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“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”

– Geronimo Piperni

The history of cacao is very long and somewhat disputed, but there is evidence to suggest that cacao has been fermented and served as a drink since 1900 BC. Cacao was cultivated and consumed by the Olmecs, the Mayans and the Aztecs with significant differences in customary uses from culture to culture. Containers containing cacao have been found in the tombs of rulers and was considered by the Aztecs to be too intoxicating for consumption by women or children. The beans were so valuable at some points in history that they were used as currency, and became the purview of the rich and powerful only. There is even evidence that the beans have been counterfeited.

Cacao is in evidence in the creation myth of the Mayans, they believed that humans were formed by the Gods from water, earth, maize, cacao and various other fruits and vegetables. They received Cacao from the God Hunahpú who brought it to them, along with Maize, from the Mountain of Sustenance.

Cacao was traditionally used to anoint babies in Baptism, the beans were exchanged during marriage ceremonies, prescribed as medicine for various ailments, used in funeral ceremonies and consumed during various religious celebrations.

 The Cacao deity or spirit is called Ek Chuah, who had his own annual festival where people celebrated by exchanging gifts and beans. The Latin name for Cacao is Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words ‘Theo’ (God) and ‘Broma’ (drink) or literally ‘food of the gods’ because the first Westerners to encounter Cacao were made aware of the belief in its divine provenance.

Cacao contains more than 300 hundred nutrients and is used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments including; anaemia, angina, high blood pressure, rheumatism, bruises, chapped skin and burns, boils and septicaemia, to lower blood pressure, relieve depression, raise libido, balance hormonal mood swings, boost immunity and reduce appetite. It is a diuretic which stimulates the nervous system, dilates coronary arteries and is used in heart and kidney tonics (by South and Mesoamerican practitioners).

In recent times there have been a new wave of practices developing, wherein people are using the Cacao as a plant medicine for healing purposes, to connect with the Divine, with Nature and with their own souls. A deep respect for the spirit of the Cacao and its healing nature are now spreading globally, some believe that the Cacao Spirit has always protected the balance between nature and the rainforest and has now ventured forth to protect nature and remind humans of the sanctity of nature. As in the Mayan tradition practitioners now utilise the drinking of Cacao in ceremony to bring the sacred, foster connection with self and community, and to open up to the guidance of nature and spirit.

Author

Carlene Goldasher  
2016 Pilamaya Graduate 

References

Chocolate Class, ‘The Popol Vuh and the Globalization of Chocolate’, https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/tag/mountain-of-sustenance/

‘Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate’, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 8, August 2000, Pages 2057S–2072S,

Heritage Daily, ‘Medicinal and Ritualistic Uses for Chocolate in Mesoamerica’, https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/03/medicinal-and-ritualistic-uses-for-chocolate-in-mesoamerica-2/98809

Plants for a Future, Theobroma Cacao – L, https://pfaf.org/User/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Theobroma+cacao#:~:text=Although%20mainly%20cultivated%20for%20food,%2C%20diarrhea%2C%20and%20leprosy%20spots

Ricochet Sciences, Cacao: The Mayan “Food of the Gods”, https://ricochetscience.com/cacao-mayan-food-gods/

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