Modern day cacao ceremonies are not trying to emulate a cultural ritual from another time and place. Just because people long ago related to cacao in a certain way doesn’t mean that way is any better or even any more suited to our present day cultural context and needs. Rather, what cacao ceremonies today have in common with ancient cultures that worked with ceremonial cacao is a genuine desire to connect with, to be guided by, and to learn from cacao. Cacao ceremony is an opportunity to listen and connect.
Cacao Ceremony means relating with cacao with gratitude, intention, and reciprocity. There are infinite ways to do a cacao ceremony, both as a solo practice and in a group context, as ceremony is an art form that responds to what is arising and true in the present moment.
When we relate with cacao ceremonially, we open our apertures to a far greater experience than simply enjoying cacao as a delicious beverage with health, mood, and energy benefits. While all of these are compelling reasons to drink cacao, according to some Indigenous elders, ceremony is the way to put our lives into order and, in turn, bring the cosmos into order.
Cacao is a teacher that is skilled at helping us reconnect with our own hearts, tend our relationships, and walk through life purposefully and guided by clear vision.
The three universal pillars that we see as core to creating cacao ceremony are: gratitude, intention, and reciprocity.
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In ceremony, gratitude are the words that open the space, that come before all else. With our gratitude of course we first honor the cacao, the ecosystems, and the people that partook in its preparation. Beyond this opening, our gratitude extends to recognize and celebrate the abundant miracles of life.
Learning to give real, meaningful, embodied gratitude is a skill that grows with time. Sometimes when we are rushing around in our day to day, gratitude practice can take a moment to drop into. It is most effective when we dig beyond the surface, and expose the longer story, the deeper meaning. Being elaborate and giving texture to our gratitude brings the gratitude to life; our bodies actually begin to feel grateful. It becomes an embodied experience of gratitude, not merely an exercise of words that stays in the head.
By moving from head to heart, we meet the medicine of cacao at its resonant frequency. When humans and cacao are synchronized in this way, all sorts of beautiful experiences, breakthroughs and healings can happen in a cacao ceremony. You can understand gratitude as the selfless keys to ceremony, as the gateway to transformational experience.
You can have amazing ceremonial cacao (btw, here's how we define ceremonial cacao), but without the intention or openness to connect with the spirit of cacao, you won’t have much of a ceremonial experience.
That’s because cacao is not an entheogen that will take you on a journey regardless if you are willing or not. Rather cacao is an empathogen that gently opens your heart and helps make greater connection available. It is your intentional choice, and ultimately your surrender, that allows you to connect to the full experience cacao has to offer.
With hundreds of compounds in it, cacao can offer a wide range of experiences that are seemingly opposite! It can be stimulating or relaxing. It can be help you feel joy, or help you feel grief. It can drop you into a receptive meditative state, or support creative output for hours.
The more specificity that we bring into our reasons for drinking a cup of cacao, the more clearly we become intentional collaborators with cacao. In essence, with our intention we direct the energy of the cacao to where we desire help and attention.
Our intention also honors the cacao and amplifies the power of ceremony. There are many ways we do this. We bring out full presence into the space where we hold a cacao ceremony - making sure it is clean, perhaps smudged, and beautified. We bring our intention as we prepare our cacao, slowing down and with love. We sit down in ceremonial space intentionality - getting present in our bodies, getting present with our senses, getting present with our breath. We use whatever tools we are most familiar with to shift our awareness from our busy lives into the present moment.
These seemingly simple actions are a mindful and profound departure from mass produced and consumed chocolate as candy. They are the basis for an intentional relationship with cacao.
Participating in sacred ceremony with medicines such as cacao is a bi-directional relationship. Cacao ceremony is not just about receiving benefits and experiences like uplifting your mood or increasing your energy. Cacao ceremony is equally about awakening to your relationship with all of life on this planet.
Many plant and animal species on our planet face enormous challenges due to ecosystem loss, climate change, industry, and over consumption. Cacao, while extensively cultivated by humans, has its origin and spiritual home in our planet’s tropical rainforests, which are facing unprecedented destruction.
We are at choice point - do we as humans want to stop the systematic destruction of our planet and design systems that have neutral or regenerative impact on the planet? Or do we want to keep ignoring and devaluing the natural systems that we ourselves are a part of and that give us life?
Most of us did not create the destructive systems that are so massively impacting life on the planet today. Yet we are complicit in allowing them to continue. Cacao asks us to dream a new dream, to create the systems that will have us living harmoniously with all life and that will regenerate ecosystems around the planet.
How you participate in that dream is your unique gift and offering to the world. Most likely you have a unique key that is waiting to be uncovered or expressed fully. Cacao will support you in your thriving, and you can give back by creating thriving for all the myriad life forms that you are in relationship with. Through reciprocity, we weave ourself into the web of life, not just taking and consuming, but actively participating and giving back our gifts as well.
Being alive is a tremendous privilege and gift, and it can be over in the blink of an eye. Ceremony with cacao is one of many ways that we can rise above the day to day distractions, and come to our lives with clarity, vision, and purpose.
We hope this gives you a basic understanding of what cacao ceremony is so you can create one for yourself...or at least know what to expect before heading to a cacao ceremony.
If you're curious to participate in a cacao ceremony, we offer virtual cacao ceremonies for our community every Tuesday at 1pm PST. You can sign up to participate in our cacao ceremonies here.