Cacao ceremonies are an ancient tradition based on the Central American practice that goes way back. We’re talking thousands of years. Aztec and Mayans depended on this ritual for spiritual and physical support. It’s safe to say that cacao ceremonies have a rich history and even richer benefits. Curious about cacao ceremonies? Us too. Keep reading to learn what a cacao ceremony is and entails, why it’s such a sacred ritual, and how to recreate your own.
First, what is cacao?
Before we dive into all things cacao ceremonies, here’s a refresher on what cacao is if you’re not familiar: Cacao comes from a tree native to South America that produces pods that contain cacao beans. Theobroma is the tree’s Latin name, which translates to “food of the gods.” This gives you some indication of how sacred and special cacao is, and it’s easy to see why.
Cacao offers many benefits. It’s high in essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as antioxidants. Cacao is also a great source of healthy fat and fiber, helping to keep you feeling full and satiated. And cacao is known to boost mood, hence why we tend to reach for chocolate when we’re feeling blue. However, Cacao is not to be confused with chocolate or cocoa powder, which contains other additives and sugar. Pure cacao is processed with low heat and maintains its nutritional benefits.
What is a cacao ceremony?
A cacao ceremony is a heart-opening ritual that involves drinking hot, ceremonial-grade cacao. Traditionally, a cacao ceremony is done in a group setting hosted by someone trained in the art of preparing cacao. The group aspect also adds to the experience. Ceremonies can last a few hours, but they can also be done on your own and incorporated as a daily ritual for reconnecting with yourself and setting an intention.
Drinking the ceremonial cacao is an energetic, spiritual experience that is said to help you connect with your heart and help nourish and ground you. It serves as a tangible tool that can be used alongside other inner work. Cacao’s heart-opening power is attributed to the high levels of theobromine it contains.* Theobromine is a mild stimulant that’s said to help elevate mood.*
How is ceremonial cacao made?
Ceremonial cacao is traditionally made by mixing cacao with hot water, achieving a creamy consistency. The magic is in the quality of the cacao. The cacao that is used during a sacred ceremony is not just your typical cacao that you grab at the grocery store. In that case, the result would just be a yummy chocolate drink. For cacao ceremonies, cacao paste is used to make the drink. Cacao paste contains cacao butter and cacao powder. It’s strong, pure, organic, and typically 70 -100% cacao that is thoughtfully and intentionally harvested, grown, and processed for this specific purpose. It can be sourced from places such as Bali, Mexico, or Guatemala.
Other ingredients are also added to the cacao at some cacao ceremonies to magnify its power and add additional benefits. Ingredients include ashwagandha, cayenne, or cardamom, and sweeteners like monk fruit or agave honey. It can also be kept simple with just a pinch of sea salt to bring out the chocolatey flavor.
What happens during a cacao ceremony?
Some cacao ceremonies will also feature altars to enhance the experience that participants can sit around during the ceremony. Altars can feature various non-traditional elements such as candles, tarot cards, crystals, and other spiritual tools. Participants are also asked to set an intention for the ceremony, whether it’s a desire they want to attract or something they want to let go of.
The main event, of course, is drinking the cacao, but it is done in a special way, not like you would drink your morning cup of coffee. You’re meant to first take a moment to connect with the cacao’s energy before drinking it, and when you do drink, really savor the experience. Some ceremonies will also have participants go around and take turns sharing their intention, desire, something they’re grateful for, or a lesson they’ve learned. Each ceremony will be different depending on who leads it.
Although drinking the cacao is the main event, a cacao ceremony isn’t complete without other spiritual and wellness modalities that complement the cacao, and further help participants connect with themselves. Ceremonies can also incorporate breathwork, chanting, music, singing, sound healing, dancing, journaling, or meditation.
What does the experience feel like?
Like with most things, everyone’s cacao ceremony experience is different. Each person experiences different metaphysical and physical benefits. Some people will simply go into a meditative state while others may cry, have emotions bubble up to the surface, or report having an out of body experience. The general consensus, however, is most people feel their heart softening and opening during a cacao ceremony. Their bodies and minds may also feel more relaxed and blissful. And, overall, participants tend to feel a more profound sense of self-love, which is definitely something we can all use.
While nothing can quite compare to participating in a traditional cacao ceremony led by an expert in a group setting, the benefits of cacao ceremonies can still be reaped on your own. It’s all about the intention you put behind drinking your cacao. To recreate the experience on your own as part of your daily practice, start by purchasing ceremonial-grade cacao from a reputable source. Then create your own cacao ceremony as you prepare the cacao, set your intention, and drink the cacao. Like in group ceremonies, you can follow the drinking of the cacao with other modalities like journaling or meditation. Do what feels good for you and what helps you drop into your body and open up your heart.