The Life of João Pereira, the “General of Comfort”.
By Rodrigo Borges Conti Tavares / English review by Moonvine
April 13, 2012
Today the website The Juramidam Family presents the final research on the four so-called “Companions of Mestre”. This series, which began in 2009 and over the last few years has researched the lives of Maria Damião, Germano Guilherme and Antônio Gomes, comes to an end with João Pereira, native of Porongaba, Ceará, and one of the first disciples of Irineu Serra.
On this important pioneer, who despite being known in the doctrine as “General of Comfort” — according to some for the softness of his hymns –, it is surprising to learn that he was a follower of strong personality, with a thunderous voice, sometimes even being described as intimidating. About this rank he received in life, we shall see later that it did not come from his hymnbook, but from a peculiarity he had during the ceremonies, proving once again that the spiritual mission of Raimundo Irineu Serra would have the aid of a very special group of pioneers.
“Regarding his life among us, João Pereira was the husband of Mrs. Maria Marques Feitosa, “Maria Franco”, and it was by bringing her to the doctrine to be cured of alcoholism — a history very similar to many followers — that the ranks of the mission of Irineu Serra would be strengthened with a follower who would later be immortalized in our history along with the other three so-called “Companions of Mestre”. Also, his stepdaughter was Mrs. Raimunda, who would become the first wife of Mestre and who accompanied him during much of his mission with the Daime.
*Raimundo Irineu Serra had two previous partners: Emília Rosa Amorim (with whom he had his only son, Walcírio Genésio da Silva); and Mrs. Francisca.
God came to the world
To heal and to save
To teach the Holy Doctrine
To those that seek
The first research on the life of João Pereira came from the site “Cadernos de Hinário”, which brings the following words:
One of the first members of the Doctrine of Juramidam, João Pereira was born in Porongaba, Ceará, in the late 19th century. No-one knows the date of his move to Acre, but he also served in the Territorial Guard alongside Mestre and Germano, and played as a musician in the barracks band. It is said that João Pereira had little hair, was a caboclo and worked as a farmer and carter.
João Pereira’s is one of the five books of hymns considered the basis of the doctrine. The book of hymns left by him is entitled “January 6th” because it contains a poignant waltz in celebration of Three Kings’ Day. Besides these hymns, João Pereira received the hymn “Oh, My Eternal Father”, which in the Book of the Mass is sung standing with four celebrants holding lit candles around the table to form a cross. He would also have had other hymns, which in a review were removed from the hymnbook by Mestre Irineu and were no longer cultivated. He died in 1954, and, after that, Mestre separated from his wife, Raimunda, and she and her whole family left Acre. Mestre always referred to him as “the General of Comfort”, for the good that his hymns transmitted in the works in which they were sung. [Hinarios.blogspot.com]
Regarding the quote that João Pereira was part of the barracks band at the time that Mestre served in the Territorial Guard, the book by Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae — “Eu Venho de Longe” (I come from far away / 2011) — presents a report from the police force which contains the name of João Pereira and Germano Guilherme. Besides this document, the book also tells us a bit about the time in which Mestre Irineu served with those who would become his first followers.
“The entry of Irineu to the Police Force also marks an important reversal of roles in his life: from chased by the police, he became a member of that institution. It is said that Irineu on his days off, quietly continued to make use of Ayahuasca (personal account of Cecília Gomes to Saturnino Brito do Nascimento), because the vine and the leaf abounded in the region of Rio Branco (…). Immediately upon entering the Police Force, Irineu became friends with Germano Guilherme, the musician João Pereira and João Leão, who would become his first disciples (…).” [Eu Venho de Longe, p.113]
Teófilo Maia has also written about João Pereira after conducting rich research on his life with Mrs. Maria do Dito; Mrs. Valdirene, granddaughter of Mestre; her husband, Mr. Carlinhos; Mr. Paulo Serra, adopted son of Mestre; and Vó Preta. And he kindly reported by e-mail:
João Pereira was from Porongaba, Ceará, and he went to Acre because of the drought in Cariri, to where he never returned. João Pereira was caboclo, short, bald, very strong, and he had a thunderous voice which, according to Mrs. Maria do Dito – who, when she was a young girl, accompanied João Pereira in his wagon just for the pleasure of traveling sitting on loads of logs — was even frightening when he shouted and sang while driving the oxen through the woods.
João Pereira worked as a carter, moving small freight in the city of Rio Branco, and as such he carried logs from the forest to the sawmills as well as wood for the power plant of Rio Branco. He was also a musician of the municipal band, where he played the bass drum and sometimes cymbals. He had a piece of land on which he lived, on the borders of the nowadays neighborhoods of Bosque and Vila Ivonete, and where today is located the Pizzeria & Bowling Maria Farina.
He left no offspring because he married Mrs. Maria Marques Feitosa, “Maria Franco”, who was already the mother of Raimunda Marques Feitosa who became the third wife of Mestre. He arrived in the doctrine through José das Neves in an attempt to cure his wife, Mrs. Maria Marques, of alcoholism, and though she was not cured, she became the main singer of the calls because she had a very fine voice and sang very well, as did Mrs. Raimunda.
João Pereira experienced much sorrow from his wife’s illness, but he accepted this resignedly, and he found in the Santo Daime his comfort and joy; and his hymnbook gives proof of that. Within the fraternity he became the “General of Comfort”, who comforted the brothers and sisters during the work when it came to a difficult passage in the visions. [Teófilo Maia]
Oh! Sovereign Virgin
Oh! Powerful Virgin
Give us Thy splendors
May Thou cover us with roses
The story of his hymns, of praise and love for the Virgin, is also the supplication for his personal challenges and trials. From what we know through accounts, he came to the mission of Irineu Serra carrying a strong personality, sometimes intimidating, but it was in his simple life as a carter and the teachings learned in the Daime that João Pereira went on to become a follower of great importance to the doctrine, a vehicle for the instructions that were being transmitted through the hymns received.
I know that he left and rejoined the doctrine a few times, always because of alcohol, as well I heard (from more than one source) that he was a very aggressive and violent man, including in the dealing with animals (…). Interestingly, the same man who presented such behaviors is who sang “Oh! My Daddy! Oh! My Mommy! Oh! My dear Mommy Of my heart ” so intensely sweet and loving! [Luiz Carlos Teixeira de Freitas]
I want Mommy to teach me
To love this child
As you presented Him to me
So gallant and so delicate
It was on this path of contrasts that João Pereira became the first follower to mention in a hymn the entity “Maraximbé”, which, according to the fraternity itself, is an entity related to the discipline and trials in the universe of the sacred drink, as the hymn mentions, and for which one has to “bend over to be whipped” in accordance with the crimes committed. It is the figure of the “lasher”, of the “disciplinarian” in the Daime universe of the Master Teacher [Bayer]. Eduardo Bayer also says that Maraximbé is a shrub of the Alto Purus, which the Kaxinawá Indians use in the form of ash to create a strong rapé.
According to the book of Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae, “Eu Venho de Longe”, what we did not know is that, in fact, Maraximbé is the name of one of Mestre’s calls, which it is said only the deceased Mrs. Percília Matos knew in full. Regarding the hymn of João Pereira, it can also be sung in the form of a call.
The “calls”, that can have words or only a melody, generally invoke some being or force from the astral in order to be present or come in aid. But sometimes the hymns can also be used for this reason, in order to invoke the help of another group of beings. As such, there are beings from the “hymnbook line” (a term used frequently in the religion for the sets of hymns) such as Tucum, present in hymn 107 of Mestre Irineu, who can be called. In this way the hymn is executed in the form of a “call”. In this case, Tucum is normally executed as a “call”; repeated three times a capella. And executed primarily in the “Table Work” or of the “Crosses”. In the same way as The Line of Tucum, there exists a hymn from João Pereira, 31 – Maraximbé, that can also be executed as a call.
(…) Here is an extract from an interview with Luiz Mendes given to Beatriz Labate in February 2007 regarding these practices:
“In the Works of concentration, whomever paid attention could hear the calls that the Mestre made. He had several…each one different. I don’t know if they had words or not. He never taught them. The “calls” were solfeged or whistled. It was a very subtle thing even, I don’t know if everyone perceived, it was very quiet…
He used them when it was necessary, in order to cure. One must understand, it is a very serious matter, because if one calls, they come, and if the person is not prepared, does not know what to do with who arrives, they can even become unwell. I think this is why Mestre did not pass the calls on to anyone.” (PACHECO; LABATE, 2007, p. 28)[EU VENHO DE LONGE, Paulo Moreira e Edward MacRae, p.132 e 133]
Interestingly, João Pereira received his hymn Maraximbé in the same way as another companion, Antonio Gomes, who was the follower who first mentioned the name “Juramidam” in a hymn. In relation to this connection of Mestre with his disciples through the hymns, Walcírio Genésio da Silva, Mestre’s son, explains:
You take “O Cruzeiro”and hold on to it and pay attention. And we have the other companions who are next to him — Germano Guilherme, Antônio Gomes, João Pereira, Maria Damião, Raimundo Gomes… All of them are providing services and are helping, confirming the words that he spoke back then, in “O Cruzeiro”. They are concurring, here and there they are… They are the apostles who are coming and who go helping him to work. He is the one who delegates to them, and just me, you and anyone else are the messengers.
I called Maraximbé
For Him to come here
Bring your body and stay firm
Bend over to be whipped
You must remember
You must think a bit
About the firmness that you applied
And the oath that you took
Oh! My Divine Father
My Ever Virgin Mary
Forgive Thy children
And the crimes that I committed
About João Pereira having received the rank of “General of Comfort”, much is said among the veterans of the strong works they had in the time of Mestre, and in which few could stand upright, and it is in the following rich narrative of Francisco Grangeiro that we learn about the origin of João Pereira’s rank and also become more familiar with his personality in the salão during the works. The fact is that, according to Francisco Grangeiro, the rank is actually of “Commander”.
Polari – And did you know that group of Germano, João Pereira…?
Grangeiro – Oh, boy… João Pereira was General… He was… How was it? He was…
Polari – “General of Comfort.”
Grangeiro – No, he was… “Commander of Comfort”, isn’t that right?
Polari – How’s that?
Grangeiro – Commander means that, at this time… When one takes Ayahuasca, sometimes don’t we lose the current? Vomiting and in agony, right? So, he was the one to give comfort. Within the hinário, when someone could no longer stand dancing and took a seat, João Pereira would begin from where Mestre was sat [Grangeiro indicates the place where Mestre sat]. He had a small run. He would go from here [moving energetically] and then stop. And this way he would circle the whole salão. Then, when he returned, he closed the circle and everyone was feeling good again. So he was the General… He was the Commander of Comfort. [Videotape interview given to Alex Polari, 1988]
Another rich narrative about this practice of João Pereira in the salão comes from the book “Eu Venho de Longe”, from the time that the doctrine was undergoing some changes back in the 1940s. In this case, some changes had been made in the dance steps of some hymns.
During this period, under the influence of the drink, João Pereira also received a step distinguished from the others that were used in the ritual. This step would be performed when the participants of the bailado went through difficulties under the influence of the drink. The execution of the step was authorized by Mestre Irineu. Thus, João Pereira, having the rank of General, became known as the “General of Comfort” due to this step. The step consisted of leaving the lines in any given march hymn, taking short steps forward and making a circular path around the salão. First, he passed through the female ranks and then the male ranks, returning to his place at the end of the hymn or at the end of a sequence of hymns in the rhythm of the march. It is said that the effect that brought comfort to those who were suffering, was immediate. João Pereira executed this step until the late 1940s. After this period, suffering from a serious illness, he was not willing to execute it anymore.
I pray prayers, I sing hymns
To raise this tower
To live with joy
To have pleasure and have love
At the end of João Pereira’s hymnbook, a hymn that has became known over the decades is that of “January 6th”, and that also gave title to his hymnbook. In correspondence with Ricardo Plácido, he writes that, according to Saturnino, João Pereira received this hymn in a square in Rio Branco, where, even without taking Daime, the force came and he received the hymn. Before this episode, the fact is that he was really moving to Rio de Janeiro with his family. Knowing this intent of João Pereira, Mestre gave him two bottles of Daime; one for guidance and another to take with his family. João Pereira meditated about which Daime he should take first and he decided to take the Daime of guidance, and it was in this Daime’s vision that he saw that he should not make the trip, thus deciding to stay. According to accounts, the ship that he was going to sail on sank.
Regarding this information, apart from the testimony of Saturnino, the story of the two bottles of Daime and the cancellation of the trip is well known among the fraternity of Porto Velho, and in correspondence with the teacher Arneide Bandeira Cemin, she confirmed having heard a similar story among the Daime people of the state of Roraima.
According to Ms. Percília, the family of João Pereira left the doctrine a year after his death, moving to São Paulo, where Mrs. Raimunda, his stepdaughter and ex-wife of Mestre Irineu, came to die being run-over by a car.
When I arrived at the palace
I fulfilled my obligation
I saw an Excellence
A Most Excellent Ancient One
I made my salute
He paid attention to me
I asked of him the Holy Light
Of Thee the Holy Pardon
Now that you arrived
Made your obligation
You are in the Holy Light
Of me you have the Holy Pardon
Concerning the last days of João Pereira, Teófilo Maia continues with the narrative of his research done in Alto Santo:
João Pereira continued in the mission and came to suffer a terrible illness, smallpox, thus going in search of treatment with Mestre, in Alto Santo, where he was properly treated with Daime and all the wisdom of Irineu regarding diet and other medications. Being already much better, and as the wounds were already healing, João Pereira expressed his desire to return to his colony. As he lived alone, Mestre Irineu appointed Manoel Belém to take care of João Pereira, to supervise his diet and the prescription of homeopathic remedies, as well as the doses of Daime. [Teófilo Maia]
Also, according to the book “Eu Venho de Longe”, by Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae:
João Pereira worked for Antônio Carpina, who had a sawmill. João Pereira carried wood from these colonies to sell to him. This was when he fell ill and came here to be treated for alastrim (a type of benign smallpox), where the skin of the person peels off. At first it looks like chicken pox, but if you do not treat it well, it spreads and the skin gets raw. He spent two months being treated by dad (Mestre). It was the time when he was almost healed (…)
According to the accounts given to Teófilo, when he was feeling almost recovered and without fever, João Pereira broke his diet after he insistentely convinced Manuel Belém that he was cured, the latter having cooked — without telling him– “duck in tucupi”, a dish typical of Pará cuisine, and which João Pereira had found. There is a variation of this account, when Paulo Serra says that it was Manoel Belém who convinced João Pereira to eat the aforementioned dish, but the result, no matter by what means, was that the disease returned with increased strength, only this time it did not leave him, as tells Teófio,
(…) At about three o’clock in the afternoon João Pereira was already totally blind, because the smallpox had resurfaced again with full force, manifesting itself most strongly in his eyes. The next day he could no longer wear clothes, and a loft lined with banana leaves was made so that João Pereira could lie down without having anything stick to his wounds.
João Pereira lived in this suffering for about fifteen days, and on a fine afternoon he asked for Daime and his maracá and, half-seated, he sang “On The Left Side I’ll Follow”. He sang twice and, before night came, he passed away to the astral. This event had serious consequences in the fraternity, because Mestre, disgusted with the disobedience of Manoel Belém, punished him with a year without Daime. Manoel did not like this and abandoned the doctrine; and with him went his entire family, including Tronquinho, his son who was married to Laura Vieira, daughter of the deceased Maria Damião, who accompanied her husband and with whom went all her brothers and sisters; so the whole family of Maria Damião left the doctrine. [Teófilo Maia]
João Pereira died in the early ’50s, date unknown, although the identification of his gravestone shows the year of 1952. It is believed that with the reform of the Cemetery Palmeiral some dates were lost (M. Paulo 2011). According to Bayer, the date would have been the year of 1954.
Love in my Mother
I step firmly and follow in front
With love in my heart
Love in my Father
I follow in front and it is the truth
I am the son of reality
Through the punishment given by Mestre to Manoel Belém, we can get an idea of how all the followers were important in the life and mission of Irineu Serra, while it was also required of them firmness on a daily basis in order to follow the often challenging path presented by the sacred drink.
João Pereira died without a caretaker for his hymnbook, which today is very much admired and sung among the centers of Daime, and a surprising discovery is that the disease and the circumstances of his death struck the community with such impact that his hymnbook was not sung for three years [M. Paulo 2011]. Still, regarding this hiatus after the death of João Pereira, Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae tell in their book, “Eu Venho de Longe”:
Antônio Roldão (brother-in-law of Mestre) volunteered to be his caretaker, but he could not recall one of his hymns. Mrs. Percília also could not remember the hymn, and thus, of the hymnbook of João Pereira, which contained forty five hymns, we now only know forty four. (…) Let’s look below at what Mrs. Percília has to say about this.
“Boy, his illness was a disease so weird that I do not know how to explain it. I know that he was sick and bedridden for a long time. He even had a hymn, a pretty hymn, close to the end of the hymnbook that was left out. I knew his hymnbook by heart, every hymn, but when he was sick I forgot a few. When I saw that he was close to his passage… But he was firm in his thoughts, and even though we saw that there was no turning back, he was lucid until the last moment.
(…) I realized that his passage was near and that I did not remember all his hymnbook, so I called Antônio Roldão, who was the brother of Mrs. Raimunda, brother-in-law of Mestre. He also knew his hymnbook. I said that I would make João Pereira sing the hymns with or without drawn voice, but Antônio came and said, “Don’t you worry, I know his hymnbook from start to finish”.
I rested assured, and when the man died he did not know the one hymn that was missing, but it was too late. The hymnbook of João Pereira was put aside for three years. One day Mestre called me and said, “Do you remember the hymns of João Pereira?” “Yes I do, sir.” “Then choose one person to whom you’ll teach his hymnbook so that it can be reinstated in the works”.
I chose Chico Grangeiro. We called him and asked if he wanted to be the caretaker and he said, “Yes, I do”. I started teaching him, but he struggled to nail it. I do not know why. When he began to sing the hymns, he said he felt agony, chills and everything when he was supposed to sing it in a work. Later he learned it quite well (…).” [Percília Ribeiro]
In correspondence with Ricardo Plácido, he tells us that even though the caretaking of the hymnbook of João Pereira was in the hands of Francisco Grangeiro, years later, presumably at the former headquarters of CICLU, Grangeiro came to Saturnino, son of Luiz Mendes, and told him to prepare to receive in miração the caretaking from João Pereira himself in a work, which was performed and the transfer was confirmed by Grangeiro, and the caretaking is still in charge of Saturnino.
I tell to my Master
That I lived in the desert
By the petals of this flower
I ask my Master not to forsake me
Of the four companions, the image that remains is that of each one playing a major role in the fortification of the doctrine, literally forming, along with the followers of the time, “The General Staff of Mestre”. In turn, Mestre himself recognized the value of these followers in the composition of his work, also recognizing the unifying power that they had to keep their families together within the community, as is clear in the cases of both João Pereira and Maria Damião where their families dispersed from the doctrine after they had passed away, and which remains today without their representatives.
Decades later, besides the accounts that exist today, the legacy that these four pioneers left for the Santo Daime doctrine remains immortalized in their hymnbooks, in which we can understand the mission they represented, the importance of the teachings they transmitted and, above all, the concordance and the order they had with Mestre’s own hymnbook, “O Cruzeiro”, being formalized in life by Irineu Serra himself, as the doctrinal basis of the Santo Daime.
Thus, among the bastions of the doctrine, this series of four studies on the Companions ends appropriately with the sentences of the last hymn of João Pereira, who is living proof of the presence and beauty, in matter and spirit, of our Mestre Raimundo Irineu Serra, the General Juramidam.
On the left side I’ll follow
On the left side I have to go
With the power of the Eternal Father
And of the Ever Virgin Mary
Mestre orders me to stand in line
On the left side of the General
He orders me to firm myself
And to compose myself in my place