WHERE AND WHEN DID CACAO CEREMONIES ORIGINATE?
It’s thought cacao was first used 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. With over 1200 chemical constituents, the beans from Theobroma Cacao (translating from the greek: theo = god and broma = food and cacao = the mayan name for the chocolate beans) – or the chocolate tree, appear to be the most pharmacologically complex food in nature. Cacao has been used for millennia as a food and antidote to a vast array of health issues. It has also been used ceremonially by the ancient Meso-americans in conjunction with other plants and rituals.
WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY, AND WHEN DO PEOPLE SEEK THIS MEDICINE OUT?
A cacao ceremony is an opportunity to connect to yourself and open your heart. Because of cacao’s ability to increase your connection to your inner self and your heart chakra, it aids in any transformational shift you are working towards, whether you are looking to deepen your understanding of who you are, release old patterns and traumas, or move into a more self-confident space. Whatever your path, the intention is yours to set, and the cacao allows you to the insight and awareness to move towards that goal
TYPE OF CACAO USED?
The Criollo tree is native to Central and South America as well as the Caribbean islands and Sri Lanka. Only 5% of the world’s production is Criollo.
Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are extremely vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats. The beans have a white to pale pink colour and their taste is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in secondary notes of long duration. Considered to be the “prince of cocoas,” Criollo is prized as an ingredient in the very finest of chocolates.
WHAT IS THE IMMEDIATE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT?
One of the main active ingredients that we experience in our physiology during ceremony is Theobromine. Theo-broma literally translates as God-Food, and potentiates the release of dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ hormone. This, alongside phenethylamine, which is known to help relieve stress and depression and which is released in the body during emotional euphoria, create heightened sensation and empathy. Alongside these, the high amount of nutrients in the cacao support and nourish the body, whilst also inducing a detoxifying effect on the liver and kidneys.
AND THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT?
Due to the euphoria inducing ingredients, the emotional impact can be profound. Everything feels heightened within the physical and emotional body, including your awareness to your deepest sense of self and to your heart. The experience of love and empathy, particularly for yourself, can literally feel as if your heart is opening like a flower. With this, the body can become flooded with the many emotions stored in the heart, some of which can be painful. It is not always an easy experience, and I have seen many tears shed as people peel away old layers of hurt. But as the cacao facilitates a deep sense of self-love, tears are always followed by smiles of deep gratitude. In other moments, the sheer ecstasy felt from the cacao can be described as nothing other than a divine experience.
If you have any significant health challenges (i.e. having chemotherapy treatment) or are on high levels of anti-depressants, this could preclude you from working with Cacao in a ceremonial context please check with your doctor. Cacao can contribute to a lowering of blood pressure, so if you are on blood pressure medicine, please check your medication contra-indicators.
Prescription Anti-depressants: Those that use MAO inhibitors to treat depression are contraindicated
with chocolate. Check your medication to see if this is the case.
Serious Heart Conditions: cacao can slightly increase heart rate and is a vasodilator, so if you have a
serious heart condition this is not an appropriate event.
Pregnant or breastfeeding: Please check with your doctor.