Where and When Did Cacao Ceremonies Start?
It’s thought cacao was first taken as a health elixir and ceremonial medicine as far back as 1900 BC by the ancestors of Central America, the Olmec people, before becoming a ritualistic medicine used by the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Signifying both life and fertility, it was ingested by Royalty in ceremonial God worship and in sacrificial ritual. Of course it depends on where you go in Central and South America for the true beginning stories change from place to place (wink wink).
Cacao Ceremony in Practice
Here's the rhythm that unfolded organically for me with Ceremonial Cacao in my everyday.
My commitment is often for one week and Cacao teaches me to visit each chakra each day for this practice. I drink my Ceremonial Cacao Dose (we'll cover this below) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This is traditional with Cacao, first thing in the morning with an empty belly. I love the seasonal pulsing to help me shift more smoothly. For me it's likened to meeting an honest lover for a beautiful romp from time to time (wink wink). So once taken in slowly, then I sit quiet for 20-30 minutes and just allow my feelings and mind to wander to see where I'm taken along with checking in with my physical state of being. Review of the previous day can filter in since I take for many days in a row. Spontaneous knowings come up usually within two hours. Visions and dreams through awake and asleep time drift in as the cumulative effect takes hold, and this begins usually by day three. I journal cryptically when taking my morning dose for the in-the-moment feelings but also for a review of the unfolding of the previous day and night that have happened. It's like reviewing a movie with a deeper seeing clearer lens. Here's the honest part. The first two to three days can, but NOT always, be really hard to bordering on down right sucking sometimes. But if you stay with the practice it shifts. Our sequestered residual emotional debris can be unearthed. But only if we want this and are willing to work with it. Pull up, and dust off if need be, your self care skills here too. I retreat to paint, drum, go to Nature, build altars and work them, medicine make, adjust my diet and sleeping, spiritual bathe, yoni steam, sauna, take other plants in as directed intuitively, and basically follow Cacao's inspiration through this process.
Are you following me on this? I hope so. It's a personal and intimate quest of sorts. Do send me questions if they arise.
A Heart-Opening Experience
This Cacao Ceremony round that I'm just completing has brought up some of the deepest grief around the death of sweet and dear sister, more than 20 years ago, and Cacao is sweeping the cracks from that time in my life when the perceived loss of her stimulated a tsunami that changed the course of my life and all my relations on every level. Cacao is our ally for deep transformation core work. Calling in the medicine for support is our natural course of action. Cacao is there whenever I ask. We need only ask.
Whatever comes up for you to feel during your time with cacao, it's important to remember that the Spirit of Cacao is your personal partner on this journey, and being your partner, Cacao will assist you in processing your emotions when and where you invite this. Bliss can happen. And it does. But sometimes painful growth comes too in the form of grief work, release work, and expansion of our understanding. Then the bliss can rise. I have to be straight with you on this. Cacao meets us where we are and supports growth. Know you are supported even if it might seem hard at first.
Setting Intentions - The Nuts & Bolts
For the scope of this article I'm avoiding analyzing the individual chemicals in detail that we know of in Cacao. It's fascinating! It's well-studied thus far too and continuing to be further studied as well. Do follow this research if you're intrigued. But reducing Cacao to chemical parts is not my favorite way to introduce or speak of a beloved. Plant or human. Cacao contains a whole host of natural "feel good" chemicals known to influence the body and brain in subtle ways, so don't be surprised if you start to feel the effects of this too. You may notice feelings of warmth rise up the trunk of your body, and have feelings of calm, tranquility, peace, bliss, or others rise up. Maybe your face is hot, you feel flushed, your heart flutters a little. Relax into this. Find comfort in your body through moving to positions of comfort. Twinges and such happen. Trust and move to comfort and breathe deeply. Cacao is a great partner for journey and meditation practice too.
The Recipe - Ceremonial Cacao Preparation
A Ceremonial Cacao Dose is 1oz. per person per day.
No more than 2oz. per day if you're moved to have more but do space the doses out a bit until you understand how Cacao works with you and your body. These are adult doses so offering to children means smaller amounts please. Sometimes just a spoonful is plenty.
- 4oz water per person by volume - you may have 4 oz. Lemon Verbena tea here as a traditional option too.
- 1oz cacao per person by weight
- Pinches of cayenne pepper
- Pinches of cinnamon
- Honey, Agave, Maple Syrup, or other sweetener to taste (keep it on the bitter side and acclimate to this taste) Black Sugar is traditional but hard to find here in the states.
- Optional: cardamom powder, vanilla to taste
- The ratio of cacao to water is simply a matter of the consistency you like. If you want it thinner, simply add more water.
- Start with the cacao block. Chop with a knife into fragments about 1/4 inch or smaller and weigh and measure out your water and cacao.
- Heat water with chili to not quite a boil. It should be just too hot to the touch and around no more than 180 degrees.
- Add the cacao shavings and turn the heat very low or off completely.
- Use a whisk to stir the brew until all the chunks are blended in and a bit frothy.
- After the cacao has ‘dissolved’, add whatever sweetening and spices you want.
- It’s helpful to have a spoon or stirring stick to keep the consistency even as you consume it. The cacao will settle at the bottom over time. Sometimes I put it all in a small mason jar with a lid so I can shake it well between my tiny sips. This keeps the lovely froth stirred up too.
- Sip slowly over 10-15 minutes on an empty stomach while you unplug and relax. Effects are felt almost instantly to hours after with a cumulative effect when working for days in a row.
- I like my second dose around 2-3:00pm in the afternoon if I'm home and will unplug. I currently do not take Cacao daily. Some do. It's a precious medicine to me that takes so much time and work to bring to us in the states and so I choose to save it for the deeper connections of soul work.
How do you know if you're too sensitive, at least for today, and need to slow your dose down?
Simple. Read the language of your body. I am super sensitive to meds, herbs and just about anything. It's just how I am. Know you and adjust accordingly. This is not a competition and has nothing to do with body size either. Besides, isn't it fabulous to get there with less?! I find the overdose symptom picture looks like this: shaky, sweaty, antisocial, racing pulse, racing thoughts, disconnected feeling (we are), slow moving, heart palpitations, anxious, nauseated to mild and intense vomiting. Not fun! If these symptoms begin to appear during drinking your first dose slowly, then stop for now, drink plenty of water, and lay down. I keep stronger sedating nervine plants as companions on hand such as Skullcap, Chamomile, or Kava Kava root to sip as a tea or take in tincture doses of 10-20 drops with plenty of water and rest. I've not felt these effects with 1oz. but I have with a second 1oz. dose close to the first. And this can happen to anyone and anytime for it's dependent on you and Cacao and the work together in the time you are together. One session can have you feeling this come on half way through your first dose and another session you drink the whole dose with no symptoms at all. Listen to your body as it speaks and adjust your practice. Start low and go slow is my take for safety as these compounds in Cacao are quite powerful, stimulating, bitter, and have potent detoxifying compounds. These symptoms are a strong liver and heart response and we can work with this gently, with care and awareness.
Contraindications to Consider
If you take anti-depressant medications or cardiac medications of any kind, are pregnant or breast feeding then I ask that you prepare 1/4 of the dose 1/4 oz in 2oz. or more of water will do). Take with extra water and no more Cacao for the day. Some say none at all. I have seen this very low dose to be very safe time and again. The connection is made with a very small amount to none at all and just holding the seeds will do. You decide. Pure cacao can be fatal to dogs, and possibly horses and parrots, so be sure to keep it away from all pets to be safe.