Voices from the Forest ~ Sweet Bonds of Desire

Bejeweled with translucent drops,
Hidden within a verdant maze of cloudy mist,
This ancient Teacher
shows us how to blissfully coexist.

“Bitter or Sweet,
thousands consume
the truth of my lessons every day.
Food of the Gods,
my elixir banishes depression,
promotes good health,
and keeps the inner child at play.

Lover’s luscious paint,
Voluptuous temptation upon the skin,
Winged Serpent’s gift to Man…
I am an axis upon which Worlds spin.

Only the tiniest flying Teachers
May spread my passionate dust.
Though empires have clamored for my kiss,
tasting of Earth’s own immortal lust.

I spread,
like legends,
like rumors,
From temple’s sacred spire
to envelope all the world
in sweet ribbons of hidden desire."

Who Sings Now?

_"Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine." Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon,1796

“After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.” Emily Luchetti

“Chocolate remedies adversity.” Jareb Teague_

Theobroma Cacao, or the Cocoa Tree, belongs to the Family Malvaceae which includes okra and hibiscus. This evergreen tree’s origins are hidden within the shifting mists of the Amazon, but everyone is familiar with the two major products derived from the Cacao… cocoa butter, and chocolate! It is commonly believed to have been discovered (in terms of cultivation) and distributed at least about 4000 years ago by the Mayans, although many others believe it was discovered by the Olmecs of South Central Mexico. It is found in Mesoamerican hieroglyphs from the Upper Paleolithic era, and featured largely in ceremonies throughout the Central and Southern American Native Nations.

Regardless of where it came from originally, the Cacao has a very limited growing area, and can only be found naturally between 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South of the Earth’s equatorial belt. While it can reach heights of up to 60 feet, it is far more typical for the Cacao to stand about 15-35 feet, well beneath the sheltering canopy of the larger rain forest trees growing around it. The Cacao prefers filtered sunlight, and sheltering “mother” trees.

There are about 22 different species of Theobroma, and the Cacao is typically separated into three main groups; Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Criollo was developed in Northern South America and Central America. With the Criollo, the distinctive ovoid fruit pod of the Cacao is either red or yellow, tapering to a point with five or ten longitudinal ridges, and the fruit walls are thinner than the other varieties. Their seeds are either white or purple, and not at all astringent, a defensive seed spreading technique of the other varieties. While Criollo cacaos are believed to produce the highest quality chocolate, they are also the most susceptible to disease and the lowest yielding of the Cacaos.

_"Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces." Judith Viorst

“I’m not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about His divinity. I’d rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance… Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around… measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think… we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create… and who we include.” Pere Henri from the film Chocolat_

Cacaos have a notoriously difficult time pollinating successfully. Their delicate pink and white flowers are small, only about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch across, and are of rather complex design. Their major pollinators are tiny Midges (Genus Forcipomyia, as well as Dasyheolea and Stylobezzia) , Aphids, Thrips, Ants, and Flies! These pollinators are not drawn by scent, as Cacao blossoms have no smell, but rather by chance. Growers, of course, can hand pollinate their trees but even this does not guarantee a successfully formed cacao pod.

These “pods” are actually Pepo-like (think Watermelon, Okra, or Cucumber) berries with leathery outer skins, sweet mucilaginous edible flesh, and the seeds (referred to as beans) from which chocolate is made… much to the relief of chocoholics around the world! The yellow-white flesh, or placenta, is said to be very sweet with a mild lemon flavor found refreshing by harvesters on a hot day. Both the flowers and the fruit of the Theobromas are consider " cauliflorous", meaning that flowers (and later fruits) form directly along the trunk and branches of the tree at the site of a former leaf known as a “cushion”.

It has been estimated that only one in every 100 Cacao blossoms successfully crosses the obstacles it faces to become a full fledged harvest-able pod. Conditions must be right throughout the growing process too for the Cacao to produce successful fruits. The rich oft-times volcanic soil in which Cacao grows, as well as weather conditions throughout the growing, will affect the flavor of the beans. Many never develop past the chileo or juvenile stage. Once ripe, the fruits growing in the wild will not drop from the tree or split open on their own either; waiting to be removed by a wide variety of forest creatures, or man.

Each pod contains approximately 20-40 beans. Those Cacaos with astringent seeds would be unpalatable to many creatures who would then drop them, beginning the potential growth of a new Cacao. Cacaos bear fruit and flowers, often at the same time, year round, although June and December are the usual harvest times. High winds and storms can be severely damaging to the rather delicate Cacao tree, which is subject to breakage. Growers always plant windbreaks, often times of other potential crop trees like Banana or Rubber trees. Cacao or Cocoa butter, also known as Oil of Theobroma, is a popular skin emollient around the world, and is also frequently used to coat pills or suppositories.

“Chocolate causes certain endocrine glands to secrete hormones that affect your feelings and behavior by making you happy. Therefore, it counteracts depression, in turn reducing the stress of depression. Your stress-free life helps you maintain a youthful disposition, both physically and mentally. So, eat lots of chocolate!” Elaine Sherman, Book of Divine Indulgences

Theobromine is an alkaloid within the cacao beans that can resemble caffeine, but is less powerful in effect. This alkaloid’s effect upon the heart and kidneys is more effective making it wonderfully useful in expelling any accumulation of fluid in the body after experiencing a cardiac failure. It is often given in such cases with digitalis to relieve this dilatation. Theobromine also dilates blood vessels making it useful in the treatment of high blood pressure. Theobromine has protective effects against streptoccous, shigella, staphlococcus, and related pathogens. However, it should also be noted that theobromine is considered addictive and a habit forming stimulant!

Chocolatl did not arrive in West Africa until about 1879, and it was consumed only as a beverage until about 1828 when the cocoa press was invented, allowing for the production of cocoa powder which was necessary for the making of chocolate confections. Currently, the Ivory Coast produces the majority of the world’s chocolate at an estimated 30%. Other countries included in the Top 10 list of chocolate producers would be: Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and the Domincan Republic.

_"All of the evil that people have thrust upon chocolate is really more deserved by milk chocolate, which is essentially contaminated. The closer you get to a pure chocolate liquor (the chocolate essence ground from roasted cacao beans) the purer it is, the more satisfying it is, the safer it is, and the healthier it is." Arnold Ismach, The Darker Side of Chocolate

“Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can’t remember what they are.” attributed to Matt Lauer

“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.” Michael Levine, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars_

There are in essence three types of chocolate in an endless array of possibilities. White chocolate consists of just cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and occasionally other flavors; creating a confection of delicate taste and texture. Dark chocolate is made up of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar or other sweetener, and a variety of flavorings. Dark chocolate carries more of the Cacao nutritional benefits, and is generally considered healthier for you than chocolate that has been diluted with Milk. Milk Chocolate, however, remains as the most popular chocolate in the confectionery scene, despite the fact that the addition of milk cancels it’s antioxidant effects. Semi-sweet chocolate contains calcium, carbohydrates, fat, iron, phosphorous, potassium, protein, and the vitamins A, B and C.

Unusually high in both fiber and protein for a fruit, Cacao is consumed in countless forms across the world every day. Researchers at the University of California recently found that chocolate, especially Dark chocolate, is rich in complex flavonoids that help us to maintain good circulation, reduce blood pressure and clotting, which is a major cause of heart attacks. Their findings further support that chocolate increases the antioxidant activity within the body, which can reduce the damage of cancer-causing charged particles as well as generally improving our immune system!

The name, Theobroma Cacao, was first given by the father of botanical taxonomy, Carolus Linneas. Literally, theo meaning God, and broma meaning food or drink; the beans of the Cacao were originally prepared into a much prized drink whose ingredients would varied depending on which Mesoamerican tradition was being used (Aztec, Mayan, Incan, Toltec or Olmec). Chocolatl or Xocolatl was generally a chilled rather gritty beverage of ground roast cacao beans, maize, vanilla beans, chilies, cinnamon and other spices, water, and honey. It was believed to be a healthy invigorating tonic, an aphrodisiac, a mental stimulant, mood elevator, and source of divine blessings (like youthfulness) and inspirations, especially shamanic visions.

Across Mesoamerica, it was believed that the first Cacao tree grew in the “Garden of Life” where it’s marvelous fruit fed the Gods until they charged Quetzalcoatl (aka Kukulcan or Ququmatz), the Winged Serpent, with bringing the Cacao to Earth to share with mankind. Quetzalcoatl is said to have ridden a beam of the Morning Star to bring the Cacao to Earth. Quetzalcoatl was a deity of winds, air, the dawn, and fertility, especially vegetative fertility, and was a patron of shamans, merchants, crafters & artists. At that time, Chocolatl was reserved for nobility and shamans, used during special ceremonies and as food sacrifices, along with blood, to the Gods. The Mayans held a yearly festival beginning April 22nd for Ekchuah, their cocoa grower’s/sellers god. Traditionally a cocoa-colored dog is sacrificed during this festival. The cacao beans were also used as currency across Mesoamerica. 100 cacao beans, for example, could buy a slave.

_"Carob is a brown powder made from the pulverized fruit of a Mediterranean evergreen. Some consider carob an adequate substitute for chocolate because it has some similar nutrients (calcium, phosphorus), and because it can, when combined with vegetable fat and sugar, be made to approximate the color and consistency of chocolate. Of course, the same arguments can as persuasively be made in favor of dirt." ~Sandra Boynton, author of Chocolate: the Consuming Passion

“The taste of chocolate is a sensual pleasure in itself, existing in the same world as sex… For myself, I can enjoy the wicked pleasure of chocolate… entirely by myself. Furtiveness makes it better.” ~Dr. Ruth Westheimer

“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” Lucy Van Pelt ( Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz)_

The Cacao tree as seen through the eyes of enduring myth, legend, and lore, grants it a place as a World Tree, or Tree of Knowledge, for Mesoamerica. Wisdom, youth, and power were thought to be gained by drinking or eating of it’s fruit. The Cacao is also associated with Chac (the Mayan god of rain and lightning), Tonacateculli, (the goddess of food) and Calchiuhtlucue (the goddess of water) who were believed to protect the Cacao. Cacao beans and a dish called Chocolate Mole are still traditional offerings on the Day of the Dead.

Scientists conjecture that it’s enduring connection to the concepts of Love and Lust is supported by the current theory that it chemically stimulates the body into producing the same chemicals we produce when falling in love! The infamous Madame Du Barry and Cassanova were both said to ply their lovers with chocolate, and this decadent treat is inevitably linked with lust, passion, romance, fertility, and sensual delights in general.

Those called by this Teacher should be aware of their mood levels at all times. Not feeling passionate about much of anything in your life? Do you ever feel like you are leaping from lover to lover? Do you find yourself engaging in risky behavior just to feel alive? You may have unbalanced Cacao energy! Cacao people will also find it extremely difficult to bring their ideas and goals into proper fruition without adding some wisdom from another Teacher in their plans; one of many areas in which it is useful to look at potential balancing energies.

Cacao’s connectivity, sensitivity, and reliance upon All Our Relations reinforces it’s image as a World Tree. Diligence in maintaining the necessary ingredients in the proper balance is required of Cacao people engaged in a project or working towards a goal. Likewise, Cacao teaches that the goals we set for ourselves and the concepts that we want to bring to fruition in our lives, should be both well planned for, and they should also spring forth from the center of our being as something that moves us in a vital way.
Cacao teaches us to take in Life, to connect, absorb, enjoy, and spread by reflecting the vibrant joys and sensual treats found in Life with enthusiasm, as well as moderation and wisdom.

Intuition used in harmony with Knowledge, Strength found in balancing moderation with indulgence, immersion in the senses, evoking feelings of love, well-being, or exuberance for Life are all Cacao lessons; especially the concept of inspiring others with these attitudes. Cacao people, like most Tree people, need a healthy and diverse support network. Humor and introspection are vital tools to staying well grounded. The film Chocolat is filled with wonderful examples of this Teacher in varying degrees of Balance.

Learning when to indulge and when to abstain is a key Cacao lesson. It is up to us to not only recognize our own talents, but choose to use them to a good purpose! There is a giddy delight to the lessons imparted by this Teacher that cautions us to beware indulgent imbalances. Yet, whenever we feel like too little butter over too much bread, or feel like the Adversities and Darkness inherent in Living and Learning might be consuming us… Cacao is an excellent Teacher to turn to for replenishment and enlightenment! Cacao can help us fill up on the passionate and enlivening creative energy of Life, release our Shadow, or shed addictive behavior. How does this amazing Teacher appear in your life?

_"Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn’t like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good." Lora Brody, Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet

“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” Unknown

“I am a serious chocoholic. For the serious chocoholic, chocolate is better than sex. If you believe that, you REALLY need to meet that special someone who can change your mind. If you HAVE met that special someone and still believe that, I REALLY NEED to know where you get your chocolate!!!” Unknown

“Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place.” Hershey’s Chocolate_

Potential Balancing Energies: Snake, Birds of all sorts especially the Quetzal and Raven, Earthworm, Beetle, Fly, Aphid, Thrip, Ant, Midge, and other Insects, Other plants like Hibiscus, Okra, Maize, Chili peppers, Water, Vanilla Bean, Banana, and Rubber tree, Rabbit, Dog, Monkeys, Rodents

Voices from the Forest ~ Sweet Bonds of Desire

Quinn Blackburn

Bethel Park, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

Each Who Sings Now? poem I have written is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a tree, star, animal, stone, etc. from which we can learn so many priceless lessons… if we only take the time to listen. Many people enjoy trying to guess which Teacher inspired the poem before going on to read about them in detail. Can you guess who is singing?

Artwork Comments

  • lianne
  • Quinn Blackburn
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