Samantha Bhango 

Cacao Ceremony
Cacao is the unprocessed version of cocoa which is the main ingredient used in the chocolate making process. Due to its high caffein concentration, raw cocoa seed can be linked with heightened nervousness, fast heartbeat and a sense of not being relaxed. However, the cacao ceremony which consists of the consumption of hot cacao in a meditative order has surprisingly calming effects.

Villa Viva, a hostel I was volunteering for had daily activities for guests looking to explore Cape Town - indoor and outdoor. The Cacao Ceremony was one of the activities suggested by Michael one the guests staying in the villa. First time attending, I remember contemplating whether participating was a feasible decision. I honestly didn't know what to wear. I had had a glass of wine earlier after being told prior that you had to be in your soberest form. The ceremony would take place in a tent just outside my room, I figured it would make no sense not to attend and given my curiosity I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself. The back and forth in my mind made me 3 mins late and by the time I got there everyone was settled in cushions and pillows we were told to bring. A little awkward moment to be late to a spiritual ceremony. Everyone moved to enlarge the circle so I could sit. Nonetheless, the ceremony hadn’t begun and sitting down, I was immensely in the serenity of it all and was determined to experience its entirety.


Cacao tastes like dark chocolate. A natural sweet taste with a hint of bitterness. 


The tent was aesthetically warm, the music calming and the candles lighting up the space. It smelt good too. The ceremonialist, was in all white comfortable clothes - so was everyone else is in t-shirts, tights, sarongs, etc. I have always been attracted to mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, journaling affirmations and prayer. This was not necessarily out of my comfort zone with the exception that this was with strangers and would be the first time I openly express my feelings. Irregardless, this was a comfort-zone. The expression process was pretty interesting, the first task was to let go of whatever baggage we may have come into the room with or general negative things in our lives that we wanted to get rid of.  As the “teacher”/ "ceremonialist" (not sure what you call people who lead cacao ceremonies) made us share our dreams for the future – these dreams could be spiritual, physical, social etc. We were to  tell each other how we envisioned our future with a 10 year timeframe. 


Personally, my vision for the future is chaotic, a mixture of dreams attainable and those far from my reach. I could never define my dreams in one ceremony but there are basics I want to see manifest. Dreams deemed “universal”, dreams of happiness, peace, love and serenity. In the ceremony however, we were required to be more specific as our words and affirmations birth reality. As the circle affirmation went on, dreams about successful businesses, marriage, pets, travel etc. were thrown in the air all while drinking the cacao. To witness such vulnerability was humbling. Somehow the experience forced us to acknowledge how interconnected and similar the human journey is. How we all want the same things, in different locations, ways and methods. We are ultimately on the same journey of life. 


The next phase of the ceremony was a little different, we were in groups of 3. One person had to lie down flat on the ground while the other sat beside their head side and the other on their feet. In this phase the two people had to role play a gossip session about the person lying down. The catch? It had to be positive gossip about the dreams and aspirations they had wished upon themselves in the previous session. This was my favorite part. Normally gossip is malicious, filled contempt, hate and in most cases - lies. This was different, you were gossiped about while lying down but this time around you were present, and gossip was true, the exact thing you wished upon yourself. It was a breath of fresh air to witness  and experience this. I remember my groupmates happily describing a life I wish for myself. Felt like someone was throwing money on me while I shook nyash or something (censored). Bliss


Traditionally, in different cultures, plants were known to have a life of their own. Each having its distinct intellect and healing properties. The cacao is gentle, the ceremony  playfully connects you to the core of yourself.


The feeling after the ceremony was indescribable. There was so much love in the air, I knew I wasn’t the only feeling it. We all found ourselves in the bar afterwards chatting up a storm about what had just happened. You could tell everyone was relieved, a weight lifted off. 



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