There were many kinds of girls in middle school. There were the tough girls who had hickeys and lip liner and pierced their own ears, the “grown-up” ones who wore stockings and slingbacks, and the tomboys who played in band and wrote in permanent marker on their K-Swiss.
And then there were the girls I envied the most, the ones who seemed to be made of incense and linen. I’m sure, like most preteens, these festival girls, with their leather sandals and messy hair, meticulously cultivated their Virgin Suicides-meets-Woodstock look. But to me, they appeared absolutely effortless, like they were born wearing belly-dancing scarves around their waists. I imagine their homes were filled with beads hanging from the doorways, Indian silk throw pillows and the smell of chai.
I thought of these girls recently when I attended an event called Shamanic Cacao Ceremony & Sacred Ecstatic Dance.
As it turns out, Perth is not just home to Olympic athletes and sports therapy clinics. It also boasts an impressive number of white people with dreadlocks who dance like no one’s watching, except there is someone watching and her name is Rebecca.
My friend Druimé wrote on Facebook that she had an extra ticket to this event, and before you can say electronic didgeridoo, I was making plans for her to pick me up at 6:30 that night.
I spent the afternoon reviewing the event details and googling shamanic cacao ceremony. Cacao promotes focus and insight. Prior to ingesting cacao, five hours of fasting is recommended. I read the event description aloud to Dave and he asked, “Are you sure nothing else is added to the cacao?” I assured him no, we will not be deported because I overdosed on spiked Guatemalan cocoa beans and was found wearing silver ear cuffs, wandering the streets of North Perth.
Curiously, I was not leery of the Sacred Ecstatic Dance part of the invitation. Although I had never personally attended this sort of event, I understood the basics thanks to my friend Alex, an ecstatic dance enthusiast. I understood that there would be candles and a DJ, but, unlike a nightclub, it would be silent and alcohol-free.
On the way over, I asked Druimé if anyone would try to touch me. She giggled and promised I’d be left alone. She then added that if I felt that way, I should never attend a tantric cacao ceremony. I confessed to her that I just ate a ton of cheese and crackers, which doesn’t technically count as fasting. She said she just had some cake and I shouldn’t worry about it.
When we entered the North Perth Town Hall, we removed our shoes, dropped our bags in the corner, and squeezed ourselves into a large circle of twenty-somethings, all sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed. I’m old, I thought, as my knee joints cracked and I plopped on a pillow.
Khaleesi was walking around the circle beating a drum. Blond hair piled atop her head, she wore a long backless white dress and gold bracelets (post-event internet-stalking would reveal she speaks to trees and looks amazing in eyeliner). Her assistant, also gorgeous and also in white, handed out Dixie cups of room temperature hot chocolate.
“Take the first sip of the sacred cacao.” Khaleesi led us through the ceremony, which involved drinking this bitter brown liquid that no amount of whipped cream and marshmallows would have rescued. “Imagine the crown of your head is covered with one thousand petals from a lotus flower.”
I wanted to shoot back the cacao as quickly as possible but followed the instructions to sip slowly, holding out hope that soon I would be super high.
No such luck. The only sacred cacao high I experienced was the high of dehydration, which I quickly cured by chugging my Chevron water bottle. This was around the time Khaleesi used the phrase “inter-dimensional midwife” and I unintentionally let out a little snort.
After chanting exactly 108 oms, we stood up and the DJ, also in white, started playing something I swear I heard in a Volkswagon commercial ten years ago.
Then came the good part. Man, I love dancing. I got to dance with the cool girls, the girls in halter tops and prairie skirts, and some beautiful delicate men too, the likes I haven’t seen since San Francisco. Swinging my arms around, I accidentally bumped into a skinny man with pigtails who looked like Alan Cumming in Anniversary Party. I mouthed “Sorry,” and he put his hands in prayer position and then darted across the room like Tinkerbell.
After some “find someone you connect with and bow to each other” business that I could have done without, the evening ended with chai. Of course it did. Because I am beautiful and effortless and drink chai.