In Mayan culture, it is imperative to be in the right relationship with cacao. One of the ways to do this is to come to it with deep respect and ask for permission from the cacao. It is also important to give gratitude to the elements that give us life and for this powerful plant medicine. Sitting in a ceremony with cacao is a time to reconnect to the spirit of all things in existence. It is a reminder that we are not separate from nature but that we are nature.
David Joseph Keller received his cacao training from Guatemalan Mayan Ajq'ijab' (spiritual leaders) and Aj Kakaw (guardians of the wisdom of cacao). He is also currently an Ajq’ij in training!
Cacao helps to open your heart and connect with the elements of Mother Earth. When the Mayans plant the cacao, they make an offering to the cacao so it can become and play the role of what is known as “Mayan Gold”. In order to make the offering they use a series of ancient and natural elements to give an offering to sacred cacao. The elements they use cleanse the space energetically with different incense and plants such as rosemary. To cleanse people specifically, they use copal as well as special candles. The process is a ritual that acknowledges cacao as a thing that sustains energy and spiritual nurturing and the health benefits it brings.
When Spaniards came to the Americas, practices with Cacao were considered evil and prohibited. Since that time, the practices have been protected and Mayans didn’t share them. However, now they understand it’s time to share this incredible wisdom with the world because of its potential for good!
Just like them, I want to share this information in the best way possible. Cacao has the power to help reconnect us to nature. They hope people at home will be connected to cacao because they believe that cacao is a great medicine for humanity.
Cacao that is ceremonial can take 20 days to make from when it’s picked and roasted. The community helps with this. One of the most important parts is the grinding and roasting and as they do this they speak to the Elders and give gratitude. There is even a point during the process when only children are allowed to touch the cacao because of the purity of their energy.
When I say “Elders” this can sometimes be confusing. In the Mayan world, the word Elder can have different connotations. It can be used for referring to ancestors, sacred energies, important Ajq'ijab' (spiritual leaders) who passed away, or Ajq'ijab' who are very well respected in the community.
TRADITIONS & HISTORY
It is important to share this knowledge in a respectful way. This is why this information was shared by people that really do know about it.
Cacao connects us to spirit. It can give us inspiration and cure us. The main objective is what it can do for the world around us and to heal the planet. According to the Mayans human beings are all very spiritual beings. Yet sadly a lot of that has been lost in modern times and it is partly due to the fact that there has been such a mix of spirituality and beliefs. For example, the religious syncretism that happened in Guatemala led their ancestors to make the decision to try to keep their wisdom to themselves to protect the wisdom.
Luckily within their lineage, that information has been protected and passed on from generation to generation with its authenticity as well as it has been imprinted in sacred codecs and books that are very beloved by their people. Its wisdom and tradition is still kept alive and a lot of the tradition and wisdom is highly connected to the sacred cacao. It’s a superfood and medicine.
We don’t own the earth. Cacao brings us light to connect to the earth and that’s why it’s important for us to always offer it back to Mother Earth as a form of payment and gratitude.
In the Mayan world, it’s very important to ask permission from Mother Earth. It’s her that blesses us and brings us the medicine of cacao. Very important to come in humbleness and respect as it’s an essential part of all the practices. Open your heart and open your mind.
Cacao is really important for our spiritual selves and so it’s important to be grateful and value our earth. And if we don’t, it leads to our self-destruction.
Ceremonies with cacao are done as a community for coming together.
Regardless of where we are cacao is vital for our being and we must see it for the medicine it truly is and treasure it. It’s important at the time of receiving it to treat it with love.
It is good to serve with edible rose petals as well. Rose is a native flower to Guatemala. It depends on the region but they typically use orchids or geranium or rose petals.
Kinkajou monkeys know how to tell when cacao is ripe. They like the pulp which is fermented and makes them drunk. They open the pods and they call their family and friends by yelling “caaaaacaoooo, caaaaacaoooo, caaaaacaoooo ”, so it’s thanks to them that cacao was discovered and how it got its name. The story of the monkey discovering cacao is told in hieroglyphs.
Let’s go back in time to understand the meaning of cacao. When one of the Mayan spiritual leaders was a child his father told him stories about the origin of their people and he was told the story of a great-grandmother whose name was Atitlán. Atitlán is a volcano that is close to where he grew up. His grandfather told him that at the beginning of time, a volcano made an eruption that made the world shake for six months. The volcanic eruption was so big that the ash traveled all the way to Perú and all the way up to Florida in the north. The coincidence is that those are the zones in which the first cacao trees ever grew. For that reason, they have the belief in the Mayan world that the volcanoes that are located in Guatemala are their first grandfathers and grandmothers.
This is because the volcanoes delivered to them the energy of the heart of the earth and the warmth of the magma. Around the volcanoes, there’s always a specific type of biosphere that enables the secret to their lives and for that reason, they acknowledge, honor, and recognize the volcanoes as grandmothers and grandfathers.
The Mayans believe it is thanks to the eruption of the volcano in Atitlán that brought ashes to this big area of land and fertilized the soil and made it the perfect way for the growth of the sacred plant that we now know as cacao. It enabled the growth of cacao which now brings us products that are consumed all over the world.
Cacao needs extremely fertile soil, a mixed biosphere, and a specific type of weather so that it can grow and thrive and bring the Cacao beans.
So it’s not that the Mayans believe that cacao belongs to them it’s just their lands have the perfect environment for the growth of cacao which is such a sacred plant that is so well known all around the world today.
Therefore, for them, it is very important that this part of history is recognized as something that we must acknowledge. This is a part of history that happened during the formation of the volcanoes. This is a part of history that we didn’t belong to because this is something that happened way long before we were here. Thanks to that happening their lands are the way they are and their formation as human beings is connected to everything that has happened since the origin of our creation. We owe that part of history to acknowledge it as well as we owe the sacred cacao medicine to acknowledge what it brings us.
That was the most ancient part of the history of cacao but moving forward the Mayans have a very sacred book called the Popol Wuj. This is their book of origin. Perhaps you might have heard Mayans named themselves men of corn and women of cacao.
When the Mayans went back and researched their own history they found letters and journals that were written by their own invaders, the Conquistadors. One of the things that they have seen in many of the writings is that the Mayans were described as extremely physically strong people and in incredibly good health. When they see the historical records that describe their ancestors, the thing that repeats itself constantly is how strong and healthy they were and they believe they can attribute much of that to cacao.
There is a strong scientific basis and recent research to believe that the Mayans date back to 14,000 years ago. We also know cacao dates back to that time. It’s also known that it was used in a similar traditional Mayan way back then.
When their invaders were in Guatemala they took many things that were native to Guatemala and sent samples of those things to Europe. Amongst those first-ever samples that were sent to Europe, they sent a lot of cacao. When it arrived in Europe, as you may know, it has a bitter taste and because in Europe they didn’t know how to prepare it in a different way, they just thought this is not a tasty product and had no use for it. That led to the dark ages of cacao. The time in which cacao almost disappeared.
From the Western world perspective, they were not able to understand or value both the incredible spiritual and nutritional benefits of the sacred cacao.
The Mayans incredibly strong elders and spiritual leaders fought from generation to generation to keep the sacred medicine alive. It’s thanks to them that in modern-day times the Mayans still have a deep understanding and knowledge of the sacred cacao.
In ancient times, cacao was used as a way to make a petition or to open up a conversation. Whenever there was a conflict among people, from a small to a big level cacao was served. Whether it was a family or friend conflict or even a conflict amongst a nation, the first thing they would do before trying to come to a resolution of the conflict was drink cacao. This is because they knew that it has a certain effect on the body and the brain that would open them up and bring clarity to be able to find a solution and a better way. So, every time there was something to be spoken of or a petition to be made everyone who was involved would first drink a cup of cacao and then they would open up the conversation.
Whenever families needed to agree on something or even when a couple was going to get married and the man was going to ask the family of the woman for her hand in marriage he would always first come offering cacao before having a conversation. They knew that that was the best way to make sure that the interactions that were going to be had were going to be very positive.
In ancient times people would come to Guatemala from Mexico and Perú to get cacao. They would walk all that way because it was considered the best place in the world for cacao.
This is the history of cacao that has been told through stories and legends and has been passed on from generation to generation.
In the Mayan world and the Mayan Cosmo vision they always say that existence is duality. According to their Cosmo vision everything in existence has something that compliments it and something that contrasts it, something that gives it duality.
So, corn which is such a sacred and important food for the Mayans also has its duality and the duality of corn is cacao. They complement each other. As a matter of fact, it is part of the food that they consume basically on a daily basis. In the Mayan world, it’s very rare for people to get sick and they believe that is due to several things but that includes their nutrition of super foods such as corn and cacao.
And as such, corn and cacao are a duality. When we compare both of them and how they interact together and work with each other we can understand how their duality makes a whole.
When you see a corn plant you’ll see that it’s facing upwards towards the sun and in contrast to that the cacao pods face downwards towards the earth.
According to the Mayans, their cosmic existence itself is always made out of duality. Energy that gives the fruit and energy that fertilizes the fruit. We all have that duality within ourselves. A positive and a negative. A feminine and a masculine.
It’s important to mention the great emphasis of women in the Mayan world because duality is supposed to be in balance. In the traditional Mayan world women are considered to be equally as important as men.
Cacao was also used during the entire process of pregnancy and giving birth for taking care of pregnant women.
PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH BENEFITS
It is widely known that chronic, low-grade inflammation is the underlying cause of many common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. This is why eating foods that are anti-inflammatory with anti-oxidants is so important. Cacao is one of the best foods for this!
Cacao is filled with polyphenols and flavonols. Polyphenols are a powerful antioxidant. This means they reduce the oxidative stress that causes the mitochondria in our cells to shut down. They also support the growth of good gut bacteria which helps reduce inflammation as well. Flavinols can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. They also help reduce inflammation and lower bad cholesterol. Simply put polyphenols and flavinols both reduce inflammation and that will in turn reduce the risk of chronic diseases of all kinds.
It’s also filled with essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese!
Cacao bypasses the blood-brain barrier and releases endorphins. It’s a natural antidepressant because it regulates serotonin and dopamine. It’s a release and relief from depression and anxiety. It will uplift your mood and open your heart.
Not one chemical and not one machine touches the cacao when it's true ceremonial cacao. It is truly organic.
When it’s produced in the spiritual way it’s medicine. It enables healing in our body and social healing. It benefits the individual but also the collective.
There are spiritual benefits from Cacao. These benefits can be felt and shared by people on a global scale. The spiritual benefits of cacao are incredible. In these times in which people are living life so out of balance, cacao is something that has the power to bring balance back, as well as the connection to live in harmony with the planet and all of the elements in existence.
Cacao is a tool that opens up the ability to have gratitude and to have a dialogue to say thank you to the elements, animals, and human beings. It opens the door to the interconnectedness of those things.
Cacao has incredible powers and for people in the Mayan world, it has been the most important part in their tradition. It has been absolutely necessary for their development. Throughout time cacao has been the one tool that opens the doors to the interconnectedness of all of reality.
Cacao has been the one that feeds the Mayans well because it brings health and it can be mixed with other foods. It has been an essential part of their diet that nourishes the body. Cacao is a way to practice gratefulness which makes us more complete and full as human beings.
The message when working with cacao is that the most important principle is to always have the practice of cacao first being for the elders and nature and to give it as an offering to Mother Earth first before drinking it. Then we will know the greater impact of healing and it will open our hearts to live in an emotional state to solve our problems individually and in all our relationships with everyone around us. So first it’s for the elements, the elders, and the animals and then it’s for us.
It is important when we talk or think about the benefits of cacao we don’t view the benefits as something that is solely for us. We cannot see it as a product that is made to benefit human beings only. This is because within their tradition the Mayans believe and they know that cacao is a medicine that is highly connected to the spiritual and its benefits go beyond just human beings. Instead, it is used as a gift that opens up the doors to connect with all of the elements in existence.
Cacao has incredible benefits that have the power to truly have a great impact on humanity and human beings. Not only does it have benefits for human beings, it is extremely beneficial to the biosphere in which it grows, to the earth as well as to the animals that exist in those environments. First comes the benefits for existence and then comes the benefits that come to us.
It is recognized that if you want to make your partner fall in love with you again, give them cacao. To resolve conflict, bring cacao. If someone is depressed, give them cacao. If you want your party to be more fun, serve cacao and everyone will leave happy.
As human beings, we have the ability to be grateful and to say thank you. When human beings are in balance and living life according to their essence and according to who they're supposed to be, the one thing that we naturally always do is to say thank you. To practice gratefulness and say thank you for everything we have and even thank you for everything we don’t have. Cacao comes into place for us as a tool that opens up the door to gratefulness.
MAYAN WORDS & CACAO FACTS
Maltiox (pronounced Maltiosh) means thank you in the Mayan language. In their tradition, they will sometimes say Maltiox, Maltiox, Maltiox or 3 x Maltiox. This is because 3 is the number of all creation. When you say thank you 3 times you amplify the creative power of your gratitude.
I’xka’kaw (pronounced Ishcacao) is the ancient name of cacao. “Ix” means the feminine energy.
Kotzij’ (pronounced Kotsich) translates to flower or gift. It is a ritual done to give an offering to the energies that create our reality that includes fire, cacao, and other elements. Keep in mind there are different types of Kotzij’. The ceremony you will be doing for yourself with cacao is one type of Kotzij’. Others include cacao just as an offering (without drinking), and some are even centered in the fire, and cacao can’t even be seen in those.
Texel (pronounced Teshel) is the grandmother chosen by the community who takes care of overseeing the entire process of cacao.
Ajq’ijab’(plural) or Ajq’ij (singular) means spiritual leaders or a spiritual leader.
Aj Kakaw are the guardians of the wisdom of cacao.
There is a symbiosis that cacao interacts with all of nature. Insects help pollinate the cacao so it turns into pods. Woodpeckers leave a small hole on the pods which will bring worms and then they come back to eat the worms. Planting cacao sustains the flora and the fauna of the environment so it sustains the ecosystem. Cacao pods exist within the darkness under the shadow of the bigger trees that surround the cacao trees.
Cacao needs high shade and lower shade on the level of the ground so that it’s fruit can grow. If it doesn’t have the proper shade, it can’t grow. The animals benefit because the trees that grow near cacao trees have other fruits that are the perfect diet for the animals that live around cacao.
In addition, it also provides a home for the animals to build their nests. The low shade trees that cacao needs happen to be a mix of medicinal herbs that humans need.
Medicinal plants that live with cacao trees are mint, peppermint, rosemary and many others.
Cacao not only benefits animals in nature but also the elements themselves. When you have tall trees, the smaller trees benefit because the way in which air travels through those trees creates the perfect environment for the air to purify itself from pollution and to be able to sustain cleaner healthier air and therefore it’s better air quality.
The Mayans know they can benefit from grandmother wind by going to the cacao forests, jungles, and plantations and walking around. That’s the place where they go to meditate and do their breathing exercises to interconnect with the element of the wind. They know there is no place where the wind is cleaner than in the cacao plantations. This can only be achieved when it’s planted in a natural way with no GMO or chemicals.
In the same way that the element of wind benefits, water benefits as well. Close to the plantations trees are planted and the structure that nature has around those plantations makes the water run faster in the river as it passes by and the faster water moves the easier it is for the water to purify itself. Ensuring that when they consume water from rivers it’s going to be the cleanest, healthiest, and most natural water that they can drink.
Naturally, mama earth also benefits from cacao because the Mayans know that by having the variety and diversity of trees and plants planted into the earth, they create a kind of entanglement to make the soil stronger. So, for example, trees don’t fall or become weak.
The Mayans also know cacao only grows where there is jade nearby in the earth. They also know that it is jade that brings the energy and empowers all of these elements that are happening above the earth where cacao is growing.
ORIGINS OF Chinimital del Ka'kaw
Chinimital del Ka'kaw is a collective which is formed by people of four Mayan nations: Q'iche', Kaqchikel, Q'eqchi', and Tz'utujil. Their mission is clear: To make the authentic practices and wisdom of cacao available to their community and to the world.
The collective is formed by Ajq'ijab'(Spiritual Leaders), Elders, cacao farmers, historians, cacao transformation experts, Texel, and more members of the community.
The cacao travels from an ancient farm in Alta Verapaz near Lake Lachua, close to the border of Guatemala and Mexico which belongs to members of the Q'eqchi' nation.
What is an ancient farm? During the times of the Conquista (invasion of the Americas), the Spaniards forbade the Mayans from using cacao. Cacao farms were taken down and switched to coffee farms because it was a product that sold better in Europe. The Mayans were enslaved and put to work in these new farms. However, there was resistance and a few cacao farms survived. The farm where your cacao comes from is one of these ancient farms, and the trees are the descendants of trees that were in this farm hundreds of years ago. During the process of plantation, there are specific rituals and ceremonies made for the trees in order to follow the proper steps of traditional farming.
Then the cacao is taken just north of the famed Lake Atitlán to the border between the Kaqchikel and Q'iche' nations, where the collective moves on to the process of transformation.
Everything is hand-made in the traditional Mayan way. Sun-dried, hand-roasted in a wood fire, peeled and ground in the sacred millstone by indigenous women and grandmothers. Before it is packaged, the Ajq'ijab' and Aj Kakaw give it a ceremony with incense and fire and invoke the sacred Mayan energies to cleanse, bless and protect the cacao.
The money that goes to the collective is being used to pay the workers a salary that preserves their dignity and sustains their families. It is also put into beautiful projects which aim to bring cacao back to the indigenous communities of Guatemala, who sadly almost lost this part of their tradition. It was forbidden to use ceremonial cacao for hundreds of years for being seen as witchcraft. When you buy this cacao, the collective can give indigenous people cacao for free, alongside an education on how to use it to tackle malnutrition, reclaim their indigenous tradition and recover their ancient wisdom.
Additionally, it supports projects within the indigenous communities which include: Support for addicts in public rehab centers, cleaning and excavating a corridor of ancient Mayan altars which were abandoned and individual causes to support specific people in the community who are in need of emergency aid.
Made in Sololá, Guatemala I was Blessed by Mayan Spiritual Leaders I Not One Machine Used I Produced by an Indigenous Owned Business.
Product originary of the Union of the Mayab' Native Peoples of Paxil and Kayala (Guatemala) with the intention to reclaim the use of their sacred ka'kaw!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this information and that cacao will open your heart and leave you feeling happy, grounded and reconnected to Mother Earth, yourself and all those around you. I pray that it brings you happiness and spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Maltiox, Maltiox, Malitox!