At the heart of the Mayan pharmacopoeia, cocoa is credited with medicinal virtues, physical and mental healing powers, and spiritual elevation.
According to the POPOL WU'UJ, the sacred book that recounts the origins of Mayan civilization, cocoa was discovered by the gods themselves, on a magical mountain. In Mayan, Ka-Ka-(u)a literally means "the drink of the gods".
As a divine gift, cocoa establishes a link: to others, to spirits, to nature, and in a ritual context, such as that of the cocoa ceremony, it is part of traditions forged around connection and spiritual practices.
This being the case, its use has spread throughout the population, for its anti-morosity virtues, as attested by traces of cocoa found recently on basic utensils, and not only on ceremonial vases.
What are the benefits of cocoa?
The consumption of cocoa is also justified by its rich composition. Once consumed by warriors to boost their powers, or prescribed by wise herbalists, cocoa offers a balance of relaxation, energy and strength.
In addition to its exceptional antioxidant and triglyceride content, it's a source of magnesium, which stimulates the immune system and provides concentration and clarity of mind. Thanks to its theobromine content, cocoa is a mild psychoactive that acts as a natural antidepressant, promoting the secretion of endorphins and dopamine.
The ceremony: objectives and benefits
The impact of the cocoa ceremony lies in the power of awareness and intention. Cocoa is not prepared with the sole aim of being consumed, but to connect with all forms of nature, starting with one's own. It is a meditation for the senses, a way to give thanks, and a guide to liberation and healing. By allowing the heart chakra to open up, it restores harmony between energies and enables us to welcome those of the present moment.
From the experience of Jean-Luc, founder of TEA TRIBES & Co:
"Mexican shamans perform night ceremonies, which can last up to fifteen hours. These are accompanied by the use of various plants, chants and music, to heal patients in depth, mentally, emotionally and physically.
What we don't always know is that a great deal of care has also gone into the preparations, even before the ceremony. Ceremonial cocoa comes from indigenous strains that grow wild without any human interaction. The beans are roasted or sun-dried, peeled by hand, stone-ground, reduced to a paste and put into blocks. All this takes hours. During this preparation, the Mayans wish to be perfectly relaxed, in order to send good thoughts to the beans, and while working they sing ancient songs, which aim to potentiate the effects of the cocoa.
Manufactured in this way by the heirs of ancestral know-how, to arrive at its purest form, ceremonial cocoa is said to have twice as many properties as classic chocolate.
I personally attended a short version of the cacao ceremony, lasting just 2 hours, led by a young shaman by the name of Nelo Juarez, who officiates in the Tulum region of Yucatan, Mexico.
Although Nelo was smiling broadly before the ceremony, showing himself to be warm and above all unpretentious, I have to say that he became much more charismatic, even rather impressive, as soon as the ceremony began... Closing his eyes while repeating certain formulas, in the Yucatecan Mayan language, banging on his tambourine, or producing melodious sounds from a large conical shell. He burned copal resin, an incense of divination par excellence, which is supposed to promote dialogue between the human and the divine, or at least remove all negativity and stimulate the opening of the psychic faculties of the 3rd eye.
Various rituals followed, involving different objects from pre-Hispanic culture (owl and jaguar heads, of course), to produce sounds or accompany chants aimed at the 4 elements, all with a view to enhancing the effects of cocoa.
Finally, the shaman handed us the traditional pottery vessel in turn, uttering the words "Avec amour je te donne" ("With love I give it to you"), to which we responded "Avec amour je le reçois" ("With love I receive it").
The beverage is a hot, thick, bitter soup, very fragrant indeed.
It is sipped with a feeling of fullness and absolute calm, perhaps even of contemplation.
According to the Mayan ancestors, the spirit of cocoa is one of the most powerful divinities. With the spirit of cocoa, you can travel to your inner self, where wisdom and love live. This ceremony is all about reconnecting with our inner beauty, gentleness and love.
All I can say is that I felt happy and soothed. During and for many minutes after this unforgettable experience."