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Native American Chocolate Mythology

Chocolate is one of several food items with a name that comes from a Native American language-- "chocolate" comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec Indian) name for a chocolate drink, xocolatl. The words "cacao" and "cocoa" come from the Nahuatl name for the beans themselves, cacahuatl.

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The cacao plant is a mythologically important one to the Aztec Indians and other indigenous tribes of Mexico. The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, was believed to have brought the first cacao tree with him from the heavens when he descended from earth. Because of this, cacao beans were associated with wisdom and magical power by the Aztecs, and their chocolate drink, xocolatl, was primarily consumed during tribal ceremonies or prayer, particularly by priests and members of the royal family (who were considered divinities.) Ordinary Aztec people were only likely to taste this special chocolate concoction on their wedding day (when the drink was served to the bride and groom) or at a curing ceremony (where it was given as medicine by a priest.) Other Mexican tribes, such as the Mayas, viewed chocolate more practically, and Mayan people from all walks of life frequently used it as a food flavoring. Hot and cold chocolate drinks are still extremely popular in many Maya communities today, although modern chocolate drinks tend to be sweet (ancient Mesoamerican chocolate drinks were bitter, like coffee.) During some time periods, cacao beans were so valued that they were even used as a form of currency in ancient Mesoamerica.

Chocolate is also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Chocolate Clans include the Bribri tribe, whose Chocolate Clan is called Tsiru-ru-uak.

Native American Chocolate Gods and Spirits

Quetzalcoatl (Aztec)

Native American Legends About Chocolate

The Legend of Chocolatl:
    Two Toltec myths about Tlahuizcalpantecutli (Quetzalcoatl) and the gift of chocolate.
*Chocolate in Mayan and Aztec Cultures:
    Article about the origin and importance of chocolate in pre-Columbian Mexico.

Recommended Books of Chocolate Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao:
    Interesting book about the meaning of chocolate to pre-Columbian tribes of Mexico and Central America.
The True History of Chocolate:
    Another book about the origins and importance of chocolate in the Americas.

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