scientific research / evidence is still inconclusive, but I would err on the side of caution if you have a history of epilepsy. It is also important for the sake of other participants that we create a safe environment where there is little risk of disruption.
* if you are sensitive to caffeine, it can affect your sleep - though cacao contains far less than coffee - about a tenth of the amount. People often find they actually sleep really well and dream vividly after consuming ceremonial cacao.
The ceremonial-grade cacao licor/paste we share in the medicine ceremony is very different from, and more pure & potent than, the raw cacao powder you might use to make raw chocolate, a superfood tonic or smoothies (although ceremonial grade cacao can also be used for all these things). It is far less processed: ceremonial cacao licor is not heat-treated & retains the cacao butter as well as the cacao powder (cacao solids). You can read more about what constitutes "ceremonial grade" cacao here.
DO YOU OFFER ONE-TO-ONE OR PRIVATE GROUP CACAO CEREMONIES?
Yes I do! Click here for more info.
WHY ARE YOUR CEREMONIES FOR WOMEN ONLY?
I wish to create a safe space for women to explore healing, spirit and feminine empowerment; to address and heal some of the wounding that growing up in a patriarchal culture -which disrespects women, nature and intuitive wisdom paths - brings. This aligns with my own personal path working with cacao. My personal experiences around cacao have centred deeply on my own path of feminine healing, including some very visceral initiations; so I feel I can only really speak to other women and their experiences as women, at present. I have always experienced the medicine herself as having a strongly feminine energy.
Although in Mayan culture, cacao has a strong feminine connection (and corn/maize has the strong masculine connection - cacao and corn are a polarity), it is women who cultivate and prepare cacao traditionally, there is no protocol against men consuming cacao (and the sacred rituals are often guided by them); it's simply my personal calling to share with women. I appreciate that many men are in touch with their feminine side too! But when men ask why women want spaces for women only, and seem unable to appreciate why this might be, it kind of confirms the need for those spaces...
In a sense, I feel the western belated recognition of cacao's power as a sacred plant, after 500 years of being debased, and abused (along with the animist peoples of the Americas who revered cacao and other plants), stripped of its inherent spiritual power and reduced to a highly processed piece of confectionery is perhaps being mirrored in the ways the sacred feminine is being restored within the consciousness of many western women. Western/European culture & the various patriarchal monotheistic religions have repressed and abused and dishonoured the feminine, the intuitive, the heart-based, the sacred, Mother Earth/Nature for centuries...Perhaps this is why so many women are being called now to connect with cacao's loving, maternal and deeply healing energy; and why more people in general are hearing the call of plant medicines, to teach them how to heal the planet through healing themselves & their separation wound from nature, by reconnecting to nature spirits...
CAN YOU TRAIN ME TO HOLD CACAO CEREMONIES?
In short: no!
I'm interested in sharing a sacred medicine I have a deep relationship with, and have been immersed in for years; and I love creating intimate ceremonies for women to experience a grounded, sacred setting for their encounter with the cacao medicine spirit. To do this I draw on a lifetime of my own personal experiences, philosophical interests, spiritual explorations, healing path, diverse studies and trainings and potent initiations.
I am not a shaman, I do not offer apprenticeships nor initiations into working with a plant spirit; and I am not an indigenous person so I can't give you permission nor teach your their rituals. It's vitally important to me to remain in integrity with what I do, a - I don't regard what I do as a "business" and would not be comfortable endorsing people I don't know simply because they have paid me money.
And it's sad I have to state this, but participating in ceremonies with me does not equate to an apprenticeship training in cacao plant spirit medicine nor in holding safe, sacred ceremonial space for others! Despite what some, apparently, have wanted to think.
In this spirit, I ask that if you're coming to a ceremony, it's to participate, to surrender yourself to the experience of the medicine and ceremony fully, rather than observe and study how I work. This is also important in terms of respecting the other participants: the ceremonial space is intended to be a safe place for vulnerability and open-heartedness.
(I have had some odd experiences over the years of people being less than honest about their intentions in various ways, and none of this is acting in integrity, let alone grounded in any experience or respect for the medicine and traditions and indigenous heritage. It is also a shame when the spirit of these offerings is intended to be oriented in the energy of the heart! Please do not try to take what is not being offered.)