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Ceremonial Cacao

Home > London > Chocolate | Dancing | Health and Fitness | Spirituality | Yoga
by Ian Marshall (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and yogi living in Tepoztlan, Mexico where I'm running www.casadelcorazon.mx with my girlfriend. You can keep up with my other writing on www.bollocks2thewellingtons.com/ or www.spiritualheartjourney.com
Published September 21st 2014
Chocolate as a route to enlightenment
Initially I didn't really believe that drinking a hot chocolate beverage could lead me to states of deep bliss, bring intense emotions to the surface or enhance meditation. Then I tried taking ceremonial doses of raw Guatemalan cacao. I've now had several experiences that have taken me on a journey and opened up my heart in a delicious, powerful way. It turns out, I'm not the only one.

Taking ceremonial cacao has become a trend on the spiritual scene of late but this gentle stimulant has been used for hundreds of years, originating in central America with the Mayans where ancient texts have recorded the use for medicinal as well as spiritual purposes.

Cacao
Cacao ready for ceremony


Mayan mythology has complicated creation stories which vary depending on the periods studied but along with earth, maize, water and wood, cacao is one of the constituents that it was believed created humans . Between around AD 250 to 900 Mayan priests were the first to have made a drink from cacao beans.

Every April the Maya celebrated an annual festival to honor Ek Chuah, their cacao god. These rituals were a bit different to the cacao ceremonies that are taking place in London these days, including the sacrifice of a dog with cacao colored markings. They would also make offerings of cacao, feathers and incense as they exchanged gifts with one another.

Ancient Mayans even used the cacao bean as currency with some of the conversions reported including, one bean buying a large tomato, four beans being worth a pumpkin, 100 a rabbit or a turkey and 1000 equivalent to a slave although these values vary with some sources claiming the bean to be worth 10 times these values. Cacao was considered a luxury item and would be transported over large distances for the elite to be able to drink chocolate.

See more at: newint.org

Christopher Columbus and his party were the first westerners to discover cacao and it was returned to Europe by the Spanish in 1585.

Current usage

I spoke to Tantra teacher Elena Angel about her experiences with Cacao, both facilitating and taking part in ceremonies.

Elena Angel
Elena


She regularly uses it in her women's groups and has also utilised it in private sessions.

For the women's groups, the heart opening aspects are particularly effective due to the typically natural right-brain centred resonance of women. Elena told me that doing this in a group of women creates a beautiful sisterhood and some testimonials from participants talk about sinking into "being" and a "profoundly moving experience" of "heart connection".

In private sessions she has found that the opening of the heart and connection to grace that cacao brings offer a deep healing of trauma. She told me of experiences working with people who find it difficult to be in connection with the body, reacting against intimacy and receiving touch. She has found Cacao a soft and gentle but extremely effective way to work through these issues.

While it works on the individual, cacao can also be effective for large groups such as Elena helped facilitate at the Tantra festival in Poland with Sarita which you can read more about here: www.tantra-essence.com/2014/06/living-tantra-saritas-blog/

One of Elena's favourite uses for Cacao is in visioning and manifesting. It allows the person to express forward their inner desires with confidence and clarity. Cacao invokes self-love and self-esteem, bringing one into the protective space of compassion and integration.

I spoke to another Tantra practitioner, Mary, who has worked with Cacao for a while, she told me that much of it is about getting yourself and your conscious mind out of the way and allowing energy and emotion to flow through you in whatever way it wants to. She first heard about Cacao Ceremonies whilst living in Costa Rica and was fascinated. A year or so later she spent some time in San Marcos La Laguna - the tiny village on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala where cacao shaman Keith lives but didn't even know that he was there.

A year later a friend shared her experiences of training with a Cacao Shaman and she wondered if it was the same guy - which of course it was!

Later that same year Keith came over to London and she finally managed to meet with him and the cacao spirit. "It feels a bit as though they were stalking me for a few years!"

Funnily enough Elena had a similar introduction, first being gifted some cacao by a friend but not really knowing what to do with it and then some months later a meetup invitation to a cacao workshop in London just around the corner from her flat led her to experience Keith for the first time.

Mary talked about the effects cacao has had for her:

"My first few experiences of Ceremony with Keith involved a lot of tears for me. And the second time I was in tears within minutes of drinking the cacao. This was part of a weekend intensive which was hugely powerful for me. Since then I experience less of this and tend to drop into a very deep state of meditation during ceremony."

She often takes and serves smaller doses for dancing, yoga or massage and finds the effects are of "feeling a sense of joy, bliss, heart connection, enhanced sensitivity to touch and energy. It's really like a totally natural ecstatic high. "

Cacao serving
Cacao serving


The connection between most of these Cacao stories seems to be Keith, the chocolate shaman from Guatemala. His ceremonies are unfussy and open, allowing the subtle levels of consciousness to seep into each participant and depending on the group, the energy can take them to talking, to meditation or to creativity. He goes around the group and individually facilitates the journey that each person needs with not too much imposed structure.

Mary explained a bit more "I've experienced many ceremonies with Keith who creates a powerful group container and then works his way around the group assisting people individually in their process."

Mary also told me about Angela Economakis, another facilitator and member of 'The Cacao Tribe' who tends to work more energetically with less dialogue than Keith in a similar group setting. Both of them also do sessions over skype - with or without the assistance of Cacao. Mary offers it in combination with individual bodywork, at dance events and in workshops exploring touch and connection.

Elena's advice was to "Follow the consciousness of the cacao, let the intention flow through the ceremony. The cacao will offer suggestions but it is up to the person to take the steps towards that in the protected space that the ceremony offers. Once you start though it will guide you and you won't have to work hard for it."

Both Elena and Mary were clear that Cacao is good for couples, opening the heart and spurring creativity while also acting as an aphrodisiac and providing an enhanced kinetic response with people reporting more pleasure or detail in touch. It's also wonderful to use during connected lovemaking. Essentially it adds an ease, flow and extra depth to pretty much any spiritual practice.

Mary has started Oh Wow Cacao as a way to market her cacao offerings - "I see it as a beautiful way to share the cacao in an accessible form and give people a taste of its magical properties." They have been a part of Morning Gloryville - the early morning rave, for several months now as well as offering cacao at a few other dance events. "It is such a fabulous synergist with dance and helps people feel more free and flowing".

As well as this she has been creating workshops integrating cacao with touch and intimacy with the London Faerie. Recently she did a workshop at The Summerhouse Weekend combining "Cacao, Laughter and Cuddles" as well as two other ceremonies. She seems a keen proponent of spreading the word - "It's really exciting to introduce people to this wonderful plant medicine which is so gentle and yet so powerful. I'm really curious to see how it's all going to unfold..."

At the Burning Man festival in Nevada I met Jonas from Firefly chocolate who led a beautiful ceremony where he talked about his inspiration that led to Beyondsuicide.us after the suicide of his mother.

Jonas was one of a number of chocolatiers who were at Burning Man - there was even a Cacao Camp for those who were heavily into the stuff. His chocolate was delicious and his storytelling powerful and from the heart to create a moving ceremony. His plans are to sell chocolate in the form of bars using particular ingredients from his local San Francisco Bay area.

Yummy Me chocolates have been on the market a little while, offering a range of strong cacao based chocolates for use in ceremony.

Another teacher who has used cacao in some of her events is Davina Mackail who combined the use of cacao with Kundalini yoga.

Preparation

On a practical level, there are different ways to buy the ceremonial grade cacao - in bean and nib form or in the shape of liqueur - a smoother block of processed cacao which is particularly useful when preparing for large numbers. The Peruvian variety is said to have a slightly better taste but also more caffeine while the Guatemalan cacao from Keith is specially selected, meaning you may need a little bit less.
Cacao can be prepared in various different ways but traditionally it is melted with water and drunk warm. First, add just enough to create a paste and then pour more into the pan to create a thick, smoothie-like mixture.

For a "ceremonial grade" dose it is recommended that each person has 42.5gms of cacao with between 120-300ccs of water (to taste). Around 28 grams of cacao is fine for assisting meditation and less or even more can be taken depending on the circumstances and the experience of the person taking part.
There are various additions that can be made to both improve the somewhat-bitter taste and also improve the effectiveness of the cacao.

I have seen honey, agave syrup and coconut sugar added as sweeteners although cardamon pods are also a great way of adding a natural sweetness. Vanilla essence, rose and other flower petals, cinnamon or ginger can be added to give an additional flavour. Cayenne or chilli powder is recommended to open the blood vessels and create a better receptivity in the person taking part in the ceremony. Mary mentioned that she has been experimenting with adding Taoist tonic herbs to the mix so there are a lot of ways to customise the potion.
It takes around 4 hours to have the complete cacao experience and ideally the drinking should be done slowly to allow connection with the cacao spirit and savour the sweet nectar. It can take 40 minutes to imbibe the ceremonial dose of cacao. The liquid then takes around 3-4 hours to permeate into the blood stream and participants will feel the effects over this period. It's best to take your time and allow the cacao to take you where it will - as Elena says "Even if the event is finished, the ceremony in you continues"

Properties

As well as being high in Caffeine and Theobromine and other alkaloids like Phenylethylamine and Seratonin, cacao acts as a very powerful liver detoxifier and is known to be extremely high in anti-oxidants. Other nutrients in cacao include anandamide, calcium, carbohydrates, copper, fat, fiber, flavanols, flavonoids, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, polyphenols, protein, potassium, quercetin, sulfur, xanthenes and zinc, among others. It is also antibacterial and protects the cardiovascular system.

In Taoism the bitter taste is associated with opening the heart channels and cacao is naturally bitter rather than sweet.

In Shamanic terms, where everything in existence is imbued with a spirit, cacao is said to have a feminine essence with a wise and nurturing energy.

For an amazingly comprehensive take on the story of cacao's history focusing on its medicinal uses see this article.

You can also see more here.

To purchase cacao you can visit Keith's site or another good supplier is Heartblood Cacao from Peru.

cacao, heartblood, peru
Heartblood cacao
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