Cacao Tales: Ana’s Journey With Cacao and The Mayan Mythology
In this blog, we’re sharing Ana’s story and her journey of reconnecting with her roots through cacao. Ana is a sound practitioner, ceremonial facilitator, and writer. She’s been walking the plant medicine path for years and is sharing her story with us.
Meeting Cacao For The First Time
My first encounter with cacao was in 2016 while I was doing a 2-month volunteering program in Costa Rica. At the time, I was staying at a cabin completely off the grid near Barú, CR. The cabin was far up on a mountain surrounded by jungle and pure wilderness.
The nearest neighbors lived about 30 minutes away walking distance. They knew we were staying at the cabin and invited us to their place often for food, drinks, and conversation.
They had a beautiful property where they grew all kinds of foods—including cacao. They even had a small pond they built themselves with different kinds of fish. At dinner time, they would pull out a rod and fish from their own homemade pond for dinner. It was such an incredible sight! They had rabbits, turkeys, a pig, cane sugar, tons of vegetables and roots, palm trees, and bananas. They would even make candy. They fully sustained themselves!
One of the times I was over there, they showed me (and introduced me!) to their cacao tree. They made their own chocolate so they showed me how to cut the pod and turn the seeds into chocolate. I remember being amazed by the taste of the fresh cacao fruit—right off the pods.
It was so interesting seeing firsthand how different cacao looks and tastes fresh off the tree—and how amazing it tasted once it was turned into a paste…aka chocolate!
That was my first encounter with cacao and from there, it continued to show up in my life.
Cacao Continued to Make Its Way Into My Life…
I returned home to Mexico from my Costa Rica experience with a newfound love for nature, silence, and cacao—but I didn’t pursue anything else at that moment. A couple of years later, I relocated to a new city (and country!) and once again, cacao came to me.
An old friend of mine was launching a small cacao business. The focus was on health and wellness, rather than spirituality, and we were going to team up with small, sustainable farms from Mexico to sell raw cacao seeds.
I jumped at this opportunity, and that’s when I started using cacao on a daily basis. I would pop cacao seeds like candy in the mornings and before exercising for a natural energy boost. I wasn’t aware then of the more subtle properties of cacao, like its heart-opening energy, but I loved using it. And something about it kept me coming back for more.
After a couple of years of working on that project, I decided to take a step back and focus on other things I was starting. But I didn’t leave cacao behind…
During the few years I dedicated myself to that business, I dove deep into cacao. I read books about it and learned about the history of Mexico and cacao, its one-of-a-kind properties, and its ritualistic use.
This led me on a new path— the medicinal, ceremonial, and spiritual use of cacao. And my first ceremony.
My First Cacao Ceremony
Shortly after deciding to take a step back from the cacao business, I started learning about the ceremonial use of cacao. My first unofficial ceremony was at a friend's house. She had a couple of bars of ceremonial cacao she brought from Mexico and we made a friends-only women's circle where we shared cacao, meditated while I played some music, and at the end, shared our insights and experience.
At this point, I had become really interested in sound and music, and built a practice around sound healing and chanting—which led me to unofficially facilitate my first cacao ceremony!
I continued doing these low-key gatherings with close friends using sound and both cacao and other plant medicines for about a year. And my interest in cacao continued to grow…
Facilitating circles for my friends was incredibly fulfilling, but I was ready for more. I decided to attend a ceremony facilitated by someone else and was blown away by it. It was incredibly beautiful and powerful. And it prompted me to take the next steps in my journey.
Reconnecting With My Culture Through Cacao
After over a year of facilitating only for friends, I felt ready to extend my reach and bring cacao medicine to more people. And I wanted to be truly ready for that. But I also deeply cared about respecting traditions and my own culture, so I joined a 6-month cacao facilitator training based on Mayan Cosmovision.
The training was thorough! We learned about the history of cacao, Mayan and Toltec traditions, mythical tales, the Mayan calendars, cosmovision, Nahuales, and so much more. I was fascinated by it all.
As the training went on, I started reading books about the Mayans and the conquest. The Mayan teachings are intriguing and captivating. I couldn’t get enough of it. For a moment, I felt upset that growing up in Mexico, I was never taught any of this—as if our cultural roots were erased with the conquest.
The Mayans, The Aztecs, and Cacao
The oldest archeological evidence of the use of cacao dates back to the year 2000 BC in a small town in Honduras but it’s believed that the Olmecs were the first civilization to cultivate cacao.
The Mayans inherited their basic knowledge of cacao from the Olmecs and made cacao a core part of their civilization, culture, and traditions. They not only used cacao in shamanic settings, and even in baptism rituals but cacao was also used as money!
Although Mayans used gold, it was mostly for aesthetics. They considered cacao to be way more valuable. Even after the Spanish conquest, the conquistadors called cacao “black gold” or “gold seeds”.
According to the Mayans, their main God “Corazon del Cielo” (heart of the sky), after creating the planet, plants, and wildlife, needed to create humans. After many failed attempts, Corazon del Cielo used water, soil, wood, corn, fruits, and cacao to create the first humans.
Cacao was a main ingredient in the creation of the human race.
Another tale is that Quetzalcoatl, aka the feathered serpent, a highly respected and venerated God, stole the cacao tree from the paradise where Gods lived and brought the seeds to the Toltecs who then passed them onto the Mayans and Aztecs.
After the fall of the Mayan civilization, the Aztecs rose and adopted cacao in their rituals and culture as well.
Cacao’s Mission on Earth
One of my favorite parts of Mayan mythology, and something I truly believe in my heart, is the belief that cacao’s mission on our planet is to restore harmony between people and nature. The legends say that when humans start to disrespect nature and use its natural resources for personal gain, then cacao is introduced to restore balance.
This feels so relevant right now. As the Earth is facing devastating damage and exploitation, cacao use is expanding, allowing us to reconnect to our own nature. To restore harmony and balance within ourselves, so that we can do the same for Mother Earth.
Sharing Mayan Wisdom Through Ceremony
I think these highly developed civilizations were onto something. They knew the power that lies behind cacao—specifically ceremonial, unsweetened cacao. In fact, when Hernan Cortez, one of the main Spanish conquistadors, brought cacao to Spain, they started adding sugar to cacao and turning it into what is now known as chocolate. This altered the cacao’s spirit, healing properties, and it reduced its medicinal value.
The Mayans and Aztects drank a more bitter cacao. And I personally love its bitterness too. There’s something special about connecting with cacao and only cacao—no sweetener, species, or herbs. But I also enjoy a cup of cacao with some cinnamon, achiote, and cardamom—my favorite recipe!
I’m still learning about the complex teachings of the Mayan culture and calendar. And I strive to share this ancestral knowledge through the ceremonies I facilitate. There is so much we can learn from the past and from these ancient civilizations who lived in deep harmony with nature.