The Cacao Ceremony: A Sacred Expression of an Ancient Ritual
You may have heard about Ritual Cacao Ceremonies, especially if you’re part of a ritual yoga community. They’re commonly practiced in spiritual groups and have many benefits, including the simple joys of communal connection and nutrition. While they’ve recently gained steam, they are not new. Cacao, and specifically cacao drinks, have been used for emotional and spiritual healing for thousands of years.
The Ancient Practice / Alt. The Early Days
On our ceremonial journey we need to look to the Mayans first. The word “cacao” comes from the Mayan words “Ka’kau” meaning “heart blood,” and “Chokola’j” meaning “to drink together.” This blood connection comes from the belief that the Mayan gods bled onto the cacao pods, and cacao was considered one of the ingredients used to create humanity. It was also believed that the gods gifted cacao to the people directly. The scientific genus name for cacao is theobroma, which translates to “Food of the Gods,” and the Maya believed that cacao was a key ingredient in restoring balance and connection to the divine.
“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
So how did the ancients do it? Well, without giving gory details, one of the Mayan ceremonies involved preparing people to be lifted to the gods, and the cacao was essentially used as a way to calm the spirits and prepare them for the afterlife. It was also used in marriage ceremonies to help with fertility, at births, baptisms, and funerals, and by priests in regular practices. In some cases it was offered directly to the gods as a sacrifice. Private imbibing of cacao connected people to the gods and to their origins, but it was typically a communal practice.
Today’s Cacao Ceremonies
Today, many native cultures practice cacao ceremonies handed down by their ancestors. However, the cacao ceremonies that have been adopted in the West have a broader and typically spiritually agnostic purpose that can be practiced ritualistically and individually at home, similar to forms of tea meditation. But like with the ancients, 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.
Ceremonial cacao is not Hershey’s dark chocolate. It’s a rare item that is prepared very carefully to maintain its full range of nutrients. This means it’s minimally processed and “pure” — nothing is added or removed. (Just like Crio Bru…) Some ceremonial cacao is totally wild, growing by itself in nature and specially prized by those who can appreciate its properties.
The beans are high in magnesium, iron, and B-complex vitamins and have more calcium than cow’s milk. Their special ingredient is theobromine, a natural stimulant that’s longer-lasting, milder, and more pleasant than caffeine. Instead of constricting your blood vessels like caffeine does, theobromine expands them.
The process of preparing the ceremonial cacao product involves toasting the beans lightly, fermenting them to increase flavor and activate their properties, and removing the skins by hand. Sometimes the beans are ground in a heated mill to create a thick paste that solidifies. Otherwise, the cacao is finished by roasting the beans, cracking them, and stone-grinding them.
There are some differences in drink preparation among various shamanic practitioners, but the core recipe remains the same: ground cacao, water, cacao butter, and a bit of natural sweetener like coconut sugar, honey, or agave. Some practitioners add healing herbs or a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, rose, vanilla bean, or cayenne pepper. The drink is always served thick, hot, and bitter.
Cacao ceremonies are specially arranged to foster the grounding and heart-opening properties of cacao. The goal is to communally uplift mood, increase vitality, and open the heart and intuition, along with other personal spiritual intentions. They are a group activity shared within a sacred space, and their communal nature amplifies the elements involved. If you are interested in it for yourself, here is the type of experience you can expect.
The cacao is imbued with intention by everyone who touches it, from harvesting to heating, and a facilitator prepares the drink for the group with the same intention and love.
Your group may form a circle or other configuration to increase harmony. After you receive your cup you will likely be encouraged to quietly tune into yourself and set an intention and will be told about your cacao and guided through a blessing. Some intentions you may want to set include personal empowerment, deep healing, and clarity.
Imbibing your cacao.
Then, together with your group members, you’ll drink your cacao with deep reverence. You will be encouraged to pay attention to what is happening for you and remain present as you share this experience.
Next, your shaman will guide you through various practices that are intended to open your chakras, strengthen group harmony, and help you direct your own divine energy. This could include prayers and meditation, song and dance, and tantric breath work, and potentially a sound bath, to raise your vibrational frequency. You may have chosen to do your ceremony a special location that includes a fire or is near the ocean, keeping you closer to nature. Some ceremonies involve partner and group exercises. Just like with the ancients, this is a both communal experience and a personally spiritual moment.
At the end of these practices, you will collectively acknowledge the power of your shared experience and give thanks in a closing recitation or dance. You’ll bring your renewal with you out into your life.
Your Personal Cacao Ceremony
Whether you have a morning routine to prepare your first cup or embrace a group ceremony, fans of ceremonial cacao agree it’s a healthy, positive, and life-enriching experience. Crio Bru wholeheartedly seconds this. As with ceremonial cacao, we use the full cacao bean and our product line is made of 100% pure cacao. You add the ritual.
Tell us! Do you take a long breath as you pour your Bru, set an intention for your day as you smell the aroma, or meet with a shaman? How do you do your cacao?
Explain your ceremony in the comments below…