by Graeme Kapono Urlich
In my home country of New Zealand, more and more I am seeing cacao rituals and similar being offered. This
is a good thing in my mind but there are some factors to consider in terms of who such rituals may benefit.
In South American countries where cacao was valued more than gold by some, a huge cultural and genetic
foundation exists for why such a ritual would be performed, a strong identification with the gods it is
designed to connect with and a strong expectation of what results it would bring has been built up over
I'm no expert on these cultures and indeed, have not personally attended a cacao ceremony, but I do have a
good understanding of the structure of ritual and what makes one effective. In Kupua tradition, being an
adventurer one, a ritual need only be appropriate for the purpose and be able to impress the subconscious
minds of the participants to have a significant effect. We can make up a ritual on the spot for an
individual and get the desired effect.
When we are involved in a ritual where the symbolism is largely unknown and we are simply trusting that the
leader knows what they are doing, or in the ritual itself, very often we are left wondering or with very
temporary effect, if any. Some may mistake the temporary chemical effects of cacao as something significant
initially and wonder why it wears off, leading to disillusionment. Many such rituals come from more warrior
based cultures and the ritual generally needs to be performed perfectly and it needs to be the correct
ritual performed at an auspicious time.
As with so many traditions brought to the west, often by westerners with only brief exposure to the
cultures, sometimes there is little or no understanding of the background and the performance is shallow with
little effect, unless there is some level of genetic memory that gets stimulated in an individual or they
find a specific significance of their own in it.
All cultures have some mythology around ancestors. One temple in India for example is full of rats that the
villagers feed and look after because it is believed they are the returned souls of deceased family, but
fundamentally our ancestors are in our DNA as genetic memory. One of my teachers said the temple style of
Lomi Lomi I learned was originally designed as a rite of passage intended to stimulate genetic memory.
There is so much of this genetic memory that only a tiny portion gets activated through our learning,
interest, experience and focus etc. Occasionally a sound, taste, smell or sight might trigger such a memory
and stimulate an interest in something or a place.
With rituals from other cultures there will be an increased effectiveness when there has been some in depth
study of the culture and the symbolism a ritual uses. A reasonable understanding of the purpose and a clear
focus on the expected result throughout the ritual adds effectiveness. Simply being there and experiencing
the event will have some effect and this will increase with repetition and understanding.
With the Buddhist mandalas for example, the power and effectiveness is not from the mandala itself, they are
always done with an outcome in mind and rarely kept for very long. I witnessed one that was done over 48
hours with a focus on peace in a specific region in Africa. The process didn't begin with making the
mandala, but with setting the intention then the gathering and preparation of the sand, stones, shells and
other bits and pieces that were used. The process is a tool for bringing intense focus and presence into the
moving meditation on an intent.
The authority that the participants give to the leader of a ritual, and the leader's level of confidence,
also has an impact on the effectiveness it has for them. There are many considerations to take into account
when choosing to attend these events. It’s fine to experiment and try things out but if you want the best
effect from the time, and sometimes considerable money, spent on the process then put some preparation time
in to really knowing why you are choosing to do it and what you expect from it.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (July 2023)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism
Huna and Ritual (video)
Ritual and Modern Society