And so I have become a cacao guardian. It feels more like a journey that has just started, rather than one I completed. Yet I want to celebrate this moment with you, because for me it means a lot to receive the honour of continuing an authentic Mayan tradition with the sacred medicine that has been kept by Nana Miriam and her family for centuries.
I still remember the first time I met Nana Miriam in a ceremony. I managed to catch a boat early morning, at a time when it was not supposed to be running. As I was arriving in her village, I saw a boat leaving and its name was Miriam?!
During that ceremony and the ones that followed, I sensed something that surprised and delighted me with its mystery…
Living in Guatemala, I’d been to so many cacao “ceremonies” held by foreigners. We sit together, meditate with the cacao, set intentions, drink it and then go dancing, singing, sharing, whatever the event is about. Yet here somehow it felt like none of that was emphasised. Instead, Nana Miriam invited the cacao and other nature spirits she already had a relationship with to come in and do their work with us. It was less about her holding the space or guiding us, and much more about her opening the doors for cacao and the nature spirits to come and directly work with us.
And the crazy thing was, I could feel them! What appeared super simple on the surface, with a bunch of strangers sharing or lying on the floor with a few words from the Nana here and there, had an unexpected level of depth of experience, emotion and transformation. There clearly was more going on than meets the eye.
It was precisely this mystery that called to my heart. I stepped into the journey of cacao guardianship not because I was looking for it, but because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
I wanted to meet those spirits, to get to know them, to befriend them and see what would come out of that friendship, because I felt their power and the value that would bring to others and our planet.
One of the first questions I asked Nana Miriam was…
“Why does cacao need a guardian?“
Her answer pointed me to the Sacred. During our time together, in following the cacao from the jungle to the cup, I started understanding better the importance of remembering and protecting the sacred in cacao.
One might ask – protecting it from what?
It is not hard to see that our modern culture treats cacao as commodity, objectifying, distorting, disrespecting, consuming it as we do with so many plants and animals, our own bodies and the body of the Earth.
There is a positive side to this that I want to acknowledge and celebrate. Wherever you are in the world, you can go out and get yourself a chocolate. It’s pretty amazing actually how far and wide cacao has spread in this way, bringing delight in such an easily accessible form.
It’s a feat on behalf of our industrial civilisation AND I would also add – the cacao spirit! A very smart one, because the foundational relationship with cacao is already there in a delicious deeply experiential way for almost everyone on our planet!
On a more personal side not-so-side note, the cacao spirit showed me that it was thanks to this commoditisation that my cacao guardianship actually began when I was 5 years old! In post-communist Bulgaria, receiving a chocolate was a rare and precious experience for me. So much so that whenever I got one, I would eat just one little piece of it and ration the rest. With one chocolate I could have my daily moment of delight for more than two weeks! That is EXCEPT if my brother would find where I was hiding it and devour it all. So I had to get really good at hiding, and essentially guarding chocolate ever since I was 5?!?!
Me, cacao and my inner child had a good laugh (and cry!) together when we saw this, how wondrous life can be with its way of bringing past and present together?!?!
Acknowledging the role that commoditisation has played and continues to play, it is important to acknowledge also another thread that has been opening in the Western World relationship with it.
In a few words, this new thread is called ‘ceremonial cacao’. The word ceremonial implies that this kind of cacao is intended to be used as a way to connect to the sacred – something that Mayan culture has done for millenia due to cacao’s power of opening and healing the heart on a physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual level. In order to connect to it in this way, we need to get out of the idea of ‘using’ it altogether and approach it with respect, from the jungle in which it grows all the way to our cups and hearts.
It means checking with ourselves – if we would approach this being/plant spirit as sacred, would we spray and water it with chemicals or do our best to keep the jungles where it grows clean? Would we make it in a factory or let it pass through the hands, stoves, stone and wooden tools of local people whose ancestors made it this way and reward them properly for it? Would we stuff it with sugars and fats and god knows what else or keep it pure? Would we put it in the blender when preparing the drink at home or stir it by hand?
I am deeply grateful to cacao for opening my eyes to ask such questions and SEE an example of yes, if we humans believe it is important, we CAN create more respectful relationships with pretty much anything. Cacao is showing a path that we can expand to so many other plants and animals, which essentially boils down to our relationship with the Earth and our own bodies.
Cacao is here to not only delight us, but also to support a shift of consciousness, away from objectification and back to remembering of the sacred nature of being. And the way it does it is not only delicious as we know chocolate to be, but comes with the mystery and magic of the sacred spirit of cacao to help us open, clean and heal our hearts that can be felt in a deep visceral way.
Today I am proud to be facilitating this shift of consciousness by holding and guarding this thread of remembering and EXPERIENCING the sacredness of the cacao spirit, and the sacredness of life itself. I hope this article opens some new spaces of awareness, exploration and deepening in your own relationship with the cacao spirit, and all other beings we share our beautiful Earth with.