WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY?
TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION & CONNECT WITH THE CACAO SPIRIT
A cacao ceremony offers you a chance to step into a sacred space for a few hours, and connect with the ancient medicine of the cacao plant. Within the structure of the ceremony, you'll be guided through a journey into deep heart-opening, drawing on the assistance of a very gentle, safe and legal plant medicine.
Drinking cacao (chocolate in its most pure, traditional form) is completely safe, non-psychoactive (and legal), and yet can, in a ceremonial, intentional setting, help you to experience some surprisingly deep, powerful states of mind. The ceremonial setting & intentions are really key to unlocking the full potential of the cacao.
There's a wide range of contemporary cacao ceremonies out there. For me, the sacred, ancient plant medicine of cacao - originally revered and used in ceremony by the Olmec, Maya and Aztec cultures of Mexico & Mesoamerica - has to be at the heart of a cacao ceremony: drinking cacao is not a casual add-on to other activities but the central focus! What makes cacao a sacred medicine is what has long been recognised by those ancient cultures: this is a special plant, with a strong spiritual energy, a consciousness we can connect with by consuming it in an intentional way. Cacao has a distinctive power to help us tap into the more intuitive energy of the heart, and so - as with other "teacher plants" , by drinking cacao with respect and awareness, it is possible to commune with the spirit of the plant. There is a serious healing & spiritual intention to journey deep within. (Cacao is also an incredibly nutritious food, consumed in a non-ceremonial setting - read more about that here - but for the purposes of a sacred ceremony, we are concerned with connecting with the spiritual energy of cacao rather than its nutritional benefits for our body.)
Cultures such as the Maya (the most famous cacao-revering culture) recognised not only cacao's power to stimulate the heart, but also her ability to assist in trancelike states of shamanic journeying. The cacao ceremonies I offer are very much in this spirit; based around a deep guided meditative journey into a trancelike state (not unlike the state you might experience in a yoga nidra). This is a traditional approach to plant medicine, which I learned during my apprenticeship training with a plant medicine shaman whose own training was in Amazonian plant medicines; although her apprenticeship was with other, more psychoactive plants, she began working with cacao (which also grows in South America) a few years later.
I have found this traditional way of working with cacao as a plant medicine to be so incredibly deep and profoundly healing on many levels, emotionally and spiritually. I consider it also a profound honour to be sharing her medicine, and I work with the cacao spirit always with great reverence and respect; it's my wish always to share her medicine with integrity, honouring not only those I have directly learned from but also the ancient cultures & traditions whose wisdom I am honoured to draw upon in my own work, and most importantly of all, honouring the spirit of the plant herself.
My ceremonies are about honouring and connecting with the spirit of the plant through a shamanic journeying process, I don't combine cacao with other modalities: it's all about the cacao and nothing else is needed! (I sometimes offer a yoga workshop, Yoga Cacao Nidra, which is intended as a kind of gateway/bridge between my yoga & cacao offerings; many of my yoga students have been a bit wary of coming to their first ever plant medicine ceremony as it's much less familiar territory for a lot of people, whereas yoga is pretty mainstream these days! So this workshop allows them to begin to feel into the kind of territory we explore in a ceremony - usually, after this they are more than keen to come and experience a full sacred ceremony with cacao.)
WHAT HAPPENS IN A CACAO CEREMONY?
After the opening of the ceremony, participants share their intentions (this is a crucial part of working with a plant medicine - we approach with a particular purpose, rather than just mindlessly drinking) and we invoke the spirit of cacao, before drinking and lying down.
I will then take you through stages of guided meditation, deep relaxation and shamanic journeying, during in which you can connect to the energy of the plant you have consumed, and from here begin to access more intuitive states of mind, to help you explore personal questions and gain clarity and insights. Some people experience this as simply thoughts or words drifting into their awareness seemingly from nowhere; some experience this as a kind of inner voice or dialogue, or even a conversation with a spirit or the cacao goddess. (The Mayans know her as "Ixcacao". ) You may feel a warm, powerful, loving, even motherly energy flooding your body. There may be some tears as you release emotional blockages from the heart centre.
COME WITH AN OPEN MIND & NO EXPECTATIONS
That said, it is best not to come to a ceremony with expectations about what you think you will experience. (Especially if you've journeyed with other plant medicines cacao will not induce hallucinations!) Every journey is different and I find that it's best to keep an open mind, then you can hear more clearly whatever it is you need to hear, to learn from this particular ceremony. If you go in expecting to have a super-intense experience it's less likely to unfold that way! Come with some clear intentions for what you would like to let go of, what you would like some insight or clarity around, or simply with the intention to explore something new. Come with respect for the setting and the plant medicine, and then get out of your own way so that Ixcacao can do her work!
After the journey, I will gently guide you back, and then we return to the sharing circle, in which each participant shares what they have experienced and any insights or wisdom they have received. This post-journey sharing is an important part of the ceremony and allows each participant to begin the process of integrating what they have experienced on their journey. This integration process may continue well beyond the ceremony, and I am very happy to discuss things with you in person or via email afterwards. It is important for every participant to feel grounded and centred afterwards, so I'd also recommend eating a good meal after the ceremony!
WHY MIGHT YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN A CACAO CEREMONY?
It could be that you feel a longing to connect with the "sacred" in a way you maybe haven't been able to so far, and experience a non-"religious" sacred setting.
You might feel drawn to nature/earth-based spiritual traditions.
You might be curious about plant medicines and their spiritual and/or healing potential, but also not wanting to ingest an extreme psychoactive plant medicine.
Maybe there's a particular 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.
Perhaps you are seeking guidance or clarity & perspective, & would like to find a way to access greater insight on your situation.
Perhaps you wish you could be more intuitive, connecting with your intuition & tapping into the "higher" levels of awareness which our everyday overactive, analytical, rational minds often prevent us from accessing.
You may be seeking a way to open up your heart - perhaps you sense that constrictive emotions such as pain, sadness, fear, anger, grief & anxiety are stopping you from being as open, joyful, honest, loving, expressive & brave as you would like to be.
Or...maybe you are in a good place and are simply curious about plant medicines - maybe you've heard about cacao specifically, or else you might have heard of other medicines, but are wary about the possible effects of taking a strong psychoactive which might require a long, tough journey to integrate afterwards.
Maybe it's all of the above!
Cacao is both safe and legal. It is not only recognised as a nutritional powerhouse (a true superfood); since at least ancient Mesoamerican times, cacao's heart-stimulating properties have been known to humans, and ceremonial-grade cacao possesses an energy, a vibrancy, an essence not present in more processed cacao-derivatives (including "raw" cacao powder & paste, which is not as raw as you might think, though still very nutritious as a food rather than a plant medicine). With cacao & all other plant medicines, when consumed intentionally, in a sacred space, we can connect with the spiritual essence of the plant.
Everything about the ceremonial space I create is intended to cultivate an experience of being safely held and guided, so that you can relax on all levels, feeling able to share & be open to the experience, open to what arises when you relax and allow the rational mind to switch off so that the more intuitive, expansive states can be accessed. In this state, we call on the energy of the cacao to assist us on our journey of heart-opening, intuitive insights and emotional release.
For some, this opens into a profoundly spiritual experience, though I would always advise participants not to place particular expectations of what their personal journeying experience will be (eg expecting to have visions), particularly if this is your first experience with ceremonial cacao. Some participants form an instant & powerful connection with the spirit of the plant, for others it may take more time & journeying. Being open to the experience as it unfolds is a good approach to life in general, and for a cacao ceremony in particular!
LET GO OF OLD PAINFUL EMOTIONS
Contemporary cacao ceremonies use cacao to facilitate deep heart-opening (you may already have some experience of the joyful release experienced when we open our heart-centres, through certain yoga practices). When the heart centre is unblocked, we can experience greater joyfulness, and often when we've experienced pain, trauma, sadness or fear, these emotions cause subtle blockages which can prevent us from experiencing joy or moving forward in our lives. When we start to release these blockages around the heart centre, we often shed tears: this is how we purge our pain, and also can be how we simply let go and open up in delight - have you ever been so happy you cried, or have you ever been moved to tears by the sublime beauty of a piece of music or a sunset?
So it's not unusual to shed a few tears during or even after a cacao ceremony. If you feel yourself starting to well up, let them flow - it means your heart is opening up! Welcome these tears as washing away pain, and expressing greater joy. It can be an incredibly liberating, joyful experience to release all the old pain you've been storing in your body in this way, and the particular power & beauty of a cacao ceremony is that you get to do this is a safe, structured, guided way, in a safe, supportive, nurturing environment.
EXPERIENCE THE BLISSFUL ENERGY OF THE FOOD OF THE GODS AND THE BLISS CHEMICAL
Cacao is special in spiritual terms, partly because of its powerful heart-opening properties: it is a stimulant containing theobromine (named after the scientific name of the plant, Theobroma cacao*, as it's only found only in cacao) and caffeine, two plant alkaloids which increase the heart rate (caffeine actually stimulates the entire nervous system, theobromine just stimulates the heart specifically) - this combination is unique to cacao. and also a great list of other compounds including: anandamide, an endorphin known as "the bliss chemical" ("ananda" is Sanskrit for "bliss"), which is produced after exercise; phenylethylamine (PEA), the chemical we produce when we fall in love; and tryptophan, a powerful mood-enhancing amino acid, essential for the production of serotonin, the "happy hormone".
* In 1753 the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus gave the plant its scientific name,"Theobroma cacao" - theobroma meaning "Food of the Gods", and"cacao" being the name the Mesoamericans gave to the plant & its seeds/nuts (which we now call beans!).
EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL CONNECTION THROUGH A GENTLE PLANT MEDICINE
On a purely chemical level, cacao's heart-stimulating, mood-lifting are apparent; on a more subtle, spiritual level, this plant - like all plant medicines - has an energy, a spirit, a character of its own which we can feel when we ingest it. Cacao is much gentler than the more notorious Ayahuasca/Yage plant medicine - the spirit of cacao medicine is very loving & even maternal. It is said that cacao might open a door but she won't push you in, unlike some of the other plants! Cacao has a very feminine energy, ideal for sharing in women's sacred circles. Drinking cacao can therefore also help you connect to deeper feminine spiritual energy.
Learn about Cacao's ancient and more recent story as a spiritual superfood here and learn more facts about theobroma cacao here
"What a powerful and enriching experience! Feel very blessed to have been there...The ceremony was an extremely nurturing and powerful process within a safe, beautiful group of women. You held and supported us as a group with such grace, it was a truly empowering and life-changing experience." - Sarah
" Big thank you for an amazing experience. So rewarding to have a safe place to share honestly without judgement. Good to have time to reflect...It felt very positive and gave clarity to thoughts. Personally I feel I gained a great deal from Saturday's cacao ceremony." - Rachel