Today was an interesting one.
I had a vague idea that cacao was related to chocolate somehow, and I knew it was meant to be a health food, so when English Yoga Meetup had a virtual cacao ceremony on their schedule I was intrigued – anything involving chocolate will have that affect on me!
It turns out that cacao is raw, unrefined chocolate – cocoa before it’s processed. The plant is grown in Central and Southern America, and this unprocessed chocolate is meant to have multiple health benefits, including being high in antioxidants, iron, and calcium, as well as lowering blood pressure. Cacao ceremonies have been performed in Central America for thousands of years, celebrating the cacao, which is sometimes referred to as “food of the gods”, in spiritual ceremonies honouring the plant and the land. The ceremonies are done today as a meditative way to self-reflect and honour the calming properties of cacao.
I have to be honest here, when I researched cacao ceremonies after I’d signed up for the course, I found little information that didn’t come from white, wellness influencers and websites which made me very sceptical and uncomfortable. How much of it was appreciating the custom, and how much was cultural appropriation – taking a cultures’ practices and ceremonies and claiming them for oneself? It’s a complicated question that has no straight answer, but it’s one that made me uncomfortable.
I got sent a chunk of Guatemalan cacao from the course giver, that had been picked and blessed by local Guatemalan women, and I had instructions to prepare it 20 minutes before the ceremony began. Although I love dark chocolate, the pure cacao was too bitter for me, and I had to add a little honey to it to sweeten it a little. It smelled absolutely amazing.
Despite my uncomfortableness going in, I found the ceremony a calming and introspective experience. We started with a centring meditation and then as we gradually brought the warm cacao closer towards us, we began to give thanks to the Indigenous people who picked the cacao, and thanks to our hearts for honouring it. Normally I would be inwardly rolling my eyes at this, but something about it felt special. Holding the drink at our hearts, close enough to smell it, we set three intentions: one for ourselves, one for the group, and one for the world, and then we had a sip. The rich, warm cacao felt soothing and comforting, and as I continued to slowly sip I noticed how deeply relaxed I felt – one of the benefits of the drink.
One of the biggest surprised for me from this ceremony was the journalling section. After we’d had some of the drink, we were encouraged to write two letters: one from us to our heart, and one from our heart back to us. I found this a deeply moving and emotional practice, and one that I definitely wouldn’t have done before this.
Overall, I was pleased to have taken part in the cacao ceremony. The physical effects of the cacao left me feeling deeply relaxed and calm for most of the day, and it was refreshing for me to take an hour of introspection during a busy few weeks. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel now having taken part in the ceremony. I obviously received some benefit from it, but was it at the cost of somebody’s culture? I’m not sure. This is a big topic in wellness, with a lot of popular alternative practices coming from Indigenous people. I’m not sure quite where I stand, but I found this article very interesting. An interesting day.