FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Drinking Cacao: An Ancient Mayan Ritual

by Nicole Quaste

Jun 6, 2017

© Stormarn | Dreamstime.com

On my most recent trip to Mexico, we had the opportunity to visit a Mayan village, where we learned about the Mayans’ homes; their social, spiritual and educational practices; their means of gathering, cooking and eating food; and, finally, the cacao ceremony, an ancient communal practice.

Cacao was first used as a health elixir and ceremonial medicine as far back as 1900 B.C. by the Olmec people, ancestors of Central America, before becoming a ritualistic medicine and communal ceremony in Aztec and Mayan cultures.

The cacao seed is known to release dopamine, a naturally occurring hormone that allows us to feel pleasure, and phenethylamine, which is known to help relieve stress and depression. There is also a high level of nutrients in the cacao seed that induces a detoxifying effect on the liver and kidneys.

Mayan Village

© Kaye Eileen Oberstar | Dreamstime.com

A cacao ceremony is traditionally believed to offer an opportunity to open your mind and heart and connect with yourself and others.

The ceremony begins in silence, where each person is invited to set an intention for the practice — what they hope to achieve. I and the others in my group sat in a circle on yoga mats in a large wooden pavilion surrounded by the lush forests of the Yucatán Peninsula.

While this period of silent meditation occurs, the cacao, previously roasted and ground, is mixed with water in a large pot. When the cacao is served in liquid form, it is enjoyed in silence, followed by time for anyone who would like to share any thoughts or feelings experienced while drinking the cacao. The ceremony ends with a dance, during which the cacao is believed to activate in the body and create a euphoria-like emotional experience.

Each part of the ceremony was accompanied by rhythmic chanting and music played on beautiful, traditional, handmade instruments.

The ceremony, though of course scripted as part of a tour, was enlightening and truly relaxing, not only because of the cacao itself but the setting in which we enjoyed learning about the ancient ritual. It served as another reminder of the richness of the ancient Mayan culture and how prevalent the culture remains in Mexico today.

Learn more about my trip to Mexico here.

— Nicole Quasté, assistant editor

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