A Practical Guide to Cacao Ceremony

A cacao farmer once told me: "Cacao is the wisest plant of the rainforest"

We've created this guide to share how we approach cacao with the intention of actively relating with a plant spirit elder, rather than purely consuming cacao for a desired physical or emotional effect.

Often times a relationship will deepen by asking the right questions. So what could we ask of cacao? Here is one example:
"The cacao tree is native to the rainforest ecology, a place of thriving life. How can our human systems encourage the thriving of all life? Ancient mythology shares that the cacao tree helped humans come into balance with nature during a historical time of great imbalance. Facing similar challenges now, can cacao can teach us how to honor life and re-establish ecological balance?"

  • CEREMONY - Individual
I have heard gratitude referred to by an indigenous elder as “the words that come before all else.”

Having the opportunity to prepare cacao for ourselves and others is an incredible gift; that’s why I always begin working with cacao from a place of gratitude.

The duration of gratitude can vary – anything from the bare minimum of just thirty seconds, to an elaborate ritual of several hours. Often once I begin giving gratitude, it is self-reinforcing, and I find I want to keep going because I have more things to give gratitude for. It’s good to spend time giving gratitude – the writer Martin Prechtel calls giving praise as one of the two great skills of life.

Giving gratitude effectively has two components: the formulation of grateful thoughts and words, and bringing these into physical form.

I begin by speaking out loud or pausing to give thanks internally with my thoughts for the blessings in my life and for the good fortune bestowed upon me. As I articulate my gratitude, I always challenge myself to truly feel it, with the gratitude as a felt sensation throughout all of my body. As this does not always come readily, I sometimes give a symbolic offering to help bring the gratitude into physical form.

For example, I will frequently hold a pinch of sacred tobacco as I speak gratitude, infusing it with good words, and then I scatter this gratitude in nature.

Gratitude can be given far in advance of working with a particular preparation of cacao – there’s no limit to how much gratitude we can give. For example, when I’m preparing to facilitate a cacao ceremony, I begin “setting the container” with gratitude days to months in advance, even if I don’t begin working with the actual cacao until the day of. This has the powerful effect of creating a high resonant field for the cacao ceremony, so that when I show up to share cacao in my community, a lot of the "work" is already done, and I can simply relax knowing that the cacao is now in an optimal setting for sharing its healing.

If it does not come easy at first, that’s okay. Feeling and speaking gratitude is an art form that develops with practice. Preparing cacao is a great excuse to hone that skill. Giving gratitude together with other people also makes it easier, because I am reminded of things I am grateful for in the eloquent words of my friends and family.