Have you ever heard about a cacao ceremony only to wonder, ‘What on earth does chocolate have to do with yoga and relaxation?’ Well, a lot, actually.
The cacao ceremony has only recently started to grow in popularity in the Western World, yet, it has been used for thousands of years by the Aztecs and the Mayans. The Aztecs reserved sacred cacao for priests and high-status men to offer to the gods. Cacao was also used by human sacrifices during their last night on earth.
The Mayan people have used the Mayan cacao drink for hundreds of years as part of their everyday life, particularly during betrothal and marriage ceremonies due to its powerful ability to develop feelings of love.
In an article I read by NewScientist about foods that can get you ‘high’, they state that 50grams of raw cacao is enough to give you a warm, fuzzy, energised and euphoric feeling thanks to the anandamide, theobromine, caffeine and tryptophan contained in the raw cacao. It’s these things that help people ‘connect’ with each other during group cacao ceremonies. Who would have thought!
It was also enlightening to learn that cacao is different from cocoa and chocolate, as I explain further on.
What happens at a cacao ceremony?
No cacao ceremony is the same, it is either in a group, or you can hold a cacao ceremony on your own, in your own home. When experiencing a group ceremony, the facilitator usually prepares the ceremonial cacao, sometimes adding cayenne pepper, chilli, agave or honey to the drink to give it a more pleasant taste.
Just imagine, everyone sitting in a circle, relaxed and surrounded by things like candles, burning sage or incense, greenery, flowers and trinkets. In the middle of the circle sits the cups and the jug of ceremonial cacao.
When it’s time, everyone drinks the cacao drink together and focus on the things they are grateful for. They are mindful of their thoughts.
As the cacao starts to take effect, people start talking to each other, telling each other what they’re grateful for, complementing each other, starting deep conversations. Some people start to sing or dance; others choose cacao meditation. The cacao soon takes over and opens everyone’s hearts. It increases connectedness, excitement and some say it creates feelings of euphoria.
Why go to a cacao ceremony?
There are some reasons you might go to a sacred cacao ceremony or try one yourself at home. They’re a great way to release negative emotions and negative self-talk. If you’re like me and are often too hard on yourself, attend a cacao ceremony to show yourself a little bit of self-love. If you’ve experienced emotional burnout, try a cacao ceremony. Whatever negatives you’re experiencing in life whether it’s sheer exhaustion, you feel lost or lacking self-confidence, cacao ceremonies have the potential to reverse these feelings and emotions. Cacao ceremonies are also great if you want to connect with others. You won’t come out of a ceremony feeling anything less than good.
In talking about all the benefits though, this cacao ritual can bring about some anxiousness for first-timers. This is completely normal. As a first-timer, just take a small amount of the cacao drink to see how you feel and take more as your mind becomes clearer and the anxiety goes away.
What are the ceremonial cacao effects and benefits?
A cacao ceremony is so powerful because of the power of the cacao itself, but don’t get it confused with chocolate or cocoa.
Cacao is the raw, naturally fermented and unheated form of chocolate. Cocoa is cacao that has been heated. Chocolate goes through a huge process and has additional ingredients including milk, sugar, roasted cocoa, and in the process of making chocolate, the process and additional ingredients in chocolate don’t bring the same benefits of cocoa because the ingredients block the antioxidants. This is why the benefits are only from the raw form of cacao.
What is cacao used for? Some of the benefits of raw cacao are:
- It’s an aphrodisiac
- Mood enhancer
- Improves memory
- Increases bliss
- Reduce heart disease
- Helps you shed fat
- Immunity booster
- Builds energy
It’s amazing how much good stuff the humble cacao contains. In addition to the anandamide, theobromine, caffeine and tryptophan that give you the warm and fuzzies, ceremonial cacao also contains serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that stimulate the brain and regulate moods.
But that’s not all; this superfood has been studied closely by Lee S. Berk, DrPH, associate dean of research affairs at the School of Allied Health Professions and a researcher in psychoneuroimmunology and food science from Loma Linda University. Berk told Science Daily that they found that that the higher the concentration of cacao brought about more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects thanks to the flavanoids contained in the cacao.
After taking a drink of cacao during a cacao ceremony, people often feel a sense of bliss and love, their self-talk stops, and their entire self quietens down, retreating into a zone of immense comfort and release. For many, and depending on how much cacao you take, this feeling can last a few hours. If you find your heart is racing, don’t worry too much, this is likely the result of the caffeine and theobromine in the cacao and is benefiting your brain with more blood flow, stimulating your heart and oxygenating your skin because your blood vessels dilate more.
How to have your own cacao ceremony
Having your own cacao ceremony is a very personal thing, but it’s important to set it up in a way that makes you feel comfortable and brings you joy. You can have a ceremony with a few friends or you can have one by yourself. You may like to set up a ceremony area in your house or outside where there will be no interruptions, where it is quiet and where you can place a lovely mat, light some candles, place some greenery and flowers and place trinkets or statues. Some people burn a sage smudge stick, so the smoke cleanses the space of negative energies.
Once you have set up your ceremony area, follow these suggested steps on how to make the cacao drink (the cacao ceremony recipe is a guide only):
- Prepare your cacao drink with 1 to 2 oz (28 to 56 grams) of raw ceremonial grade cacao. If this is your first time, try starting with a smaller cocoa dosage, about a quarter of an ounce, and take it slowly.
- Chop the desired amount of cacao into small pieces (or buy them in shards).
- Heat the water just before boiling and add cacao shavings.
- Stir the cacao. You may need to use a whisk to take out lumps.
- Add a pinch of chilli or cayenne pepper
- Add any sweetener such as honey if you wish.
- Think about what you want to gain from the ceremony. Do you want to release negative energy, do you want to gain something such as clarity or confidence or do you need a particular wound to be healed? Knowing what you want from the ceremony will help get the most out of the transformational state cacao can introduce.
- Take a drink of the cacao, in small amounts if this is your first time.
- Keep an open mind and allow the cacao spirit to take you on the journey.
- Drink plenty of water at the end of the ceremony.
Before you take cacao for the first time
Because cacao is a powerful plant medicine, it’s important that you speak to your doctor if you have any illnesses or are on medications. If you use antidepressants or experience heart conditions, this is particularly important. Antidepressants with MAOIs contraindicate with cacao and could lead to bad headaches. Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol before a cacao ceremony and drink lots of water towards the end of the ceremony to avoid dehydration.
Where to buy ceremonial grade cacao
Ceremonial grade cacao isn’t overly easy to come by; you can’t just drop into the local supermarket to buy it like chocolate. There are also a few speciality shops that sell it, and when they do, it usually sells out quite quickly. Your best bet is to buy it online.
Yes, a cacao ceremony seems quite spiritual but it’s a ceremony that’s all about you and connecting with yourself and others. The great thing about the ceremonial cacao recipe is its natural form and the benefits that we can gain from it. Wouldn’t it be great to start the day with a positive mindset, to wouldn’t it be great to more easily connect with others and connect with our deeper selves? The cocoa ceremony is certainly something that will start to grow in popularity.
Have you been to a cacao ceremony or held your own? What was your experience like?
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