“Theobroma cacao” (Cacao) was known by the Mayans as “cacauatl”. It is a tropical tree that produces a fruit of red, orange or yellow colour. This fruit varies in size and consists of a hard and thick but very light shell. Within this shell are many seeds encased in a white pulp. The seed is extracted and brewed into a sacred and invigorating drink known to the Mesoamericans as “xocolatl”. This word in Nahuatl language translates as “Food of the Gods”. Cacao is used to create lasting bonds with people with whom it is shared. It assists the people to establish a deep communication, touching the sacred part within each one.
Traditionally cacao is produced by harvesting, fermenting and drying cacao seeds by hand. These seeds are roasted on an open fire and crushed to produce cacao nibs. These are then transformed on a grinding stone into a paste and then poured into moulds to cool down. This is known as cacao paste which is mixed with water and consumed as an energising and nutritious drink. This is the best and most nutritious way to consume cacao as it is preserves all of its nutritional value.
Other by-products of the cacao fruit are refreshing beverages and marmalades. These are produced from the white sweet and sour viscous pulp. Even the fruit’s husk is used in some regions of Central and South America to prepare medicinal infusions. All left overs are for animal feeding.
The difference between cacao paste, cocoa powder & medicinal cacao
Cacao is the wholesome and complete form of this most delicious and nutritious food. Cacao paste is a low heated cacao nib or bean that has been slightly heated to preserve all its nutrients. From this dark cacao paste drinks are made.
On the other hand there is cocoa powder which is a processed form of cacao. In this case cacao butter subtracted and other ingredients such as sugar are added. This is a type of commercial cacao that was adapted by European settlers for a more “appealing taste”.
Lastly, Ceremonial cacao or Medicinal cacao is raw and the purest form of cacao available. It is made into a paste and later into a drink being mixed with spices such as chilli. Varieties of cacao such as “Criollo” is purer and rarer to find. The communities that cultivate and harvest these, are in connection with their land. They hold with respect and clear vision the use of cacao. This means that they have a broader understanding of the wisdom of cacao. Wisdom been passed on for generations, a deep spiritual understanding of this plant as a wholesome teacher.
Cacao & Ceremony
Cacao was a sacred plant for the ancient inhabitants of Central and South America, a gift from the gods. In several of these communities it was used as a “currency” or barter element as well as a ceremonial drink. Although it is well known that it was a plant of great importance to the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas, little is known about the ceremonial use.
In ancient Mayan times, a cup of kakaw or xocolatl was shared with dear loved ones who came to visit. They drank chocolate together to speak from their heart and create lasting relationships. These deep bonds kept strengthening the people and their community. When one speaks from the heart, one speaks from one’s truth. Only from here it is possible to be at peace with oneself and others.
This magnificent super food indeed nourishes our body; physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What happen when drinking a cup of sacred cacao?
When consumed with little or no sugar it can be of grate benefit. Cacao is charged with minerals and acting as a near modulator that positively influences our state of mind. It is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, it improves the circulatory system. Full of magnesium, ion, calcium, fibre and many antioxidant, it is mood lifting allowing the release of chemical such as:
- Norepinephrine – the joy molecule
- Serotonin – Anti stress
- Dopamine – Motivation and pleasure
- Anandamide – The bliss molecule and pain moderator
- Phenylethylamine – Alertness and attentiveness, it gives the perception of time slowing down.
Once ingested, cacao has an effect in the body after 30 to 45 minutes of drinking it. One can feel a heart rhythm accelerating which allow a greater flow of blood throughout the body. The brain receives a greater amount of oxygen and a feeling of openness and clarity follows. Space opens in the chest, here where unprocessed memories and feelings are hidden. Most likely our heart has turned this area into a shield, being affright to feel. This is a wide and beautiful point of discovery towards listen what is truely inhabiting ones heart. In this way with clear mind and open heart one can connect with deep knowings. Stored wisdom within the temple of the being; the temple of intuition.
Cacao carries the capacity to assist us to come closer to our own heart, our inner teacher. When used in a mindful, respectful and harmonious environment, cacao becomes an allay, a vehicle that carries us. It can give the strength to look inside and learn how to relate truthfully within and with others.
My personal experience
In my personal experience I have come to establish a beautiful and sacred relationship with cacao. When I was a little girl I did not like the taste of cacao at all. Later as I grew older I came across pure dark cacao which changed by whole view of cacao. Later in my journey of learning Mandala weaving I became more curios. All ancient traditions spoke about the heart as the most important aspect of ourselves. In 2018 I visited my much loved homeland Colombia. I had the opportunity to visit Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Here I began discovering more about cacao and its traditional use as medicine for the heart. I felt so much gratitude for the opportunity I had to strengthen the connection with my own heart, long-forgotten.
As I built a relationship with this plant I became more familiar with the energy of my own heart. I learned to recognize the joy and acceptance when living and moving from the intuition of my heart. To this day I continue to integrate this self discovery process. My heart has taught me to strive for a life with no separation; but a life of loving acceptance and gratitude. Today part of my work is to offer a save and sacred space for the expression of the self. Through Mindful Crafting and Sound Healing. I invite you ti read What are mindfulness workshops?.
In one of my latest explorations in 2021 I came across a beautiful teacher from Colombia, Laura. She studies cacao and its history and journey through the Americas. While traveling in Guatemala visiting museums, she came across a Mayan Cacao Pot from “Rio Azul” The Lost city of the Mayans. This ceramic piece has been dated to the late fifth century A.D. This pot was very particular as it has a hermetic locking top lid system for transportation of cacao. This has been a fascinating and most humbling experience. The next step is to fire this piece, I look forward to sharing the results.
The cacao that I have shared in Sound Baths and cacao circles is crafted in the “Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta” in North Colombia. Specially crafted with loving intention by the indigenous communities; Kogui, Arhuaco, Kankuamos and Wiwa.
(In the photo a woman roasting cacao beans while carrying her child on her back.)
My dear friend and ethical cacao advocate Jaime from “Haba Cacao” in Colombia is committed to working with a cooperative that supports all these indigenous communities in the region. This is the source that you would be supporting.
Cacao is available for purchase, please send me an email for any further questions or inquiries on purchase and delivery. In 2022 I look forward to creating once again Sound Baths and Sacred Cacao circles. If you wish to receive notifications on these event next year please join the WhatsApp group by clicking here.
Thank you for reading and I hope this article has brought some new light and understanding on sacred cacao.
Adriana Perez J.
Bibliography & images
- National Geographic Magazine – Vol, 169, No.4 – April 1986