A legendary Guarani Indian narrative tells the story of the beginnings of the Guarani in the woods of the south of Paraguay. The story goes that the ancestors from the Guarani, at some point in the past sailed a great ocean from a faraway land to establish in the region today called Paraguay. The voyagers found the land spectacular but at the same time, dangerous. After perseverance and hard work they settled in the territory and brought a new civilisation to life.
The Guaranies looked after the land and turned into remarkable craftsmen. While working, they expected the arrival of God Pa’i Shume, who was tall, had fair skin, blue eyes and a beard and, as legendary stories went, descended from heaven and displayed his pleasure at everything the Guranies had fulfilled. Pa’i Shume came with holy knowledge and instructed them in the agricultural methods to help them during droughts and plagues, and in everyday life, too. But above all, He explained the mysteries of health and the healing art and disclosed the medicinal virtues of the local flora. The key part of his teachings was about how to work the land and make the tea out of the leaves of the Yerba mate tree. The Mate tea was supposed to guarantee health, vigour and a long life.
Then the Guaranies cleared parts of the wooded area, planted manioc and corn and reaped the harvest. Around four years later the soil was exhausted and did not yield the same harvests. So the tribe had to move on. This pattern went on for years, and at some point an ancient member of the Guaranies refused to move on and decided to stay where he was. His youngest daughter, a beautiful girl called Jary, was put in a hard position: should she follow the tribe to the new land or should she stay with her father until his death? In spite of the pleas of the tribe, she met her family duty and stayed with her father. Her ancient father became increasingly weaker, and Jary’s display of devotedness could not go unnoticed. One day, an enigmatic shaman arrived at the house and asked Jary what she wanted so as to feel content.
Jary did not reply; however, her father stated he wanted new strength to continue and take Jary to the tribe that had left.
The shaman handed the father the greenest plants, permeated with gentleness and told him to plant it, pick the leaves, dry and grind them, set the pieces inside a gourd, add water and drink the infusion.
Tasting the green drink, the old man recovered, got new energy and strength, and managed to follow the path of the long gone Guaranies. After a lengthy travel, the old man and his child Jary were reunited with the tribe and welcomed with great joy. When the Guaranies heard of the shaman and his gift, they adopted the custom of sipping the green herb (yerba mate), sweet and also bitter, which provided them with vigour, bravery and comfort.
This is the way Yerba Mate turned into the most widespread holy ingredient, the “Drink of the Gods”, in the Guaranies’ home, and it is still so today.