What is a cacao ceremony?
A Cacao ceremony is a ritual in which the plant medicine of Cacao is used with intentions of healing, celebration, mourning, connection, offerings, guidance, changing perceptions or states of consciousness and spiritual practice. It is based on indigenous practices from South and Central America and concepts of Andean/Amazonian cosmovision; that describe the way of nature and living in balance with the natural world.
A Cacao ceremony involves intentional preparation of Cacao - from the farming and harvesting to the tools and practices involved in its preparation and consumption. Building a comprehensive understanding of the cosmovision of Cacao, its energetics, meaning and the indigenous use of the plant medicine is essential to understand in order to give reverence through our own ceremonial use.
Below we explore the history of Cacao as a plant medicine in ceremonies plus we outline how to hold a Cacao ceremony in your everyday life with connection to the traditional elements held within these lineages.
THE HISTORY OF CACAO CEREMONIES
Through archeological evidence by Quirino Olivera (Peru) we can trace the first use of cacao back over 7500 years to the Chinchipe tribe of Northern Peru. Ceramics found in the Monte Grande temple in Jaen contained traces of Cacao and it said that tribes would gather in this spiral temple and drink cacao to connect with their ancestors and the divinity as a spiritual practice. This temple was seen as the womb of cacao and considered its birthplace with regards to its spiritual uses.
The modern day Awajun-Wampis tribes of Jaen in Peru, descendants of the Chinchipe tribe, are a community that still hold traditional cacao ceremonies today. They have a special connection to cacao and follow ancient traditions with regards to its preparation and use. They consider it to be one of their most sacred plants and one that allows them to connect with their ancestors and spiritually re-birth when they are in need.
Following this early use of cacao by the Chinchipe tribes it spread north and south where further archeological evidence showed its use by tribes in the Amazon and Andes of Peru and also by Olmeca and Mayan tribes in central America. Its use continued in Peru at the Chavin de Huantar temple discovered by archaeologist Julio C. Tello, which dates 1200BC and belonged to the pre-Incan Chavin culture. Chavin was seen as a central hub for indigenous shamanic practice for over 1000 years, with evidence showing cacao was part of many ritualistic ceremonies and often used alongside other plant medicines from the Amazon jungle such as Huachuma (San Pedro) as part of shamanic initiation.
In Central America cacao was used in ceremonies by the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec tribes from 1300BC up until the modern day, with traditional cacao ceremonies still common in southern areas of Mexico like Tabasco and in Guatamala. As with its early use in Peru the tribes of Central America followed the guidance of elements and cosmovision in its preparation and use. Cacao practices from both South and Central America are similar, showing that the indigenous knowledge of the plant was unified and it most likely spread through tribal expansion and trading.
HOW TO HOLD A CACAO CEREMONY
The ceremony of Cacao already begins the moment the seed is planted in the Earth which is why where the Cacao is sourced from and who the farmers are is of utmost importance.
We define "Ceremony" as the act of making something sacred. There are no rules for holding a cacao ceremony, however we want to highlight the importance of trusting your intuition and following your heart. Honouring the spirit of cacao and its journey to you, with presence and intention, is enough to feel the magic of its medicine.
CEREMONIAL CACAO PASTE
Firstly, source your Ceremonial Cacao Paste. Just like wine, Cacao also has different grades and calibers that differentiate normal cacao to ceremonial cacao. Consider each Cacao as holding the energy of its lineage and land - from the history of its origin country to the energy of the farmers and producers and every hand that the Cacao passes through to reach your cup - this is why it’s important to consider which Cacao you choose as every Cacao is different. Creating pure ceremonial cacao is a complex art and requires a talented artist (farmer) who has an indigenous lineage and true connection to the land and their trees.
Ceremonial Cacao is:
- Pure full cacao-bean paste prepared from only 100% pure organic cacao beans that have been naturally sun-dried, hand-peeled and stone milled to form the paste. Nothing added, nothing removed.
- From South or Central America, from a lineage of traditional use and blessed by the indigenous owners of the land and produced with respect to their traditional customs. Cacao from other areas of the world can be considered cacao paste but not 'ceremonial cacao' as it is a colonised form of cacao that was taken and used for the chocolate industry by the Europeans.
- Premium pods and beans that are selected by their shape, maturity, colour, aroma and size to ensure the paste is the best quality.
- 100% organic shade-grown under a natural agroforestry canopy
- Native cacao (Criollo) that has grown naturally in the environment and not introduced for high yielding chocolate production. Native cacao has the finest aroma and best medicinal properties that makes it ideal for ceremonial use.
THE TOOLS FOR CEREMONIAL CACAO
Cacao ceremonies represented the unification of man and woman to create life (re-birth). Ceremonies also depicted this through the use of special tools; the jicara (the feminine vessel), and the molinillo (the masculine whisk).
The Molinillo is a traditional whisk used in the preparation of Cacao and represents the air element (called Tayta Wayra) and the masculine energy. The process of whisking the cacao in an jicara (vessel); seen as a feminine energy, to emulsify the fat, creates foaming (air element or breath of life) and combines the two energies, representing the creation of life or re-birth.
IN CEREMONY: Whilst using the traditional Molinillo to whisk, this is also a perfect opportunity to send intentions, prayers, songs and chant and manifestations into the Cacao as it infuses. Sound is important in a ceremony as it represent the energy known as ‘Wa’ or spirit that initiates the re-birthing process.
The traditional vessel for Cacao is known as a jicara and represents the feminine energy. It
represents the womb that holds the blood of nature (cacao), holding the energy of transformation. Once fluid we call this state Yaku Mama - representing the water from which we all come from. The Spirit of Cacao is often referred to in the feminine; whose medicine is often described as gentle and nurturing, yet powerful and potent.
IN CEREMONY: Using the jicara in ceremony is a powerful reminder of the sacred feminine and holder of life.
CREATE AN ALTAR
Whether you have an existing alter or create one with intention for your ceremony, make this a way to transform your space, create an extension of your intention and honour the Spirit of Cacao.
In Peruvian shamanic practice, the five elements – East/Fire, South/Earth, West/Water, North/Air, and Cosmos/Ether/Center – are called upon, when creating an altar, also called a mesa, along with any other sacred items you feel called to add. Here’s some ways to represent the elements:
EARTH - ALLPA MAMA : Cacao beans, stones, soil, leaves
WATER - YAKU MAMA: local water, shells
AIR - TAYTA WAYRA: Feathers, fan, Molinillo whisk
FIRE - TAYTA NINA: candle, sage, paolo santo, incense
ETHER - WA (SPIRIT) : Your presence, crystals, sound
BLESSINGS & PREPARATION
When preparing and serving the Cacao, we honour the five elements as represented in our alter, the masculine energy of the Molinillo and feminine energy of Cacao as held in the womb of the Jicara.
We can also include other blessings and prayers for our connection with the Spirit of Cacao:
THE UKHU PACHA, KAY PACHA & HANAN PACHA
In alignment with te Andean Cosmovison, we honour the Ukhu Pacha - the lower world of all that has gone before and our ancestors. The Kay Pacha - the here and now, our connection to the natural world and the Hanan Pacha - the realm of spirit and the divine.
THE SPIRIT OF CACAO
We believe the ceremony begins the moment the seed is planted. Our Cacao is produced farm to table, cultivated surrounded by native jungle, hand-picked, blessed in ceremony with reverence and supported with ancestral knowledge, creating the highest vibrational medicine. We acknowledge Cacao's journey from indigenous communities to your cup - from the farmers and farms to all the people behind it and from generations before.
Traditionally, Cacao ceremonies were cultivated around the energy of gratitude. Gratitude for Pachamama and to call in the intention of a positive harvest season to come. Cultivate gratitude for the medicine of Cacao - its journey, it's medicine, the present moment in which you sit with it. Allow yourself to feel all of the things you are grateful for... your body, your family, your home. Always remember you are of service and gratitude is our highest energy we can resonate.
As you sit in ceremony with this sacred message, this can be an opportunity to set an individual intention, a collective intention, or to invite something into your life. Allow your intention to infuse into the medicine of cacao. Where intention goes, energy flows. Be clear, be authentic, and tune into the frequency of your heart and what it wants to create in the world.
DRINKING YOUR CACAO
When your Cacao is prepared and full of blessings, it is time to drop in and connect to your Cacao.
Set the space: Ensure you have space and time to take a moment to connect with your Cacao and to be able to drink it mindfully.
Sit: Find a comfortable seat where possible and imagine your body rooted to the floor. Connect with the breath breathing in and out of the belly, noticing its subtle rise and fall.
Connect through the senses: take a moment to look at your Cacao - noticing it’s appearance and texture. Close down the eyes and smell its divine aroma, identifying the different tones and flavours. Touch the Cacao to your lips and savour the first sensations. With each dip, observe the sensations throughout the whole body and being.
We hope this guide has inspired your to bring the art of ceremony to your every day Cacao.