WHAT IS A CACAO MEDICINE Ceremony?
"...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
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. My cacao offerings are essentially a form of plant spirit medicine ceremony, in which we gather together with a shared intention: to commune with a sacred plant spirit, I'x Cacao, and receive her medicine as a healing gift from the earth; also honouring the Mayan heritage of cacao as a sacred ritual beverage and precious offering for the earth.
Consumed intentionally, cacao holds the power to help us reconnect to our hearts, to nature, and to ancient, powerful wisdom.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CEREMONY?
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 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.
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 the sacred space.
My cacao medicine ceremonies are rooted in and inspired by both Mesoamerican and Amazonian sacred ritual plant medicine traditions. It's important to be clear that there's no such thing as a "traditional Mayan cacao ceremony" - these are a recent phenomenon, inspired by the ritual consumption of cacao beverages in ancient Mayan culture, and by the use of cacao as a sacred offering in fire ceremonies. Historically and also now, Mayan communities often consume cacao particularly for medicinal purposes - especially for women.
According to my Mayan teachers, what is offered in the west is really a form of "kakaw kotzij' " - which means a cacao flower/gift/offering...(see below!)
For me, personally, "cacao medicine ceremony" is the best way to describe my particular way of sharing cacao, since I work with her as a plant spirit and in both areas such as the Amazon, and throughout Europe historically there are traditions of plant spirit medicine ceremony.
(And having discussed this with my teachers in person, they understand why I have returned to calling my offerings ceremonies & have no objection to this!) These ceremonies are partly about allowing you to commune with the consciousness of the cacao; these are not "natural high" ecstatic dance cacao ceremonies but something much more introspective and meditative.
I draw deeply on authentic Mayan traditions of ritually consuming hot beverages made from ceremonial-grade pure cacao (a paste of ground cacao seeds/beans - the purest form of what eventually becomes chocolate), learned from indigenous Mayan Aj'kakaw (cacao spiritual guides/experts) who have given me permission to share their medicine, and some traditions and rituals with you.
My first cacao apprenticeship training was led by a plant medicine practitioner who herself had trained in the Peruvian Amazon. She applied those techniques she had learned with Amazonian entheogenic medicines to working with gentle cacao to create a safe, legal but still profound, heart-opening, meditative and mystical inner experience, communing with a sacred plant consciousness and being guided on a deep healing inner journey. I found this Amazonian medicine ceremony-style approach very powerful for my personal healing path, but as I felt also a need to ground my own work of sharing cacao with others in an authentic indigenous tradition, my own research led me to connect with a Mayan tradition of cacao medicine work. Also, just to be clear, my training and experience is entirely with cacao medicine, no other Amazonian plants. Cacao has given me plenty to work with and integrate for the last few years! I trust the gentler paths.
Cacao is a very safe, non-psychoactive plant medicine, easy to integrate but with the potential to take you surprisingly deep within.
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 - the closest thing to any kind of 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. Because of the work involved in producing cacao, and the many powerful health and spiritual properties of this medicine, cacao is considered a most precious offering, so in traditional Mayan kotzij', most of the cacao is actually offered to the earth - participants enjoy a small cup at the very end, so this is very different to how most of us westerners are sharing cacao in our circles.
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.
Curious to learn more? Click on the links below to explore...
Why might you want to come to a cacao medicine ceremony?