Cacao ceremony | Ceremonial cacao | Festive cacao | Spirituality
El Dia de Los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd. According to ancient folklore, on these two days, the border between the spirit world and the real world dissolves and the spirits of the dead return to walk among the living. Departed family members come to spend time with loved ones who keep their memory alive. It is a time of celebration as everyone comes together to share culture, ritual, and tradition in honoring their ancestors.
A tradition kept alive through generations of family-centered celebrations in the more rural, indigenous areas of Mexico, the Day of the Dead has evolved into an event of global influence, gaining popularity within pop culture, especially after UNESCO added the “Indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead” to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Yet this time-honored tradition has deep-rooted origins. The Popol Vuh, or “Mayan Creation Myth,” is filled with recurring themes of death, rebirth, and resurrection. These chronicles also attest to the central role of Cacao in death rites and help explain its continued use in modern Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.
The origins of these death rites have been shared through ancient writings and depictions: paintings, murals, pottery, and artifacts, dating from pre-Hispanic times to the Indigenous civilizations of the Americas. Evidence supports that the tradition spans 3,000 years, originating as far back as the Olmecs and extending through the ancient civilizations that followed, including the Toltec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec peoples. Death has held a significant role in Mesoamerican culture, which is still held dear among the Latin communities today.
Communicating with the dead has historically been revered as a way to maintain kinship with the ancestral bloodline. This was especially true among royals. To conserve their legitimacy and embody the insight of their ancestors, they would “feed” the spirits of their ancestors. This way to commune with the dead, fuel their journey and pray for their return through offerings and gifts. Cacao was part of the "feed", poured over graves, while a cup of Cacao drink was also placed on altars as an offering for the dead. Relics and remnants found in tombs include vessels and pottery containing Cacao residue and Cacao Beans left as currency to use in the next life.
While some traditions became less prominent, the greater traditions did not fade after colonialization. Instead, they transformed and migrated with the people across Latin America into Southwest America. Today, Cacao beverages and other chocolate variations are still placed on altars during Day of the Dead rituals, reinforcing the connection between Cacao, death, and rebirth.
According to the culturally widely accepted mythos, everything has a sacred spirit. The trees, the rocks, and all the elements around us impart life-force energy long after death and across realms. While death is far from the “end,” it is a beautiful, multifaceted aspect of this culture. It is more than a rite of passage; it restores harmony and sustains balance in the cycle of life. When something decomposes, it gives nourishment for new life to grow, and so the cycle goes on.
During Dia de Los Muertos, we honor the union of duality by uniting the living and the dead, building a bridge between the material and spiritual worlds, and interweaving traditions with the wisdom of our ancestors. Together, through their memory, we enrich deep familial bonds through modern celebrations and hold a remembrance of everything that is and everything that ever was.
Despite the wealth of evidence linking ancient traditions to modern practices, we can only speculate on the full extent of Cacao's role in honoring the departed as it relates to the Day of the Dead and death rite celebrations across generations.
Today, Day of the Dead celebrations vary by locale. Still, one common element is an altar with photographs of the departed, personal mementos, orange marigold flowers, sugar skulls, and an “ofrenda” or offering of food and drinks. Ofrendas commonly include favorite meals, Pan de Muerto (“bread of the dead”), candies, chocolates, and Cacao as regular staples. Cacao, as the wise feminine grandmother spirit – the gentle, nurturing Abuelita, claims her seat at the table, joining family celebrations, and bringing members together in love and unity. She is the family's protector, helping to support both the living and the dead on their spiritual journeys.
It is no surprise that we are seeing more Cacao ceremonies and practices centered around Dia de Los Muertos emerge throughout the globe. Integrating this beautiful, heart-centered plant medicine in death and rebirth-related rites prompts us to strengthen our own bridge between the living and the dead. Allowing us to embrace our own mortality while facilitating deep inner connection and the healing of our ancestral lineage, it supports us in our grieving, holding us in unconditional love as we nurture ourselves and our wide-ranging cultural ties.
Cacao's use in such practices allows us to bring deeper levels of connection as we unify our past and present. Coming together in communion, we continue to show reverence to the duality of life and death and honor that sacred cycle introduced by our ancestors.
Though both the customs and the scale of Day of the Dead celebrations continue to evolve, Cacao remains very much at the heart of this holiday over thousands of years.
No matter where you are in the world, Keith's Cacao invites you to participate in this beautiful tradition, drawing inspiration to craft your own practice with Ceremonial Cacao as your guide. So how can you honor your ancestors and the dead in your personal ceremonial space?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Create an altar or ritual space
• Add pictures or mementos of those passed
• Add candles, floral elements, Cacao beans, and anything else that calls to you
• Add foods and offerings your departed would love
• Prepare your favorite concoction with Keith's Cacao
• Bring intention, emotion, and celebration
• Remember the stories of loved ones, and share those stories with others
• Hold space for yourself as you hold space for your departed
• Weave in your own cultural influences to honor your lineage
• Make it special to you
We wish you a beautiful Dia de Los Muertos on this incredibly special occasion as you remember your loved ones and build on the memory of those who came before you. To get you started, we want to gift you this simple Traditional Family-friendly Cacao recipe as well as this Easy Pan de Muerto (“Bread of the Dead”) recipe to consider adding to your celebrations.