I heard about the chocolate shaman of San Marcos from Minister Holly, a friend I met in San Cristobal, Mexico. The minute I heard the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘shaman’ together in the same sentence I knew I had to check it out.
Me and Aaji took the boat from San Pedro on Sunday morning to make it over in time for the ceremony which we heard kicked off at 12pm. We got a tuk tuk from the port as we weren’t sure where the hell we were supposed to be going and, following a detour which I think took us to another shaman (there’s a few of them knocking around here), we made it to the home of Keith the chocolate shaman.
Now, I can be sceptical about stuff like this at the best of times ,but I really wanted to go into this with an open mind. We were a bit early so we wandered down to the nearby dock where I got some amazing shots of the lake from the San Marcos side. At about 12 we went back to the house and were still the first there, so we took a seat on the floor of the porch where the ceremony would take place. Slowly but surely, the porch filled up. Gringo after (hippy) gringo arrived and soon we were completely squished. I think they fit in about 45 people onto the small porch space and surrounding steps, COSY.
While this was happening, we were given drinks of hot cacao – basically raw cacao mixed with hot water. To add to this was sugar (much needed), a spicey chili mix and finally a green mix of herbs from the garden that was supposed to help you get to the ‘fourth dimension’ (<snort> sorry, open mind, open mind!)
Anyway, the ceremony commenced when the shaman Keith, an older American man, came out to the porch and toasted us with a ‘let the ceremony commence’ type of speech. Two warnings were given: 1) if you are on antidepressants you shouldn’t drink the cacao as it can cause migraine and 2) if you have any heart problems you shouldn’t drink the cacao as you could have a HEART ATTACK. Or at least your heart rate will go up and who knows what could happen. I don’t know about you but I think point number two was more salient? Anyway…on with the ceremony. Over the next couple of hours, Keith talked about how he had become the chocolate shaman of San Marcos. How he had been travelling and suddenly when he reached San Marcos and lay on a hammock by the lake, he felt the spirits of the chocolate gods rush through him and he knew that was where he needed to be. He told us about how he travelled into the mountains around the lake and met an indigenous tribe who, when they met him, said that they had been waiting for him for 400 years.
So far, so crazy. I know, I know I’m supposed to be open minded and I was TRYING! I really was. So as the ceremony progressed, we did some sort of practice or exercise called ‘feeling the glow’ where we were encouraged to feel the light within us and I actually thought that was really good. It felt really nice and although the cacao was not hallucenogic there was definitely some really nice vibes and good feelings all round. Then the crying started. Over the next two hours (we were there for about 4 hours before we had to leave to get the boat back to San Pedro), many people would just burst into tears, random wailing and whining, sometimes laughter, moaning and loveliest of all burping. I guess that’s the fourth dimension repeating on you.
When the crying started, Keith would focus on the person and talk to them about what they were going through, making random assumptions (it seemed) and then screaming ‘WOO!’ really suddenly or exuding a really long ‘woooooooo!’ while touching them on the forehead. There were also a number of ‘healers’ in the group, who were being trained to heal through energies or something or other. The bit that got me was when a ‘healer’ beside where I was sitting said she felt a strange energy coming from my corner of the porch (there was about 5 or 6 other girls sitting in the corner), and how we were ‘powerful’. And then Keith again picked someone out, this time the girl right in the back behind us, and asked her how she was doing. I turned at this point to look at her and she looked absolutely fine, almost embarrassed to have been asked. Then Keith started telling her how she was an ‘empath’ (people who are sensitive to other people’s emotions and who take on other’s negativity or emotions as their own). He said that we (the other four or five girls around her in this ‘powerful’ corner), were channeling all of our negative energy through her and that was why she ‘was feeling that way’. Suddenly she started crying! I mean, a minute ago she was grand! Hmmm. I was pretty annoyed that he said I was channeling my negative energy through her, as I hadn’t been feeling much negativity at all and so to say that I was channeling it through the girl behind me who I didn’t even see until five seconds ago is a bit ridiculous.
Anyway, maybe I’m missing something but the whole experience was just uncomfortable (squished crosslegged on the floor between crying and burping people) and kind of hilarious. Glad I did it but unfortunately I didn’t get to the fourth dimension, whatever or wherever that is. I’ve felt nearer that after a bar of Dairy Milk.
Keith accepts donations on a sliding scale, from something like 200 Quetzal down to work-for-cacao so basically you can give whatever you can afford. The cacao ceremony takes place at 12.30 every Sunday but I’m pretty sure there are ceremonies throughout the week (and I don’t think they would be as crowded).