History of Cacao 2, Maya 1.
Hello my fellow chocolate lovers,
I am Takanori Chiwata, the chocolate engineer of COCONAMA CHOCOLATE.
On our last post, I talked about how the Olmec civilization and Izapans related to cacao. In this post, I’d like to talk about the star of the relation between cacao and humanity: the Mayan civilization.
Mayan civilization is a civilization with very interesting history that flourished many centuries after the Olmecs, between 250 AD to 900 AD. FYI, even today there are still several millions of Mayans living in the cool highlands of Guatemala and Chiapa of Mexico.
We can see how the Mayans used cacao back in the old days from its remains and artifacts. Mayans were one of the few people who used pictograph among all the other civilizations in American continent, so it gave us a lot of information. There were supposed to be many scripts, but it is really such a waste knowing that majority of them got lost after its fall or got destroyed by the Spanish priests as a pagan.
Among those few remaining works, in a work called “Codex Dresdensis” the following is written:
In a part of the divine calendar, which it talks about its rituals, an image of gods with cacao pods or plates full of cacao beans in their hands are drawn.
On another section, which deals with a special new year ritual for Yucatán Peninsula, an image of Opossum with the god of rain on its back marching the sacred road to the outskirts of the town is drawn, and is written that people must offer cacao.
Additionally, cacao appears in another codex. In that codex, an image of gods cutting their own ears with a knife, and sprinkling their blood on cacao pods is drawn.
This image supported the idea that in Mayan and Aztec civilization chocolate and human blood had strong symbolic connection, along with other evidence found later on.
Presence of cacao was also found in the grave goods of the nobles. Dozens of pottery with a pictograph for cacao as their grave goods. In those potteries, strips of marks that were believed to be from a fluid was found. When they analyzed this mark, they found theobromine and caffeine, which are found in cacao! It is believed that Mayans prepared this, so that the deceased can enjoy chocolate in Afterworld as well.
As mentioned above, cacao was used during spiritual ritual, and was a special fruit that ancient Mayans wanted to bring even to the Afterworld.
Just like Asia and Europe, Mayans from American continent has its own mythology. It is called the “Popol Vuh”, which translates to “The Council Book” and is scared lyric poetry of K’iche people of the Maya.
In this text, the twins of an old couple who created the universe gets beheaded by an evil being in Xibalba, the underworld of Mayan mythology. One of this twin , the god of corn’s , head gets hanged on a tree. On an ancient Mayan pottery that has the image of this scene, that tree is portrayed as a cacao tree.
Just as shown below:
One day, when a maiden from Xibalba reaches for the head, she is conceived with a miraculous power. That maiden was expelled to Earth by her father, and gives birth to a twin. These twins were named Hunahpu and Xbalanque, and they destroy Xibalba to save their father, the god of corn. The story concludes as the twins pass away, and become the sun and moon.
This myth symbolizes the staple food of Mesoamerican,corn,from its seeding, to growth, and to fruition.
It is unknown how the cacao was directly involved to this myth, but it might have been a sacred fruit in Mayan’s life as they used it in a drawing of a myth.
Finally, a work stating that Hunahpu was the one who found the current method to process cacao was found, but the exact method remains as a mystery.
Cacao is a special fruit that even appeared in Mayan mythology, but how exactly did they enjoy it?
In our next post, we will be digging down further into Mayan mythology.
With hopes that you will be able to encounter the perfect chocolate just for you,