CACAO PLANT MEDICINE
HOW I CAME to WORK WITH CACAO
Working with cacao as a plant medicine really brings together several different strands which have called me for years. Since childhood, I was profoundly impacted by messages & realisations I received through dreams - as an adult, I often wished I could find ways to tap into this more intuitive, higher level of awareness more consciously. Particularly when I was younger, I often experienced dreams as powerful sources of wisdom, creativity, insight and even prophetic/psychic in ways which went beyond coincidence.
I've also had an affinity for nature since childhood (who hasn't?), and grew up with a deepening sense of reverence for non-human living beings: I've always had quite animist/Pagan leanings, spiritually, finding sacredness in the natural world. I was fortunate, in a sense, to have the freedom of not having been raised within a particular religion by my parents. As an adult I became interested in indigenous cultures which retained this basic respect for life and nature, something largely lost in western industrial rationalist capitalist cultures... Such cultures often seem to place greater value on the potential of dreams to reveal truths and insights, too.
As a Philosophy graduate (western philosophy), for many years I considered myself adamantly atheist - but as my Yoga path deepened in my 30s and early 40s, I began to recognise that there was in fact a deep longing to connect to spirit in some form - and for me, it was accounts of people communing with sacred plants in the Americas, and hearing the voice of the rainforest herself, which really appealed to me. I longed to experience that level of deep connection to the sacred in nature, and all the accounts I heard and read of Amazonian plant medicine ceremonies began to call me. And the Americas have always called me: specifically, the state of New Mexico (where I lived for a summer in 1998) and the country of Mexico (I visited the north in my pre-cacao days!), and the Mesoamerican lands which, I eventually learned, are cacao's sacred homelands..
I first heard about cacao being used as a plant medicine in 2014, in a hill tribe village in northern Thailand, whilst taking a Thai massage training. I was discussing my interest in Amazonian entheogenic plant ceremonies but also my wariness of such potentially destabilising experiences; I've always recognised that mine needed to be a gentle path of Yoga, natural health and meditative practices. Cacao was recommended as something I might like to try instead: a safe, gentle heart-opening plant medicine.
A few more years, a powerful and liberating heart-opening experience in a yoga class on Maui, and a growing urge to try communing with cacao finally led me to London in 2017 for my first ceremony. The heart-opening medicine combined with a deep inner journey was beautiful and reminded me strongly of the blissful heart-opening feeling I'd first experienced on Maui. I began to experiment with yoga workshops involving cacao (and making and drinking more and more of my own chocolate...), getting a feel for whether cacao & I could work together more...
We could; in spring 2018 I travelled to Ibiza for a intense, immersive cacaoista apprenticeship training with Rebekah, the plant medicine practitioner whose ceremony in London I'd attended. I appreciated her traditional plant medicine ceremony approach (as opposed to the recreational, more eclectic/new age approaches which have become very popular with westerners) which emphasized respect for the medicine and its potential for deep inner work and personal healing, as well as the importance of working in partnership with the plant spirit herself.
After that initiation, my cacao path continued independently for a few years, guided by an ever-deepening relationship with the medicine each day in daily practices, independent study of the history and indigenous roots of cacao, and through holding many ceremonies over the years. The medicine and my ever-evolving personal practice became my teachers.
My cacaoista apprenticeship training in 2018 was rooted in Amazonian plant medicine ceremonial traditions; since then I've gravitated towards exploring the Mayan roots of cacao as a sacred beverage.
In 2021 I began studying Mayan traditional teachings more broadly, through the Mayan Wisdom Academy, and in early 2022 I embarked upon the Mayan Wisdom Project's cacao training programme. This course was what I had been longing to connect with for several years, an authentic source of Mayan knowledge and experience. The entirely Mayan group of teachers from Guatemala - cacao guardian and historian W'ukub K'at Saq'ik (Tata Jerico), cacao guardian and producer Kajib Tzik'in Chuj (Nana Jessica), and cacao farmer Yasmira Chen Coc (all members of Chinimital del Kakaw); spiritual guides Tata Mario, Tata Juan and Tata Miguel; and Ruku'x' Ulew founder Cecilia Mendoza Chiyal - were wonderful, humble, deeply knowledgeable and generous. I am deeply grateful to these wonderful teachers, and also to Solveig Barrios, founder and guide of the Mayan Wisdom Project, and her husband Martin for the priceless opportunity to listen to and learn from this wonderful group of indigenous Mayan teachers.
Upcoming cacao medicine ceremony dates here
What is a cacao medicine ceremony?
Why come to a cacao medicine ceremony?
Ancient & indigenous roots of cacao
What is ceremonial cacao? / Cacao as a superfood