Enchanting cacao ceremonies: A talk with Cherylyn

Today’s guest on the blog is the lovely Cherylyn. She is a real Ruhrpott child, but has Filipino roots. Photography is her way of discovering the world, life and also her own facets. With the long-term project “Buen Vivir! In search of the good life‘, she and her partner Markus traveled to Peru in 2021 to visit the Q’eros, the last Inca descendants, for a photo reportage. She was advised to use her third eye when taking photos in their sacred sites and that an “initiation” could support her in this. She was then drawn to Guatemala, where she discovered the magic of cocoa. We talked about this exciting topic.

©Lea Franke

Dear Cherylyn, let’s start with the basics: what is a cacao ceremony?
A cacao ceremony is originally a sacred ritual of the Mayan & Inca culture and serves to connect to one’s own heart and to Mother Earth.  In a protected setting, a physical and energetic connection to the spirit of the cacao plant – IxCacao – the Mayan cacao goddess – is created through a potion made from pure raw cacao. Through its special power of opening the heart, it helps to harmonize, to connect with the heart and to bring the body back into harmony with nature.

Primitive peoples and indigenous cultures, such as the Maya and Inca, know about the wisdom of “healing and teaching plants”. These plants, like cocoa, have special ingredients and active substances that have an influence on the body and mind. Indigenous peoples see the effect of plant medicine as the spirit of the plant, which comes into contact with people through its individual mode of action in order to support them on their path with wisdom and healing.

Through cocoa it is possible to bring the energies in the body back into flow in order to give space to hidden feelings and stuck emotions. In this way, insights from the issues stored in the heart can be brought to consciousness. Surrendering to feelings and perceptions in this cacao ceremony is like a healing balm that is applied to the wounds in the heart. It releases blockages and helps you to feel reconnected with yourself in your body and with nature as a whole.

On what occasions is such a ceremony performed?
In particular, the reason for this ceremony is to harmonize the imbalance between human beings and Mother Earth, which begins in the heart and manifests itself through the interaction on the outside. The performance and, above all, the passing on of the knowledge of the original sacred cacao ceremony of the ancient cultures were previously reserved for only a few guardians in secret and were kept under lock and key. Due to the prevailing discord and at the same time the gradual awakening of consciousness in the Western world, the cultures of the ancient world are increasingly willing to open up to other cultures in order to gradually share their hidden and long-guarded knowledge for posterity.

The heart-opening cacao ceremony, which we are encountering more and more in the West these days, is combined in and with various contexts. Its form of expression is now as diverse as the facets of the practising celebrant and is a door opener for the collective consciousness. It thus also serves to raise awareness of the desire to reconnect with oneself, with Mother Earth and her creatures and to call back into consciousness both the wisdom of ancient cultures and the wisdom that is inherent in every heart.

How does a cocoa ceremony work?
For me, the cocoa ceremony begins with the attentive and loving attention to the preparation of the cocoa and the preparation of the ceremony. For example, the raw cocoa block is processed by hand while chanting and gently grated with devotion. Before a cacao ceremony begins, the participants are freed from everyday energy with purification through one of the elements, such as fire with incense. A sacred space is opened, which serves as an appreciation and acknowledgment in gratitude of the forces and is a very important aspect of shamanic ceremonies and rituals. This creates protection for all those involved, so that with the help of the supporting forces, not only can the energies flow freely, but they can also flow freely.

Before connecting with the cocoa potion, meditation, for example, is used to attune oneself to it. The connection with the cocoa potion begins with the intention from the heart. By asking for permission to connect with the wisdom of the cocoa spirit, through appreciative gratitude and through the clear intention of why the connection was requested, a loving and healing self-awareness is possible.

This request and intention can be breathed into the potion as an expression of thanks, for example, while the cup is held to the heart. By taking the cocoa potion, a direct connection can be felt physically in the heart space. Here it is important to always listen to your body, without pressure and without judgment, in order to allow and accept all sensations and feelings that arise, with the certainty that IxCacao will bring out exactly what is ready to express itself with its loving energy. The body also decides how much to take. Surrendering to it with humility and gratitude is the key to the connection. By opening the heart, for example, feelings can flow freely through emotions, images can arise before the inner eye, answers to certain questions can reveal themselves or the body’s perception can be sharpened. There may be a need to rest, to lie down to listen or to move gently with dance to feel the flow of the body.

The creative power of creation can also show itself in that the need arises to express oneself through the voice, art, painting or writing/journaling. Here the healing connection can express itself individually and be accompanied and supported by sounds, music or singing, always with the heartfelt intention of coming back into harmony with oneself in order to be in connection with Mother Earth and all her creatures. The cacao ceremony can be performed in a group, in an individual session or alone.

You also conduct cocoa ceremonies yourself. How did that come about?
In 2022, I accompanied a transformation & initiation journey of female power with my camera, which was initiated by initiated Mayan priests who originally came from Germany. Together with 40 women from German-speaking countries and the Mayan elders, we went to the Mayan places of power from central Guatemala to the north to perform their rituals. I told them beforehand of my intention to learn more about strengthening feminine power and my heartfelt desire to connect with the wisdom of cacao in depth, and I was told that this trip would also take me to the jungle of Guatemala for the first time to the most original cacao, that my request was no coincidence and that I would get all my questions answered there.

After receiving my further initiation in 2023 when I was given the Quechua name “Kahuacñawi” (The Recognizing Eye), I shared my request with them and asked for a coca leaf reading to see if my need & feeling to unite the forces was right here. A Q’ero shaman connected with the spirit of the coca plant and used the coca leaves to give me the answers to the questions that he was able to read in detail from the reading. Despite great fear and doubt that my feeling was wrong or even deceptive, I was blessed with incredible news. My feeling in my heart was confirmed that I was allowed to perform their sacred Pachamama ritual with the power of IxCacao in the spirit of the Q’eros.

Why cocoa in particular? What makes cocoa so special?
It was in Guatemala that I first heard about the prophecy of IxCacao, the Mayan cocoa goddess. In Mayan culture, the cacao plant is sacred. Despite capitalism and industrial processing and mass production of chocolate, there are still a few cacao farmers who have protected the original cacao plant according to the original Mayan tradition, without plantation, without pesticides. These cacao plants grow under the protection of the copal tree in the middle of the jungle and are allowed to grow freely and wildly alongside woodpeckers and molds. They harvest the pods by hand, let the beans ferment and dry under the sun. The Mayan women roast the beans by hand on a fire bowl and sing about them with their Mayan songs. There, the Maya are said to have kept the power of IxCacao alive by honoring her holiness. According to them, she is the goddess of food, fertility, mercy & love and is a primordial feminine power that was available to all people in times of harmony with nature. According to tradition, she is also said to be the blood of Mother Earth.

When its special preciousness was recognized by great powers, its strength was abused by their power, so that it was used as a barter good, for example, and ultimately only a fraction of society had access to it and this was denied to the wider population. Instead, it became a “potion of the gods”. According to her prophecy, the power of IxCacao withdrew completely into the jungle to wait for the moment of greatest separation, in order to reveal itself to people so that they can reunite with their hearts, with each other and with Mother Nature, so that the world’s grievances can be brought back into balance through her.

Have you ever had a special experience during a cocoa ceremony that you would like to share?
Every cacao ceremony is a profound experience for me. However, I particularly treasure the Wachuma healing ceremony of my dear friend Alicia. She initiated her healing ceremony in a special circle of feminine power. Her cacao ceremony with the shamanic drum journey serves as an important aspect of integrating the connection and as a healing conclusion to her San Pedro retreat. When she learned of my heart’s desire to combine the Pachamama ritual in an IxCacao ceremony, she invited me to perform it at her home. This special appreciation to be part of her healing ceremony in this female circle and the trust in my path touched me deeply. When I was allowed to perform this powerful ceremony with the Pachamama ritual in her protected space with the very special powers for the very first time in this form, I was overwhelmed by a deep reverence, humility and pure gratitude. My tears welled up and dripped over the gift to Mother Earth that I was trying to wrap. In the center of my heart I felt a deep pain, sadness and sorrow while the song “Akaal” by Ajeet played in the background of the ceremony. At the same time I felt the appreciation, love & trust of my friend, the gratitude of this special circle in the feminine energy as well as the interacting power of IxCacao and Pachamama replenishing me and my cells. It was indescribably overwhelming, magical and above all healing. I was able to feel that this path of the heart was undoubtedly the right one. It was a profound and meaningful experience for which I am so eternally grateful.

What role does music play in cocoa ceremonies?
In my opinion, music plays a very important role. It not only connects a group, but also transmits more than just audible sounds and frequencies. In the sounds/words, feelings as well as intentions, which can be felt on a certain level, can be transmitted and can contribute to opening up even more to the healing power of cocoa and the power of music. I therefore consider cacao ceremonies in combination with, for example, singing & sound circles of mantras or heart songs to be very powerful, as they can bundle and potentiate the energies in the collective and prove to be very effective in the intentions. Healing frequencies can be sent out as a force field and received at the same time. The mantra “Akaal of Ajeet”, for example, is a very powerful mantra that touches my heart deeply. In honor of IxCacao and Pachamama, I have rewritten this song, which now always accompanies me on my path. I want to share it with everyone so that this intention and the healing power of this mantra can spread in this German-language IxCacao version in oneself and in very individual cocoa ceremonies.

If you are now interested – how and where could you take part in a ceremony? Is there anything to bear in mind?
In spiritual circles there are now a large number of special people who feel called to offer heart-opening cacao ceremonies in various contexts. Be it women’s/men’s circles, singing/sound/music circles, healing retreats with natural medicine, empowerment & process support, ecstatic dance and much more. You may also come across cacao ceremonies at spiritual festivals and yoga studios. But perhaps the connection in the group seems strange at first, so that a cacao ceremony may initially take place in a very intimate or perhaps even completely alone in silence. It is important to listen to your heart and your very own needs. 

 As with any ceremony in which connections with energies are created, the intention of both oneself and the practicing celebrant is of great importance and is decisive for the power of the ceremony. Without truthfulness or deep appreciation of the powers and guardians of the wisdom of ancient cultures, ceremonies and rituals have little or no healing power. Here too, it is important to always listen to your heart in order to feel comfortable in the respective set and setting and to be able to engage with the power. Above all,
the origin and quality of the pure raw cacao is the most important aspect when using and combining it in the ceremony. When selecting the cacao, it should vibrate as high as possible energetically, i.e. come from a loving and appreciative cultivation.

As a cocoa ceremony is an intake of a high-dose raw cocoa potion with special ingredients on an empty stomach, the health condition and tolerance of individual active substances and ingredients should always be checked before participation and additional and sufficient fluid intake should be taken into account. There are also contraindications to high doses, e.g. cardiovascular diseases, pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers, etc., which should be clarified in advance before deciding on a cocoa ceremony. Even though cacao in its raw form stimulates biochemical & psychoactive processes, it is one of the best researched medicinal plants, which is very loving and gentle in its power, so that no fears and doubts need arise before a connection, if all health concerns are excluded. From childhood we feel the deep connection to cacao and as most of us know, we love cacao and for good reason. =)

If you enjoyed the interview, read more here about Cherylyn’s current photo project that’s very close to her heart, “Oh My Goddes” with IxCacao!

Thank you so much for the talk and the beautiful pictures, Cherylyn!

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