By Way of Sacred Water

 Illustration by Erica Whyte

Illustration by Erica Whyte

By: Asheda Dwyer

I usually open my coconut using the backside of a machete.

When I cannot use a machete, I use a hammer.  

I intend to use this water to break my fast; so I choose this labour in the part of the rising when I am mostly silent, still offering my waking gratitude.

The iron against the shell incites me to imagine those women who came before me that wielded blades against cane, cotton, and cornfields to secure their happiness. When I find my rhythm, I dance. I strike until sprawling hairline fractures widen across the exterior, and the cold waters begin to escape the embryo – gently showering my face – until that one unsuspecting strike finally opens it whole.

I set my feet like my grandmother. To catch the water, I am swift, like a baby catcher, or I will lose part of the magic. The abrupt end always makes my heart jump, which brings me into an awareness of my breath. I use the moment to reach for a new one. While familiarizing my body, into a stillness, that is suitable for the present moment. In the midst of this gentle practice, I satiate my thirst. I can feel its cooling current ripple as if my bloodstream was a river.

Coconut – Cocos Nucifera or Coconut Palm – is a member of the palm family named Arecaceae in the western botanical system. In the traditions that emerged before, this fruit was never called “Vitacoco,” “Blue Monkey,” “Thirsty Buddha” or even “Coco Libre”. This fruit had names, like “Agbon” in Yoruba; “Tenkay” in Tamil; “Nariyal” in Hindi; “Nazi” in Swahili; “Kokonati” in Maori; “Kokosi” in Twi; “Kube” in Fante, and others.

The water of the coconut is special because it undergoes almost ten years of natural distillation. It takes almost six years for the first fruit to bear, and fifteen to twenty years for the tree to peak production. Palms can grow as tall as one hundred feet, reflecting the breadth of its filtration system. Palms methodically feed nutrients into their root systems that extend miles underneath the earth. The water is stored in the trunk and continues ascending until they become fully formed stone fruits, shaded up in the sky. After years of filtration, the water of the coconut remains completely unexposed until it is removed from its fibrous shell. This storage system is part of what makes coconut water sterile with alkaline-forming effects in the body. The cause of coconut water – especially young coconut water – to be alkaline-forming in the body is that it possesses naturally-formed electrolytes, mainly: potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It also carries traces of: sodium, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, as well as vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and other essential proteins and minerals.


When people were uprooted from the shorelines and hinterlands of Africa and were transplanted across the Americas, they adapted and maintained their cultural and spiritual practices towards this fruit. For example, divination ceremonies in the Yoruba cosmology of Ifá traditionally involved the kola nut which became, in the Americas, the coconut. I transitioned to living foods powered by the sun – what is popularly termed as “raw veganism” – in pursuit of readapting mindful-equilibriums of black indigenous fugitivity to heal my body.

This is when I returned to the coconut and the coconut returned to me.

I use every part of the fruit for essential nutrients, including dietary fiber. I focus on preserving its enzymes to pleasure my emotional, digestive and spiritual. I am often infusing: sea moss, maca, flaxseed, and spirulina, somewhere in its midst. It is the cornerstone of my daily preparation of fresh juices and milks; porridges; salads; and desserts. I anchor ecological-sustainability with fasting, food combining principles, and heatless practices as method. I even reuse the outer-shells for art, medicine-making, and organic burning material.

As a woman who is still surviving the migratory violence of African Diasporic displacement, to commune with this fruit is an act of critical recovery. In a world where so many of our bodies suffer through devastating brutalities under the arc of humanity, I remember the resilient journey the coconut makes; before it leaves the arm-reaches of the sky. I am reminded of its possibilities of becoming, long after its left. And whenever I am with it, I am ethereal: wielding the most unlikely source of joy.