Mate and Luna*
A Guaraní (1) legend has it that, once upon a time, there was a beautiful goddess with long black hair and skin as white as snow, who was so in love with human beings that she would spend hours and hours watching in fascination their every move from the skies above.
It was on a summer afternoon, at the scorching time of siesta, that she succeeded in convincing her father, the God of all gods, to let her walk at least for a few hours, secretly, through the infinite paths of red earth that go deep into the huge and thunderous waterfalls of the jungle in Misiones (2). Right there, humans, whom the goddess admired so, lived happily in huts made of straw and mud, in community and in contact with Mother Nature.
So it happened that, jumping for joy, that very night the goddess finally descended onto planet Earth. Her eyes wide open, like a little girl, and barefoot, so she could move more freely through the deep harmony of the thick vegetation, she ran gracefully like a gazelle, plunging herself into the scent of wild ferns and all sorts of herbs, smiling when listening to the many mysterious nocturnal sounds that inhabit the jungle.
It was while she was mesmerized with the buzzing sound that surrounded a beehive that, all of a sudden, a jaguar crossed her path. It stared and roared at her menacingly, with fierceness, getting ready to attack. The goddess was paralyzed with terror. Having become a human, she had lost all the powers that could have saved her from such a threat. She closed her eyes and mouth, expecting the worst. Yet, she heard a voice murmuring some meters away from where she was standing. Plucking up enough courage, she opened her eyes. And she saw a dark-skinned and brown-haired young man, dressed in a loincloth, who was on his knees close to the animal, whispering to its ear words in a strange language, which the goddess had never heard before. After a while, the jaguar eventually sat on its hind legs. Yawning, it shamelessly opened its mouth wide, inadvertently showing its ferocious teeth. It started to play with the lianas that hung in front of its head. The goddess understood that peace had been restored to the jungle.
“My name is Arami,” said the young man, while he petted the appeased feline and, at the same time, bowed before the girl.
“I thank you, Arami, for your help. I am Jasy, and the heavens will be eternally grateful to you for having saved my life,” replied the goddess, feeling a sudden rush of emotion.
“The sunrise is still some hours away, and it is not a good idea to walk in the jungle at this time of night. Let alone tonight, since darkness is deeper as there is no moon. If you wish so, you are welcome to rest in my family’s hut, Jasy.”
Hardly had Arami finished pronouncing the word “moon,” than the goddess had let slip the hint of a smile. Blushing, she had lowered her head and she had taken her hand to her mouth.
“Who might this strange and beautiful girl be?” wondered Arami, deeply intrigued.
Later that night, while he was sleeping, he dreamed the weirdest dream he had ever dreamed. He was floating over a huge, white and silvery lush forest. From behind, pale and extremely high despite towering trees, Jasy was watching him and smiling, with the same eyes and the same smile he had appreciated so much, hours before, while he was petting the jaguar. She was undoubtedly the same girl. Except that, in the dream, she was taller, so, so much taller, that her face rose above the jungle, reflecting on it a soft, brilliant and whitish light; and her hair was longer, so, so much longer and blacker, that it spread over the whole sky like a jet night where few stars shone. In a moment of clarity, Arami realized that, in truth, he was not floating but gliding over the white darkness while sitting comfortably on the palm of Jasy’s hand.
“As a reward for having saved me from the jaguar,” said Jasy to him, “tomorrow, when you wake up, you will find a new plant in the middle of your garden. Its name is Caá and, after toasting and grinding its leaves, you will make with it a special blend of tea you will come to call mate. You will share the drink with those people to whom your heart is attracted. With each sip that you and your friends drink, you will be recreating and manifesting the joy that is born when humans discover divinity in everyday life, a discovery that is as sacred and perfect as the roundness of my body navigating among the constellations.”
The next morning, Arami did not find Jasy on the improvised straw bed where she had slept. He did find, though, in the middle of his garden, the plant of yerba mate. He followed the instructions he had received in the dream and, finally, at sunset, he sat on the emerald-green grass growing from the red earth, and poured the ground leaves into a hollow, small gourd. He added hot water, slowly, very slowly. One, two, three and four sips, through a thin cane straw. As soon as the beverage began to enter his body, Arami thought he heard Jasy’s smile echoing in the fresh breeze that surrounded him. He raised his eyes, as if he wanted to find her. It was dusk. The whisper of the smile began to vanish, jutting into the night that was arising, towards the extreme East horizon. There, from behind thin clouds, the sharp reddish thread of a dazzling New Moon was beginning to shine its light over the lively green and thick jungle in Misiones.
* Adapted from a Guaraní legend.
1 – “Guaraní” is the name of a group of South American native tribe, who is said to have introduced the beverage to the Spanish conquerors.
2 – Misiones is the name of a Northeast Argentinian province, where yerba mate is grown. It is also famous for being the place where the Iguazú Waterfalls are located.