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
 

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. Although I now call my cacao offerings "medicine circles" rather than "ceremonies" (see below for why!), essentially these circles are still a form of 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.

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.

My cacao medicine circles are rooted in and inspired by both Mesoamerican and Amazonian sacred ritual plant medicine traditions. 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 particular offering also draws on Amazonian traditions of plant spirit medicine ceremony as my first cacao apprenticeship training was led by a plant medicine practitioner who herself had trained in the Peruvian Amazon, and 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. 

 

Cacao is a very safe, non-psychoactive plant medicine, easy to integrate but with the potential to take you surprisingly deep within.

WHY HAVE YOU STOPPED CALLING THESE OFFERINGS "CACAO CEREMONIES"?
"Cacao ceremony" has become a blanket term for a wide range of offerings: anything involving cacao! So I've always found it necessary to explain that not all cacao ceremonies are the same, so that you do not come to mine expecting ecstatic dance, kirtan, or an emphasis on experiencing natural highs or group therapy, for example!

 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. This doesn't have to invalidate other ways of sharing cacao, but it's good to understand some of the history and context, and what is a more recent, western or other approach; and we can still place gratitude to the earth and the cacao, as well as to the indigenous peoples, within a modern western cacao circle. This is how I try to share!

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...After many years of sharing Peruvian cacao from the Amazon (a lovely variety which I also still recommend!), I also switched to sharing Mayan cacao from Guatemala, produced by an indigenous women's collective - the founder, Cecilia, was one of my teachers and it is beautiful to know exactly who produced the medicine I am sharing with you all!

 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 circle?

Testimonials

Contraindications

FAQs

Indigenous roots of cacao

How I came to work with cacao