WHAT IS A CACAO MEDICINE Ceremony?
(and why come to one?)
Cultures around the world recognise the power and value of creating ceremonies to acknowledge certain important times or experiences, or with the purpose of ingesting special plants and communing with "plant consciousness".
This is not a recreational or hedonistic practice but a ritual, intentional way of mindfully, respectfully consuming a plant to develop a kind of personal connection to its energy, and receive its wisdom and experience its healing potential. My interest in experiencing a communion with a sacred plant spirit is what led me to first sit with cacao in 2017, in a traditional plant spirit medicine ceremony (inspired by Amazonian traditions) in which cacao was the (only!) medicine shared. This is the way of working with cacao that called me, the way I subsequently trained in (in 2018), so what I offer is a plant spirit medicine ceremony. I later studied with indigenous Mayan teachers in order to learn about the ancestral culture of cacao in particular, and to feel I was working respectfully and with permission from indigenous medicine carriers. I also learned authentic Mayan rituals and invocations which I use in my ceremonies. What I offer is therefore a fusion of Mayan rituals and Amazonian plant spirit medicine ceremony, but always sharing only pure cacao. (Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no such thing as a "Mayan cacao ceremony" - as I will explain in the ceremony...
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CEREMONY?
(Not going into too much detail because it's best to come with few expectations...)
I work with small groups of women in my public ceremonies, and also offer private one-to-ones and small groups. (I only work with women).
I will open up the space using some authentic Mayan rituals and invocations; each participant is then invited to introduce themselves, before I bless and serve the cacao, sharing more invocations before we drink the medicine together. (See below if you don't know what ceremonial cacao is)
Everyone then lies down & makes themselves comfortable, closing their eyes and allowing themselves to relax and be guided on a deep inner journey, during which the spirit of the plant is invoked to assist you.
Cacao isn't a psychedelic so you won't be tripping - but you will enter a deeply relaxed and receptive trancelike state in which it's possible to tap into more intuitive guidance. You may well experience this as the voice of the plant herself, or your inner voice or heart.Ca
After this, you'll be brought back gently and given time to process through journaling; you will then be invited to share with the group, and finally I will close the sacred space.
So why might you want to come to a ceremony?
- You're drawn to nature/earth-based spiritual traditions, or a longing to connect with something "sacred" in a non-religious way
- You're interested in connecting with indigenous wisdom and healing practices and would like to experience a ceremonial approach to sharing cacao in a way which is informed by and respectful of authentic indigenous traditions, teachers and medicine, with someone who has permission from indigenous teachers to share their medicine.
- You're curious about experiencing a plant medicine ceremony but are looking for something gentle and not a full-on psychedelic experience. Cacao is safe for most people, and totally legal.
- You've previously experienced some form of plant medicine ceremony and simply wish to sit in respectful sacred ceremony with another plant spirit which is gentle, heart-opening and grounding.
- Cacao consumed ritually, in a ceremonial setting, can can assist you if there's an issue you wish to look at in your life, something you can't let go of, an experience from the past or a pattern you keep playing out in your life, which you know is blocking you from experiencing greater wellbeing & flourishing. A ritual ceremonial setting can help you frame your intention to let go or reframe things and cacao's heart-opening medicine can help you release old emotional blockages of the heart, perhaps with a gentle purge of tears. During the ceremony, you may receive insights, guidance, into this or other issues.
- You would like to connect with your intuition & tap into states of awareness which our everyday overactive, analytical, rational minds often prevent us from accessing.
-- Your heart is being weighed down by emotions such as pain, sadness, fear, anger, grief & anxiety, stopping you from being as open, joyful, honest, loving, expressive & brave as you would like to be. Cacao in ceremony can help to release heavy, heart-constricting emotional energies (sometimes through tears - sadness being released or joy being suddenly felt!) and provide an uplifting experience in a safe, compassionate, feminine space.
- You are wanting to explore healing your own relationship to your feminine aspect in some way, whether on a personal level, to other females in your life (eg the "mother wound"), or healing your relationship to the feminine within a patriarchal culture. We can internalise misogyny more than we realise when it's so deeply embedded in the culture we grow up in, however feminist we might think we are. Cacao's energy is deeply feminine and she can offer us profound medicine on our path to healing as women.
Please note: I offer these cacao medicine ceremonies as an opportunity for women to experience this heart medicine in a healing, safe, held space; I ask that you respect this and please come in this spirit. These ceremonies are for personal healing and spiritual exploration, not a training or workshop for those wanting to learn to hold their own cacao events.
WHAT IS "CEREMONIAL-GRADE CACAO"?
"Ceremonial-grade cacao" is a term now used to describe a particularly high quality of cacao "paste" or cacao "licor"/"liquor", actually a solid form of crushed cacao seeds (from the theobroma cacao tree - the fruits contain seeds which, after a LOT of industrial processing and various added ingredients, are used to make chocolate) which can be prepared with different ingredients to create a ceremonial beverage for ritual purposes. This is how the fruits of the cacao tree were originally consumed - as a special drink - and not the same as a typical "hot chocolate" or "hot cocoa" either...
There's no single definition beyond the form of cacao licor/paste, but here are some qualities to look for:
- organically cultivated: so that no humans, other creatures, people, plants, land or waters are harmed. Permaculture rather than monocrop methods are infinitely preferable too.
- ethically cultivated and harvested/farmed - fairly traded, with no slave labour (there's a terrible irony in the fact that child slavery is a particular issue in the global chocolate industry)
- cultivated/harvested/produced by/financially profiting indigenous peoples directly. Cacao is only native to the Americas - so I prefer to source my cacao from Mesoamerica, Central and South America - the ancestral homelands of cacao. The Mayan nations of Mesoamerica are especially deeply connected to cacao as a sacred offering and ritual beverage.
- "artesanal" is a term you might see: this suggests minimal use of industrial processing ie hand-picked, hand-ground, smaller batches. Traditional indigenous cacao farms are not monocrop environments, and the "heirloom" cacao varieties such as "criollo" (meaning "native") are also recommended.
- some producers would take it even further and say that specific rituals and blessings, carried out throughout the growth and harvesting of the cacao trees, are also necessary for the paste to considered to be truly "ceremonial" grade.
It's worth remembering that the term "ceremonial grade cacao" was coined abut 20 years ago by an American expat living in Guatemala - possibly inspired by the term "ceremonial grade matcha"? - so beyond the various ethical concerns, I think it's good to keep some of these requirements in perspective when it comes to what is "truly" ceremonial.