We Try a Cacao Ceremony to Mark the Beginning of Summer

Marjie and I love to walk and bat around ideas for Style Challengers. On one of these walks, Marjie mentioned Hilde Kaiser, who founded The Poetic Field and teaches classes and workshops that weave together body, mind and spirit. Marjie thought we should talk to her about a spiritual challenge, since Hilde hosts ceremonies that are spiritual journeys. My response was probably pretty tepid, since I wasn’t sure what that even meant. I’m less attuned to spiritual discovery than Marjie (guess which one of us meditates and journals), but I’m willing to try anything, so we were in.

Hilde was gracious and enthusiastic; she suggested a Cacao Ceremony, which is based on making a drink from whole cacao (the bean that is turned into cocoa powder and chocolate), and which we would use to celebrate the changing seasons and the reopening of the world.

The seasonal and local flowers for the ceremony’s altar were arranged by Jennifer Lieb, founder of custom florist Evanston Lands.

“It’s a modern healing ritual that works with ethically harvested cacao and honors its qualities through ritual,” Hilde said and noted that it wasn’t based on an ancient culture’s rituals, so we weren’t appropriating anything, instead it was something modern and intuitive. “We’ll be inviting wisdom to come in and something may or may not happen.”

Marjie Walks with Bear

I know Hilde from a series of women’s classes we took together years ago with our friend Andrea Gaines. Since then, Hilde has developed into an enlightened teacher and compassionate guide of her own. She’s has so much wisdom about women and their connection to the earth and spirit. She teaches Nia, a form of intuitive dance, and leads discussion and creativity groups that feel infused with magic. I didn’t know what Hilde would cook up with our Cacao Ceremony, but I trusted that it would be truly special.

Hilde prepared for our arrival with care. In addition to creating a beautiful outdoor setting with details like flowers from Evanston Lands and an altar comprised of spiritual objects, she went through welcoming rituals in the days leading up to our ceremony, including singing our names. She definitely cleared the way for us—Laura and I zipped up to Evanston from downtown in record breaking time. We were five in total, Stephanie and Julie also joined us in Hilde’s garden.

Hilde Kaiser started the Cacao Ceremony by burning some herbs that she had gathered and dried.

Laura will describe the details of the cacao itself, but I will say once we were relaxing over the bitter, rich brew in Hilde’s pretty yard, I felt so fulfilled. Women often get together over cocktails or manicures. Our circle felt nurturing and special in a very different, natural way.

After enjoying the cacao, Hilde led us in a Shamanic Journey—a lucid meditation—with Bear as our animal guide. As we stretched out on our backs on blankets on the grass, holding a rock, Hilde played a ceremonial drum. Hilde told us to pose a question to Bear, perhaps how to bring more awe into our lives, then simply experience the images that came to us. Lying in the dappled backyard, listening to the wind in the trees and the hypnotic drumming was profoundly relaxing but no images came to me until the very end. Then Bear showed herself, curled tightly into a ball in her cozy cave. “Is it time for me to emerge?” I asked her. And the answer was clear, “Not you. Not yet.”

In the days since our Cacao Ceremony, I’ve been hanging on to that guidance. The world seems to be opening at a dizzying pace right now, as if the pandemic never happened. It’s jolting and intimidating. But I don’t have to leap right into the fray. I’m not ready yet. It’s fine to reemerge from my cave at my own pace.

I’m so grateful to Hilde for leading us in this unique, rich and meaningful experience. She was so, so generous. I hope other women get to experience her offerings.

Laura Gets the Tingles

When we arrived on the perfect late spring day, Hilde already had the cacao made, which is melted 100% chocolate made from cacao that had been ethically grown and harvested. It tastes like a bitter, rich hot chocolate. Hilde stirred it and talked with us, and then we each had a turn to stir and think about our intentions for the ceremony. And for newbies, like me, Hilde kindly offers little nuggets of wisdom like, “think about what it means to be alive,” or “think about how you can sink into summer and honor this season.” Her prompts eased my “am I doing this right” worries and let me actually think about some bigger things.

Once we had all stirred and thought, we took mugs of the cacao to the seating area Hilde arranged around our altar. We talked generally about what brought us to Hilde’s lovely backyard and then Hilde burned some locally grown and gathered herbs to start the ceremony. We talked about finding spiritual guides (Marjie and Bear had a moment of wisdom together) and allies in the natural world, as well as the simple idea of listening to our bodies and choosing pleasure over pain and making small tweaks to move us in the direction of pleasure.

During the Shamanic Journey, I didn’t have a vision, but I did experience that tingling sensation that moves from your scalp down through your body. It’s called ASMR and it’s a very calming and pleasant sensation. When we talked about what we had experienced, the general consensus was that the tingles is a positive “yes” from the universe. I chose to think of it as an affirmation that gathering together in small, supportive groups is healthy and magical for all of us and something we should find time for. If we need the excuse of the changing seasons or opening world, that’s wonderful, but I also think a free Tuesday morning and some friends who are open to new experiences might be enough.

To find out more about Hilde and her work creating environments for restoration, stimulation, and connection for your whole being or to learn about upcoming workshops and classes or to book her for a private group or event follow her on instagram @hildelion. She has a new website coming soon, and we’ll add that link to this post as soon as it’s live.

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