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  • fionawhelton2020

Cacao and Me

I first started working with ceremonial grade Cacao in 2019. I was on a retreat in Co. Meath and a lady from Guatemala had some which she kindly shared with me. I marvelled at how lovingly she prepared the drink, singing her gratitude to Mama Cacao as she carefully chopped the bar of pure Cacao into fine shards. She then added some boiled water and began to whisk until the deep brown liquid was creamy and frothy. She explained that you could have it without any additional flavours or if you found the taste too strong it was best to use only plant based flavours such as agave syrup, plant milks, cinnamon, vanilla and chilli. I added a little agave for sweetness and a splash of oat milk. My first impression was that I had never tasted anything quite like it. In my mind I was expecting a strong cocoa drink but this was something else entirely. But what really struck me was the feeling of contentedness and joy that quickly washed over me. My friend explained that Cacao is known as a heart opening drink and is a vasodilator. It brings about feelings of energy and joy but is not a nervous system stimulant like caffeine. Back then it wasn't so easy to find ceremonial grade Cacao here in Ireland so I was lucky that my friend from Guatemala would send me some whenever I needed it. This beautiful drink which is actually a plant medicine became part of my morning ritual and Mama Cacao always gave me the much needed strength I needed to get through difficult times. She helps me cut through the negative mental chatter and shows me the ways to love myself. Cacao to me is the embodiment of love for self and for others and I felt it was so important to share it. There is nothing I love more that making two cups of Cacao for my husband and I and sitting outside in nature as we drink it together.

So I got to thinking if sharing it with one person feels this good imagine what sharing it with 20 people would feel like! When I started running outdoor dance gatherings in Summer 2021 Cacao featured hugely. First we each would place a piece of wood into the fire to symbolise that which we wished to release from our lives, then we would each drink a cup of ceremonial Cacao giving thanks for all the good things in our lives and acknowledging that which we wish to welcome into our lives. Each sip allowing the Cacao to open our hearts and enliven our bodies. Afterwards we would dance with wild abandon for up to three hours! It was magic.

When I became a celebrant I knew I wanted to be something different and bring something different for people, something unique and deeply spiritual. A way of connection for people that hearkens back to the old ways, the gathering round the fire, the sharing of food and drink, the collective sending of heartfelt good wishes to a couple. It got me thinking how Cacao was used traditionally for wedding ceremonies in the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures of Central and South America. The couple would exchange the Cacao beans and drink the Cacao in liquid form as a way of connecting in matrimony. It made perfect sense for me to incorporate Cacao into my wedding ceremonies, through a respectful acknowledgment of ancient ways and a meaningful celebration of love.

The creation of the Cacao drink is where the magic begins. Before the ceremony I meet with the couple to make the Cacao. They will chop the cacao, blend it with hot water to the right consistency and then add their favoured spices. Each step of the way I encourage them to focus on their hopes and dreams for their marriage and to ask the Cacao to 'bless' their marriage. A final taste and then into a flask it goes until later in the day when they will open it as part of their ceremony and share that heart opening elixir. Some might say a few words to each other before drinking, some interlock hands as they drink and some choose to share it with their guests. Sharing with guests is a beautiful way for the couple to really connect with the love in the room on an even deeper level and gives the guests a feeling of being a very important part of the's just beautiful!

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