10/7/20 2:30-3:45 PM
Location: my deck at home
Cacao Ceremony Participant Observation
My mother is the owner of a spiritual boutique in my town of Katonah, New York. She is approached by many different people offering products and services on a daily basis, and just last week she asked me if I wanted to participate in a cacao ceremony with two women who were interested in sharing what they do with us. Of course, I accepted and soon realized it was the perfect experience to write about for this participant observation/ethnography assignment. Through this I was hoping to learn more about the culture surrounding the cacao plant, how it is traditionally brewed into a drink, and how it would make me feel.
We did the ceremony on my deck at home. It was essential to sit on the floor to feel more grounded, and we surround ourselves with crystals and candles. We journaled throughout the ceremony, first writing down our intentions, then how the drink initially made us feel, and finally some key thoughts that popped into our head after the complete meditation. We sat with the drink at our hearts and thought of our intentions as we drank in order to let the stimulus of the drink foster enlightenment from the inside out.
While participating there was a definite connection with deep rooted social practices and customs from South America where cacao grows. The ceremony was not performed by people of peruvian descent, but these two women were very well educated in where the plants grow and how they are used in ceremony. The drink was bitter like a dark hot chocolate, still sweet but with a spicy kick of cayenne pepper. To soothe the throat and add a fat, there was also coconut oil added to the mixture. I felt warmth and stimulus throughout my body, and afterward a very happy and enlightened feeling after meditating amongst nature. There was a great stress on the flow of goods to our hands, and we mindfully thanked every person involved with getting this sacred drink from the depths of the peruvian rainforest to New York. From the person who picked the beans, to the post man who delivered the seeds to them, to the women who brewed this sacred drink just for us. We then were instructed to root our intentions and energy through the people we hold close to our heart, imagining a light on a map where each person lives. After talking about our experience with that mindful exercise, we went to listen to a song where a man described our connection to earth and the universe around us. As I listened, I stared at the clouds and it began to rain when he talked about water, and wind blew as he spoke about air, then stopped. It was a very enlightening experience indeed. Because it was just me, my mother, and the two women hosting the ceremony, and much of it was focused on self meditation, it is hard for me to simply talk about what I noticed about the other people participating without including how it influenced me personally. With that being said, I can definitely still understand the cultural ties, impact, and what it means to participate in a cacao ceremony. It is heavily centered on inner being, and how oneself is completely intertwined with the earth and the people in our lives. The women spoke often about their own roots and blossoming from childhood when they were more in touch with playing in nature, versus now as an adult where it is much less acceptable to do things like play outside and run around without shoes on. Having a close connection with an unprocessed natural substance provides a way to stay in touch with nature and physical being. We meditated heavily on the aspect of one's “roots” whether that be where we feel rooted in our home, our ancestral roots, or even the roots of the cacao tree from which we are drinking it’s elixir. Cacao in our system will physically connect our internal passageways, since it enhances through our heart and body, and does not block our third eye as coffee is known to do. I believe that that is how I came to understand the cultural essence of cacao. It is not just a drink, and not just a ceremony, it is a way to bring people together to connect and better understand each other, as the warmth of this beverage can literally shift our mental state and create dopamine to enhance our experience with one another.
Here are my notes and sketches from the ceremony: