WHAT IS A CACAO MEDICINE CIRCLE?
"...ritual and ceremony are sacred technology that heals, enables us to understand our life purpose, and reconnects us with our inner sacred feminine..."
- Katalin Koda, Fire of the Goddess
My cacao medicine circles are rooted in and inspired by Mayan traditions of ritually consuming hot beverages made from "ceremonial" pure cacao (a paste of ground cacao seeds/beans - the purest form of what eventually becomes chocolate). I have trained with indigenous Mayan Aj'kakaw (cacao spiritual guides/experts) and am permitted to share their medicine, and some traditions and rituals with you. My particular offering also draws on Amazonian traditions of plant spirit medicine ceremony (this was the basis of my first cacao apprenticeship training) to create a profound, heart-opening, meditative and mystical inner experience, communing with a gentle sacred plant, being guided on a deep healing inner journey and sharing with others in a safe, compassionate circle of women...Cacao is a very safe, non-psychoactive plant medicine, easy to integrate but with the potential to take you surprisingly deep within.
I used to call these offerings "cacao ceremonies" but that's become a blanket term for a wide range of offerings. My own approach to sharing cacao was always rooted in a very introspective approach, with guided inner journeying to commune with a plant spirit and receive healing & spiritual insights. My more recent studies with indigenous Mayan cacao specialists & spiritual guides have confirmed that "cacao ceremonies" are a very recent, western invention - authentic "Mayan cacao ceremonies" are actually sacred agricultural celebrations (I think wassailing would be the closest equivalent in British culture). These "ceremonies" only take place is some Mayan communities, and happen 3 times a year, and take place over many days, marking the planting, flowering and harvesting of theobroma cacao trees.
So, my teachers explained that really, what we westerners are offering should not be called a "cacao ceremony" but rather a "cacao kotzij' " - meaning a "flower", a gift, an offering - this is the original spirit of sharing cacao in sacred gatherings, offering a gift of thanks to mother earth for the abundant gifts she provides to us. There are many traditional Mayan rituals involving offerings of sacred fire, flowers, and cacao as gifts to the earth, the ancestors, the wise elders and the four corners of the earth and cosmos.
As many people are only just starting to hear about cacao, I didn't want to confuse people even more by calling my offerings kotzij' ! So I chose to rename them "cacao medicine circles" to reflect the healing, sacred nature of cacao and the way in which I love to work with and share her - cacao is a sacred medicine for the body, for the spirit, for the heart, for the earth...(I should also stress that if you came to one of my "cacao ceremonies", what you experienced is not that different to how I continue to share cacao now! The difference is I now am able to share with authentic Mayan rituals and invocations, and with the clear permission of spiritual leaders from Mayan communities - and for this reason, I also now share Mayan-sourced ceremonial cacao rather than the also very lovely & ethical Peruvian Ashaninka cacao.)
There's been growing of interest, in recent years, in the stronger Amazonian medicines such as ayahuasca - although I've never consumed aya, I was very drawn to all I heard about these sacred rituals allowing people to experience not only personal emotional healing insights, but also to experience a spiritual connection to the sacred in nature - to hear the goddess, of the jungle, the plants, sharing her wisdom...This is what first drew me to cacao, and to my first experiences with ceremonial cacao from the Peruvian Amazon. My first cacao training, in 2018, really focused on working with cacao in the style of an Amazonian plant medicine - cacao being much gentler and therefore safer (and legal!), cacao medicine ceremonies / circles offer you the chance to experience a gentle kind of a traditional plant medicine ceremony. Cacao has a uniquely heart-stimulating, heart-opening quality - even regarded simply as a food, cacao is a wonderful stimulant for the cardiovascular system (amongst many other benefits) - but for our purposes in a sacred medicine circle, we are communing with cacao also to cultivate our own heart energy - to let go of any emotional stones which can weigh heavy on our hearts, learning to open up our hearts and experience greater joyfulness, trust and wellbeing. The rituals of sharing in a circle help to cultivate this sense of openness, connection to others as well as the cacao medicine, and a deeper connection to ourselves, as well as to nature and the ancient indigenous traditions of communing with cacao.
My most recent cacao training has been about connecting with cacao's true roots in the lands and culture of the Maya peoples, and so I now share Mayan cacao with a proper basis in the rituals and elements of Mayan tradition. I am grateful and happy to say I can do this with the permission of indigenous Mayan spiritual leaders, honouring their teachings, their wisdom and - of course - their medicine. This tradition
Traditional cultures around the world recognise the power and value of creating ceremonies which centre around 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.
Consumed intentionally, cacao holds the power to help us reconnect to our hearts, to nature, and to ancient, powerful wisdom - and my intention is always now to share cacao with particular respect for the Mayan tradition and my teachers.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CIRCLE?
I won't go into too much detail because it's best to come with few expectations!
I work with small groups of women in my public circles, 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.
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. (To help everyone relax their bodies and settle their minds, once everyone is lying down, I start with some guided meditation & Yoga Nidra before the actual inner journeying part of the ceremony.) This is an opportunity to shift into a more intuitive, receptive state of awareness in which you may connect more deeply with the spirit of the cacao and receive her wisdom and assistance.
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 what your intention was and what gifts or wisdom you received. I will then make some invocations to close our circle.
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