Cacao Ceremony: 8 Simple Steps to Start (and 1 Thing to Avoid)

Deep in the jungles of south America, plants have been revered and used as medicines for thousands of years. For many decades these plants have made their way out of the jungle and into mainstream life.

More people are becoming familiar with the entheogen called ayahuasca, but the cacao ceremony is also a powerful traditional practice that is both legal and subtle.

In urban environments and cities, it is hard to replicate many of the community gatherings and events that our ancestors would have had.

Very rarely do we gather around a fire and connect, but it is possible to bring some of these aspects back into our life. The cacao ceremony is one great way to do so.

Before we explain (with pictures and video!) the best way to formulate a cacao ceremony, consider that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it.

Surely there are practices from indigenous cultures and even yogic tradition, which can make the experience more enjoyable, but create your sacred cacao ceremony the way you see fit.

A Brief History of the Cacao Ceremony

Drinking cacao in a ceremonial context is not merely a western invention of wealthy hipsters.

According to Mayan tradition, the term for cacao is literally translated as “heart blood” and theobromine (the psychoactive ingredient) translates as “food of the Gods” [1].

Consider that psilocybin mushrooms were considered by the Aztecs to be “flesh of the Gods” and it is clear that cacao had a more important role than us chocolate loving westerners might assume.

Unlike the other psychedelic or entheogenic plants in south America, cacao was widely available as currency, but primarily reserved for consumption by the elite.

Using cacao in or out of a ceremonial context became popular as a medicine for a number of physical ailments.

Over the past few years, cacao ceremonies have become increasingly popular in the west and specifically in hubs like San Francisco.

The Times in UK compared it to “instant therapy” [2]. Of course, there is plenty of hype, but you’ll have to experience and judge for yourself.

What Can you Expect From a Cacao Ceremony?

Because most westerners typically only have ceremonies that include psychedelic compounds like psilocybin or ayahuasca, it is common for people to consider what the psychoactive effects might be.

Does cacao create a trip? Am I going to get high?

The short answer is “no”.

You will not have an experience similar to the psychoactive deep dives that come from shaman work and psychedelics. But, it can create a subtle sensation that is more akin to a microdose of certain psychedelics.

The theobromine found in cacao is a psychoactive alkaloid that is different than caffeine, but in a similar family.

The theobromine can be mildly stimulating, which creates a noticeable sensation especially if the ceremony is done in the morning while fasted.

According to Mayan texts and cacao ceremony lovers in the west, doing a sacred cacao ceremony is “heart opening”.

Although it is meant as a non-scientific concept, modern research shows theobromine is a vasodilator (blood vessel widener) and stimulant for the heart specifically [3].

It is a great example of indigenous wisdom having scientific backing.

Ceremonial Context and Grounding

No matter how great the cacao itself, without the right context and leader (shaman / guide), these sensations and experiences will not be fruitful. Much like psychedelics and entheogens, the “set and setting” do make a difference.

By sitting in a circle of community, by starting with some meditations and grounding exercises, it is as much the practice as the chemical compounds, which create the effect of a cacao ceremony.

Therefore, we highly recommend to be intentional when having a cacao ceremony. This can be done with a group of friends on the weekend and it can be done alone in the morning as part of your routine. Whichever you decide.

Before the Ceremony: Preparing the Cacao

Depending on where your cacao ceremony will be located (inside or outside is fine), it’s most likely easier to prepare the mixture beforehand.

Be mindful that ceremonial drinking cacao is very specific so purchasing raw cacao powder is not the same thing. This is why we have created our own called Vitality.

For a ceremonial dose you will need:

  • 7 oz of water per person
  • 1-2 oz of Vitality cacao per person
  • Pinch of chili/cayenne pepper
  • Optional: Honey, Agave, or other sweetener
  • Optional: Cardamom, Vanilla, Cinnamon to taste

cacao ceremony

How to brew:

  • Begin by breaking up large chunks of cacao into smaller pieces so it is quicker to soften in hot water.
  • Place pot of water and pinch of chili on stove. Heat until just under boiling.
  • Add cacao to water
  • Add optional sweetener and spices.
  • Use a whisk to blend cacao until cacao is melted and there is a froth on top of the mixture.
  • Serve & enjoy!

Pro tips:

  • It is nice to keep a spoon or whisk nearby when serving as cacao will tend to settle at the bottom of the vessel.
  • Until you are familiar with cacao, we recommend you drink only ⅔ of your serving to begin. After you have sat with the medicine for some time, and feel comfortable, you may proceed with drinking the addition ⅓ left in your cup.
  • One way to carry the cacao is to use a couple of affordable, but nice looking Conway glass bottles.

Starting a Cacao Ceremony: Purification and Cleansing

In many indigenous cultures, using varied plants and trees as smoke for cleansing purposes is very popular. Palo santo and sage are two great examples, but there are many others.

After setting up an altar, which can include personal items, crystals, and other spiritually relevant items, light some of the sage and use the smoke near everything as a way of cleansing it for the ceremony.

The physical space for the cacao ceremony where people will join you also can use some purification and cleansing.

Using the smoke, purify or “smudge” the whole area. A feather can come in handy for this part of the process.

20180811 IMG 2981

During the process of cleansing the area for the ceremony, feel free to say any prayers or intentions. As the leader of a cacao ceremony, you can ask that everyone has an enjoyable experience or whatever intention feels right for you.

Upon finishing the cleansing of the space, invite the community to sit around the altar, and smudge or cleanse each one of them as well.

Sacred Cacao Ceremony: Grounding

After the cleansing and purification has happened, it’s time for the group to find some grounding. This part of the ceremony requires a leader to go through a short grounding meditation.

This might be eyes closed so that everyone is becoming aware of their body, but whatever this includes, it should be calming in some way.

By grounding as a group, it is easy for the sacred cacao ceremony to move into a more spiritual and connected place. A simple guided meditation might include the following:

  • Feel the ground underneath your feed and tailbone
  • Begin to notice your breathe and the air around you
  • Take three deep ad cleansing inhales and exhales through your mouth
  • Drawing your attention to your heart space and other chakras
  • Sending love and gratitude to those around you
  • Drawing love back to yourself.

We have created a free guided meditation, which is a downloadable audio recording. This can begin sacred cacao ceremonies so that you can appreciate the experience as well.

Serving and Setting Intentions

Assuming the cacao has been made prior to the ceremony, the next step is to pour the servings. You can use any cup or glass, but for aesthetic and convenience purposes, we like normal sized mason jars.

When everyone is holding the cup of cacao, instruct them to put their glass down on the ground, connect with pachamama, and Earth that keeps us alive.

Have them raise the cup to the sky honoring the animals and energies above, put the cup in the middle recognizing the connection of the community, and finally bring the cup to their chest.

With the cup under their chest, have them all silently speak a few words or intentions for the cacao before consuming it.

20180811 IMG 3129

As participants of the ceremony continue to drink the cacao, provide the space for everyone to have their own experience.

Encourage them to keep their eyes closed through the process, connect with themselves and feel the cacao entering their body and ultimately altering their mind.

Consuming the cacao may take time for some people as it is bitter and gritty, but allowing them the space to consume the cacao is worthwhile.

20180811 IMG 3104

Closing the Sacred Cacao Ceremony

One of the greatest things we can do in a fast-paced, modern world, is be grateful for what we have.

Expressing and feeling gratitude are great ways of adding more meaning and fulfillment into our lives and something we rarely have an opportunity to do.

A great closing practice is to have the entire community go around and share some gratitude that they have.

As each person shares, notice how the community becomes closer knit and more connected with one another.

By this ending of the cacao ceremony, people will feel more connected with themselves, with their community, and with the natural world around them.

We believe in bringing this ceremonial and sacred space into the lives of men and women so that we may remain connected to an ancestral way of being.

Modern technology is great, but if we cannot reconnect with our natural roots, we will be missing something in our lives.

**Health Note: Cacao contraindications. Certain substances are contraindicated with higher doses of cacao (more than 1 – 2 ounces). MAOI antidepressants are the major compounds. Those with serious heart conditions or pregnant / breastfeeding mothers may want little or no cacao.

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2057S/4686320
  2. Ruby Warrington. Cacao: this year’s fashionable superfood. The Times. January 2017.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20859797