HOW I CAME TO WORK WITH CACAO
In 2013 I became fascinated by accounts of powerful entheogenic plant medicines which could evoke divine experiences of nature spirits and were often profoundly therapeutic for those in need of personal healing. I was deeply committed to my Ashtanga yoga practice at this time as my self-healing practice, but also subconsciously I must have been feeling a longing for a more direct communion with the "divine" in some form...I was very curious but also very cautious about those powerful entheogens! And I wasn't necessarily sure how my yoga path and a plant medicine path might be consistent with each other...The following year, discussing my interest and also my reservations, I was told about a woman in London who held ceremonies sharing the much gentler medicine of cacao, a powerfully heart-opening plant medicine. I was intrigued and began to investigate, but did not yet feel strongly called to actually go...
During a transformative stay on the Hawaiian island of Maui at the end of 2015, I experienced a profound heart-opening (without cacao) which set me on a more feminine, heart-oriented spiritual path. I had already heard about cacao being used as a heart-opening plant medicine, and enjoyed "raw cacao" as a lovely medicinal superfood; but in 2017 the cacao plant spirit began to really call to my heart. I finally travelled to London that summer for my first ceremony, and felt a deep, familiar connection to the energy of cacao: it was the closest to the blissful heart-opening I had experienced since Maui.
Inspired by this, I started creating yoga workshops which combined cacao and the deeply relaxed, naturally altered states of consciousness induced by yoga nidra with heart-opening yoga practices. I loved holding these workshops (I was always very clear that these were yoga workshops involving cacao and not "cacao ceremonies", as I believe that adding cacao to an offering, does not instantly make it a cacao ceremony!) and introducing some of my yoga students to the beautiful heart-opening qualities of cacao.
I wanted to go deeper with this medicine, and wanted to learn properly how to work with and share her medicine, and so in spring 2018 I travelled to Ibiza for a intense, immersive cacaoista apprenticeship training with Rebekah, (whose ceremony in London I had experienced and been so inspired by the previous year), a plant medicine practitioner who had essentially created her own form of cacao ceremony, drawing on what she herself had learned during her apprenticeship to an Amazonian curandero in Peru in the late 1990s. (So the cacao ceremonial style she shared was very much rooted in the traditional plant medicine ceremonies of the Amazon, rather than eg Mayan sacred ceremonies or the western, new age, more eclectic styles of cacao ceremonies which bring in other modalities.)
To my shock, and even some resistance initially, I heard the voice of the cacao spirit loud and clear from the very first ceremonial journey of this training. She spoke to me with incredible clarity, directness and wisdom, addressing my then still very conflicted relationship to "the feminine" - within myself, my family/ancestry, to the socio-cultural archetypal roles and expectations of womanhood; and in more expansive terms, to the feminine forces of creativity and the divine in nature. She spoke to me clearly about how all these aspects of the feminine were inextricably intertwined, all faces of the same underlying energy; to heal one it was necessary to heal it all...
That initial formal training ended but my own path of learning has continued ever since, guided by an ever-deepening relationship with Ixcacao* and her medicine, connecting, journeying and working with her by myself and also holding safe, compassionate space and guiding others on powerful, deep journeys.
(* "Ixcacao" - pronounced "Eeesh-kakao" - is one of the names sometimes given to the cacao spirit, as a sacred plant deity with Mayan roots - I have yet to establish whether or not this is an authentic ancient Mayan deity - they had several cacao deities for sure - or a recently coined name inspired by cacao's Mayan roots and such deities as IxChel, the lunar rainbow goddess of healing...In any case, "Ixcacao" has become how I think of her.)
Part of my ongoing cacao studies have involved educating myself about the history of cacao as an indigenous sacred ritual plant, mostly associated with the Mayan cultures of Mesoamerica. However, my own personal cacao practice has actually come through Peruvian cacao and West Amazonian plant medicine traditions. I received my cacao initiation from a teacher who worked with plant medicines in the West Amazonian traditions, and who shared cacao from this area. (Coincidentally, there's a lot of evidence that cacao trees actually originated in the Amazon, and may have spread north into Central America naturally over time, so cacao does have a natural Amazonian connection too.)
Communing with Ixcacao in ceremony, I have experienced profound healing insights I doubt I could ever have received without her assistance; I give thanks for her medicine each morning in my personal practice. I share her medicine so that other women might also experience her loving, powerful, deeply feminine and nature-rooted wisdom. I bring a gentle, intimate, compassionate energy to the women's ceremonies I've been holding regularly since 2018; I also draw on many years of experience holding safe, sacred/healing space as a yoga teacher and massage therapist. (Learn more about my path here.) My intention is to create a safe feminine healing space in which you can commune with Ixcacao's medicine, honour her, journey with her, hear her wisdom and allow her energy to assist you in your individual healing & spiritual path.
I hope that my ceremonies are in some small way at least a welcoming bridge point for those wishing to commune with cacao, explore nature-based spirituality and respect for earth-honouring traditional practices and cultures, heal their relationship to the sacred feminine in both themselves and the natural world, and allow some of those protective heart-energy blockages to be dissolved in the flowing warmth of Ixcacao!