Chocolate has a long history, and so it's only natural that stories and legends have sprung up about it. One myth about the cacao tree comes from the northern Andes, in South America.
Long ago, there were three gods: Sibu, Sura, and Jabaru. Sibu and Sura were friends, but Jabaru was a trickster and not to be trusted.
Sibu could grow living beings from seeds. One day, he gave his seeds to Sura, who carefully buried them, then went about his business elsewhere. When no one was looking, Jabaru dug up the seeds and greedily devoured them.
Sura came back to where he had planted the seeds, but was surprised by Jabaru, who was in a murderous mood. In a fit of cruel rage, Jabaru slit Sura's throat.
To hide what he had done, Jabaru then buried Sura's body in the earth that had already been dug up and worked for Sibu's seeds. Fiendishly pleased at the thought that he'd gotten away with murder, he went home.
The next time Jabaru passed the scene of the crime, he saw a strange sight. Two trees had grown from where Sura's body had been buried.
One tree was tall, graceful yet mournful-looking, with a slender trunk and long willowy branches. Its pale green flowers were marked with deep purple veins the color of the blood Sura had shed. It was a calabash tree.
The other tree was stronger and sturdier looking. Fat purplish-yellow pods clustered on its trunk and branches. This was the first cacao tree.
The god Sibu was standing near the trees. He spoke to Jabaru as if all was well. "Come, take this fruit," he said, pointing to a cacao pod. "From its seeds, you can brew a wondrous drink. You can use this calabash" -- he gestured to the other tree -- "to carry it back to me."
Jabaru, wanting to seem agreeable, picked a cacao pod and a calabash fruit. He brought them home to his wives, who patiently brewed cocoa and hollowed out the calabash as a cup for their husband. This accomplished with no work on his part, Jabaru brought the cocoa back to Sibu, who was still waiting by the trees.
"Here," Jabaru said, pretending to be polite, though the scent of the beverage almost drove him mad with desire. "I've brought you the drink you asked for."
"Is it good?" Sibu asked. "Try it and tell me."
Jabaru was happy to oblige. Instead of a sampling sip, he gulped and gulped the delicious brew. His belly swelled with his greedy guzzling, until it tore apart with an agonizing burst. As his stomach split, the seeds Jabaru had stolen from Sibu and murdered Sura spilled out.
Situ had to power to restore his friend Sura to life. He then gave him the seeds of creation, and from them, the ancestors of all the people and animals we know today were born.
The next time you start your day with a cup of cocoa, remember that without that drink -- and the tree from which it came -- we wouldn't have life on earth. Or so the story goes.