I was a boy when I started to know Irineu, the kids from the “Papouco” neighborhood and its periphery. Irineu was a tall black man, stout, of tiny eyes and enormous feet that didn’t have shoes in the city to fit them. His staggering, sort of limping walk and his sardonic smile framed a thundering and “wet” voice. He transmitted to the children of my age more than respect; a certain fear. This image of Irineu I have from the times when on Saturdays that stout black man would come to the city to shop at the fair, while lingering in conversations at Joviniano’s tavern in Papouco or at the corner of the old market of the Flag’s Square, in prose with my father and other folks back then.
Years went by and as a teenager I no longer feared the big black Irineu. However, a mystery involved his name, that from time to time arrived to the city’s mouth and would be multiplied by people’s tongue as a kind of sorcerer who congregated and managed a negro’s community in Acre state, and that these few, in a certain moment, even in a reduced number, gravitated as satellites around him and started to live in small pieces of land located in the proximities of the Igarapé-fundo [deep-creek].
However, the curious fact that turned well known in the city that nucleus of, in its great majority, dark skinned people, was the ritualized use of a brew elaborated from a certain jungle’s vine and that started to be popularly known as “oasca” (corruption of the word ayahuasca — of indigenous origins).
At the beginning the group was small and the drink usage was restricted. With the passing years the news of the extraordinary effects of the “oasca” started to be public, and other people, aside the blacks, started to attend the sessions where took place the collective ingestion of the brew confectioned by Mestre Irineu, seeking in this practice an answer for their afflictions or even the cure of their physical or psychic illnesses.
Therefore, the civilized regular use — methodical and with the rites of hallucinogenic plants that were domain of the Amazon inhabitants — has its birth in Acre by Mestre Irineu, a son of slaves from Maranhão and who maybe in life did not even realized the importance of his actions when he managed what he had learned with the Peruvian Indians.
It is because at some point in his life, with the chance of discovery, when Irineu joins the Esoteric Circle of the Communion of Thought and starts to educate himself in the yoga exercises for the mind’s concentration that he must have realized that under the effect of ayahuasca he could reach this stage much more easily, managing the images variations with remarkable ease.
But what really marked, I mean, officialized the black citizen Raimundo Irineu Serra, “Mestre Irineu”, connoisseur and owner of a new way of fraternal congregation of the human being, through a ritual marked by the ingestion of a drink extracted from native plants, was a violence suffered. Religious reasons, pseudo-ethical or pseudo-moral, carried Mestre Irineu and his people to be denounced as users of senseless and even diabolical practices. That made the authorities of the time to intervene in the “oasca” community. Lieutenant Costa was called upon — bearer of a cruelty and coldness fame — to surround, invade and to destroy or disable that worship cult that was an inconvenience and a threat to the socio-religious convictions back then. Mestre Irineu and his followers offered resistance, obliging the authorities to the dialog and to the negotiation.
Of what seemed to be the start of a war resulted into the understanding through the corporation commander, Manoel Fontenele Castro, and of the governor, the Army major Guiomard dos Santos, intervener of the territory and who had authorized the siege. He went from a potential enemy to a friend, habitué of the community and protector of Mestre Irineu. Since then Mestre Irineu started to be known by everybody in the Federal Territory of Acre’s capital, Rio Branco, as the leader of a sect whose mysteries are there to be deciphered by the today’s scholars.
In the course of time the nucleus grew and were aggregated to Mestre some followers who today are independent leaders of autonomous groups, but that adopt the same ritual principles.
Mario Maia* is a former-senator, born in 10/15/1925, Rio Branco – Acre, having a bachelor degree in Medicine from the UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), working among others positions as the Head of the Acre’s Territorial Guard Health Service. In the Brazilian Congress he was a House delegate from 1963 to 1969 and Senator from 1983 to 1991, both representing Acre’s state. He received the distinction of “Great Order’s Official of the National Congress” in 1986.