Cacao Ceremonies: A Modern Expression Of An Ancient Idea
Ritual Cacao Ceremonies have recently grown in popularity in the West, especially within ritual yoga communities. However, cacao drinks have been used for emotional and spiritual healing and ceremony for thousands of years.
Ancient shamans used cacao ceremonies to help prepare the body and soul for shamanic journeying. Today’s cacao ceremonies are rooted in shamanic healing practices, one of the oldest holistic healing modalities used by indigenous cultures all over the world.
Cacao ceremonies can be practiced ritualistically and individually at home, similar to forms of tea meditation. However, cacao ceremonies are more traditionally performed as a communal group experience, with a trained cacao facilitator or shaman leading the experience, to promote inspiration and human connection. The word cacao comes from the Maya words Ka’kau, meaning “heart blood,” and the Maya word Chokola’j — which, when combined in context, means “to drink chocolate together.”
“A Mayan legend tells us that whenever there is an imbalance between humans and nature, cacao comes from the rainforest to open people’s hearts and return the planet to a state of harmony. Some shamans, therefore, consider cacao the 'food for the shift.' It represents the new order of love and peace, which is being cultivated right now.”
- Keith Wilson, the Cacao Shaman
What is Ritual Cacao Made Of?
The cacao used in a ceremony is different from the chocolate bars we might buy at the grocery store. Ceremony-grade cacao maintains its full range of nutrients because it is minimally processed and made from a single ingredient – cacao beans. Nothing is added to or removed from the cacao bean during the process, leaving the final product pure. Some ceremonial cacao is produced from strains of cacao plants found in the wild, growing without the help of humans and prized for its unique composition.
The cacao is made from only lightly toasted, fermented organic beans so that the skins can be carefully removed by hand. The beans are then milled by a process that creates just enough heat to turn the cacao into a thick paste, after which it is allowed to solidify. This solidified paste becomes the cacao that shamans and facilitators use to create their ceremonial drinks.
Recipes for the ceremonial cacao drink vary among cacao facilitators, but the core recipe remains simple. Shaved cacao is blended with water, cacao butter, and a tiny bit of sweetener to create a thick drink. The drink is mixed with intention or prayer during the process and always served warm.
Sweeteners and other additions to the mix can vary, but facilitators usually use a pinch of a natural sweetener like coconut sugar, honey, or agave. Other healing herbs may also be added, and savory flavors such as a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, rose or vanilla bean, or a type of pepper, such as chili or cayenne.
The resulting solution is bitter and nutrient-dense but naturally high in magnesium, iron, and B-complex vitamins. It has more calcium than cow’s milk and is also high in theobromine.
Theobromine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in cacao that can be longer-lasting, milder, and more pleasant than caffeine. Unlike caffeine, a vasoconstrictor that constricts your blood vessels causing the heart to work harder to increase blood flow, theobromine is a vasodilator that expands your blood vessels to increase blood flow.
The scientific genus name for cacao is theobroma, which translates to “Food of the Gods.” It is believed that when meditatively prepared for a sacred purpose, the cacao maintains the potency of the plant’s heart-opening wisdom and healing medicinal properties.
What Are Cacao Ceremonies Like?
Ceremonial cacao drinks should be served warm. A ceremony facilitator will prepare the ritual cacao for the group. After cups of cacao have been poured, participants are usually encouraged to quietly hold the warm drink and tune into their quiet space to listen or to focus on intentions. The cacao is drunk together as a group and can create a powerful sharing experience.
Cacao is said to have grounding and heart-opening properties, encouraging positive reflection and clarity. Because of this, cacao ceremonies are centered around facilitating a sacred space for just such a personal experience.
Most ceremonies include practices that foster calmness, introspection and emotionally uplifting experiences to help allow the participant to contemplate, relax, and release.
These activities can include prayer, meditation, songs, dance, breathwork by the ocean, stories around a fire, sound baths, or even silence. Ceremonies are often finally closed with expressions of gratitude and thankfulness.
Whether practiced individually as a daily morning ritual or enjoyed with a group, fans of ceremonial cacao agree – it’s a healthy, positive, and life-enriching experience. And we at Crio Bru agree! Similar to ceremonial cacao, though without the ritual process, Crio Bru uses the full cacao bean to retain more of its important nutrients. Our Crio Bru core product line is made from 100% pure ground cacao beans. Nothing more, nothing less.
Have you enjoyed ceremonial cacao, individually or communally?
Please share your experiences with this delightful practice in the comments below!