May your road be paved with
chocolate – bittersweet to journey
through exotic lands of mystery
~ Nanette Littlestone
At Be Wild Woman’s Easter Wombing & Garden Celebration earlier this month, I had the pleasure of paving a small bit of that road with an Elemental Cacao Journey. Drawing from my longtime love of chocolate in its many delectable forms and my growing experience as a science educator at The New York Botanical Garden, I was able to shed some light on the hidden “roots” of this amazing plant derivative.
When asked who in the room liked chocolate, all of the women gave a rather enthusiastically affirmative response – not too different than the one I often got from the kids at the botanical garden! For such a widely adored treat, though, it’s surprising how little people really know about it. Just as surprising is what one discovers upon delving into the wild world of cacao. From the rather quirky personality of the cacao plant to the lore surrounding its origin and uses, chocolate can definitely take you to “exotic lands of mystery and intrigue.”
Aside from a merely instructive approach, I’ve found that, in both learning and teaching about chocolate, an intuitive creative way of exploring deepens one’s fascination. It expands our awareness of different manifestations of wildness, and how the wildness both in nature & ourselves can be infinitely beautiful, nurturing, and empowering.
So to all my fellow chocolate-lovers: snag yourself a bar of the darkest chocolate you can find (I used Lindt Excellence 85% cocoa) or, if you’re adventurous, raw cacao nibs. Then delight your mind-body-spirit with the following sensory exploration & yummy info bites..
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Earth is associated with the sense of touch. Hold the chocolate in the palm of your hand and explore its texture with your fingertips, be it the smooth slippery surface of a chocolate bar or the multiple rough facets of cacao nibs.
This solid substance was once held tight within the seeds of a cacao tree, an evergreen bound to the narrow tropical region of our planet.
These seeds were once wrapped in the sticky sweet flesh of large, rotund fruits that ripen in a rainbow array of colors.
These fruits were once the ovaries of teeny tiny flowers luring teeny tiny flies with the promise of a sugary snack.
While the leaves of the cacao tree sipped the streaming rays of the sun to make food for the plant, its roots dug deep into the soil, anchoring it, keeping it firmly in place, drawing up water and minerals for further nourishment.
We too have our roots in the soft yet steady belly of the earth, this ground that supports, cushions, feeds.
Earth below your feet, cacao in the palm of your hand – find comfort in their gentle touch.
Air is associated with the sense of smell. Inhale deeply the aroma of the chocolate in your hand. Follow the trail of that aroma as your breath streams into your lungs, lingers, and finally flows out with an elated sigh.
Continue filling and emptying your body with nourishing breath, breath that is shared with nearly every living creature, from human to plant to microbe.
The rainforests where the cacao tree dwells are the lungs of the planet and thus does the cacao tree share in that cycling breath, taking in our discarded carbon dioxide, giving us oxygen with its exhales. This sacred exchange is essential to our lives.
The ancient Mayans who realized the edibility of cacao considered it food of the gods, a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the “feather-serpent” ruler of the dawn, morning star, and winds. The Aztecs reserved it for rulers, warriors, and wealthy people, using the seeds as currency.
Let the spiritual wisdom of the ancients perfume your primal sense – find joy in the divinely arousing scent of cacao.
Fire is associated with the sense of sight. Softly gaze upon the chocolate in your hand, observing its particular shade(s) of brown, the play of light and shadow across its surface, all of its unique nooks and crannies.
Let your vision be emblazoned with thick dark chocolate. Become completely immersed in it, in intimate relationship.
Perhaps you imagine you are a tiny speck of dust tucked within a cacao seed.
Just as the sun powers the planet, illuminating and enlivening everything it touches, the power of your will and imagination makes all possible.
Just as the cacao tree soaks up its golden ambrosia to make nutriment, you can absorb the essence of cacao for your own transformation.
In The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients Lexa Rosean suggests the following uses of chocolate in ritual or spellwork: dark chocolate for romantic or sexual love, milk chocolate for nurturing and friendship.
See with your inner vision your heart’s true desires – sparked by the sacred fire within you, catalyze the change you wish to create with the solarized energy of cacao.
Water is associated with the sense of taste. Alas, give in to the swell of temptation and eat a morsel of your chocolate – slowly! Pay attention to the sensation of it brushing across your tongue, tickling your taste buds with flowering layers of flavor, melting into the rising tide of saliva.
The flow of blood quickens throughout your body in thirsty anticipation.
This crimson water, like a river ever replenished by the rain – rain, falling from sky, seeping into soil, indispensable drink for the cacao tree and all plants – is alive within you, carrying nutrients and hormones and protective cells to keep you healthy.
Cacao is a natural healer, saturated with antioxidants, promoting a healthy heart and brain. It unleashes great floods of mood-elevating serotonin and pain-relieving endorphins.
Praised as an aphrodisiac, it may even in modern times be blessed as a gift from the foam-born Love Goddess herself.
As the chocolate seeps into your blood, dance gracefully upon its waves of pleasure – when the waters have calmed, rest assured that you have been cleansed and nourished.
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Still curious about chocolate?
Visit the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden for a glimpse of live cacao trees.
Or learn to say “chocolate” in different languages.
Or try hot chocolate in the ancient Mayan and Aztec style (xocolatl) – an infusion of ground cacao nibs (a French press works wonderfully for this) flavored with honey, vanilla extract, and chili powder.
Or host a sensual tasting party with fruits and different kinds of chocolate.
Or all of the above, plus more! The possibilities are endless and the path is yours to create.
*May your road be paved with chocolate*