The Life of Maria Marques Vieira, the Maria Damião.
By Rodrigo Borges Conti Tavares [1] / English review by Moonvine

 
The Life of Maria Marques Vieira, the Maria Damião

The Juramidam Family, April 13th of 2009

Maria Damião -- when I first thought of writing about this icon of the doctrine and holder of a hinário venerated by all, I thought it would be a difficult task, impossible even.

But it was with humility that I held to my original intention, through force of necessity and feeling that it was important for the doctrine. Because many questions have always surrounded Maria Marques Vieira, and in the past she was always wrapped up in a mantle of mystery and obscurity. For many people there was a contradiction between singing her hinário and reading or listening to what was said about her.

Perhaps the most cited phrase of all was that she was a forlorn sister, living sick and through difficulties in her life, in the works of Irineu Serra's mission, and often being abandoned by her own spiritual community. But the fact is that the accounts coming from people who knew her tell us otherwise.

I am a son of my Mother
And She embraces those who accompany me
I say with firmness
That my Mother doesn't abandon me

In the last few years I have been planning without success to travel to Acre, especially to talk to the elders and seek information about Mestre and the Companions (Germano Guilherme, Antônio Gomes, João Pereira and Maria Damião). It saddens me the fact that, of these pioneers, whose hymnbooks were made the official ones of the doctrine by Mestre Irineu (together with his), little is known or was written. Lacking the conditions to travel, I am resorting to the goodwill of those who have access to the information that we do not have. It so happens that the fraternity never fails, and little by little I started to gather enough material and support to carry on with this project.

The story of my writing this text began a few months ago when Teófilo Maia wrote me an e-mail expressing some doubts regarding a famous photo from the history of the doctrine -- of the community gathered in Vila Ivonete -- and published by Eduardo Bayer. Teófilo Maia thought that the girl in the photo could be Maria Damião due to her thin, small figure. He also knew that the girl in the blue dress was Laura Vieira, daughter of Maria Damião. That alone gave us something to wonder about because we still don't know of a photo where Maria Damião is present.

Further on in my research, as I read these words of Eduardo Bayer about the state of abandonment of some members from families of prominent figures in the doctrine, my wish to find a photo of Maria Damião felt superficial in comparison, even childish on my part. He puts it this way: 

"(...) regarding the life of Maria Marques, I remember that once, at CICLU – Alto Santo, I saw a homage being made to her only surviving daughter, and she was an old lady, very poor and skinny. Unfortunately, I didn't have to hand any means of documenting things with her, nor was I able to join in offering some comfort to her, which makes me think of how much we are mistaken when giving privilege to determined "big figures" of the doctrine (and their families) to the detriment of others, or for not even creating assistance mechanisms to those more in need. The memory of the doctrine has lost a great deal, and more still continues to be lost by this kind of bloodsucking research undertaken by some for only a few. ... I hope that we always know how to ask the Daime for discernment about how to dedicate our time to what really matters, and less to futile reflections!" [2]

We previously knew that Maria Marques Vieira was born in Belém do Pará, on November 4th of 1910*, and was still very young when she moved with her family to Rio Branco, Acre, where in 1931 she came to know Mestre Raimundo Irineu Serra. Maria Damião, as she became known -- due to her husband’s name -- was of short height, white and blond. She married, had seven children (including one adopted nephew), losing her husband soon after.

*According to research made by Mivan Gedeon, where the date is written on the grave of Maria Damião.

She dedicated herself, besides the doctrine, to working the land. “She planted, plowed and harvested the daily bread that helped to raise her children”, relates Mrs. Percília Matos, who was a great friend of hers.  
 
According to José Francisco das Neves Junior (known as “Counselor Zé das Neves”),
“Mestre Irineu had lots of students, many more than a thousand, but not all made the same effort to learn. There were many who took it seriously and I can mention one: Maria Damião was a pupil who worked many years with Mestre. ... she learned and she received a hinário, and because of this she will be a person always remembered within the Doctrine.” [3]

Jairo da Silva Carioca also narrates,
“Spiritually speaking, Maria Damião received one of the most beautiful hinários of the doctrine, known today as 'O Mensageiro' and comprised of 49 hymns. Her hymns verbalize in their totality the words of Mestre Irineu. The origin of the use of the word pátria (motherland) in the Doctrine belongs to this hinário where Maria Damião, through her hymns, speaks to us about the love for the motherland. Other passages foretold events that were going to happen in the future, such as the divisions of the group in 1974 and 1981. During World War II, in 1942, when the Japanese Navy was defeated [in the battle of Midway] and the Italians and Germans were ejected from the North of Africa, Maria Damião announced through her hymns: “New revolutions with the foreigners.” Her hinário also describes the figure of a foreign Chief, but very few in the Doctrine know about the origins and significance of this mysterious spiritual being.

Foretelling her passage, Mestre received the hymn 'Choro Muito'. Nobody new that she was sick. Three days after the appearance of this hymn, news arrived that she was agonizing. She suddenly got sick and died at 32 years of age. Maria Damião also talks of her passage into the spiritual existence in her last hymn, named 'Despedida' (Farewell).” [4]


From the recently published book, "Eu Venho de Longe", by Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae, we learn a little more about her life and her children.

Maria Francisca Vieira, also known as Maria Marques Vieira (married name), or Maria Damião, became a widow at the age of 30. Her hinário was greatly appreciated by the daimistas and would become one of the most important of the Daime. It is known that she was born in Ceará, on November 4, 1910, and arrived in Acre in the late 1920s, alongside Porfilio, her first husband, but with whom she had no children. Shortly after their arrival, he was murdered, and then she met Damião Marques de Oliveira, marrying him at the beginning of the 1930s. Together they had six children: Raimundo, Laura, Lúcio, Hugo, Valdir and Matilde. The couple also went on to raise a nephew of Damião, Wilson, son of Manuel Marques (Damião's brother). Damião's brothers -- Peter, Manuel and Lucas also became followers of Mestre Irineu, along with their wives and children (...).

(...) In the late 1930s, Damião Marques de Oliveira, husband of Maria Francisca Vieira (Maria Damião), fell severely ill with pneumonia, spending about six months convalescing from the illness. Mestre came to treat him, but it is said that Damião did not comply with the treatment and thus died. No-one knows the exact date of his death, knowing only that he died soon after the birth of her youngest daughter, Matilde, on November 21, 1939. Thus, the late 1930s marked ten years of the work of Mestre Irineu and also the death of Damião Marques de Oliveira (...).

(...) The family of Damião was very important in Mestre's circle of friends. It was they who provided support for the holding of the Daime rituals in a larger space, on the terrace of their house, where they could fit more participants. Maria Damião played an important role in the rituals of Mestre Irineu, giving aid to beginners and to those who needed comfort. [9]


Maria Damião died on April the 2nd of 1949*, at the age of 38. After her death, the hinário “O Mensageiro” proceeded to be cared for affectionately by Percília Matos, the archivist of the hinarios of the doctrine. Luiz Carlos Teixeira de Freitas tells us,
“Mrs. Percília was chosen by Mrs. Maria Damião to be the caretaker of her hinário (as similarly occurred in the case of Mestre Irineu’s hinário) ... Germano Guilherme chose Luiz Mendes, João Pereira chose Francisco Grangeiro, and Antonio Gomes chose Mrs. Adália”. [5]

*According to her eldest son, Raimundo Damião, who at the time of her death was almost 18 years old.
 
Going back to my e-mail exchange with Teófilo Maia, we encouraged each other to seek more, which is what he did -- being at that time in Alto Santo -- talking to Mrs. Adália, Mrs. Cecília (known as Vó Preta), Paulo Serra (Mestre's adoptive son), seu Fred (an old man that he met in the colonist's market), Valdirene (daughter of Paulo Serra and granddaughter of Mestre) and her spouse Carlinhos, and others. And the information started to arrive. The woman in question in the photo was Mrs. Bibi, the sister of Mrs. Percília Matos. The girl next to Laura Vieira was Mrs. Adália Gomes herself, being very close to the Damião family. In this search, Mrs. Adália even recognized Damião Marques, husband of Maria Damião. Mrs. Cecília affirms that Maria Damião was present on that occasion when the photo was taken, but did not appear in it.

Mestre and the first followers, Vila Ivonete

Teófilo tells us about her life, her condition and routine, this way,

“Maria Francisca Marques Vieira was a living example of loving one's fellow man, as shown in what I have already verified in a considerable part of her attitudes which have been recounted by those who were close to her children; and mostly by Mrs. Cecília, who was the one who accompanied Maria Damião to the market and helped to sell her products (peanut candy bars, gum, coal, cassava cake, gum cookies, sun-dried cakes, etc.) after she became a widow. Due to the fact that she was illiterate and did not know how to count money, she always needed the counseling of Vó Preta (as Mrs. Cecília is known, today with almost a century of age). Nobody knew Maria Damiao's true name [Maria Francisca] but this information was provided by Mrs. Adália Gomes, who is still very lucid, because I found her threading a sewing machine, and without glasses.

Researching with Valdirene -- the granddaughter of Mrs. Cecília --  and her husband Carlinhos, and Mrs. Cecília's son, Paulo Serra (Mestre’s adoptive son), I was able to dig up the information that Maria Damião was not a 'poor little girl', as we are led to think in her hymn 'O GLOBO', which says, among other lines, 'I live in this brotherhood / Like a forlorn sister...' Maria Damião was an independent woman who had her own piece of cultivated land, having her own production.” [6]

Raimundo Irineu Serra and the first followers settled in the Vila Ivonete, in 1931, giving birth to the initial works of the Santo Daime doctrine and later on, in 1945, opened a new path on the grounds of Alto Santo, but Maria Damião always lived where the old district of Alberto Tôrres is located. As Mr. Luiz Mendes relates: “Through the strength of his companions they got him a colony at Vila Ivonete. It seems to be that Mestre was one of the first tenants.” Jairo Carioca also tells us: “From the start, in the very act of taking possession of the land, Irineu Serra started to organize his portion of the land with the intention of planting and making it productive. He built a small adobe house similar to the ones in his homeland, and began living in the area, alongside other rubber tappers”.

It is in this initial process of building that the first hinário of the doctrine was sung in the house of the Damião family, as tells Mrs. Percília Matos da Silva in the video Lua Branca:"Damião Marques, who was the husband of Maria Damião, offered his house and that if it was Mestre's wish, the work could be held there. Then he accepted and we did."

It was the 23rd of June of 1935. Mestre organized two workfronts. The men went to get logs for a bonfire and the women prepared the ornamentation and a big supper which Mestre requested for the interval. When it was around six in the afternoon, at the house of Mrs. Maria Damião, we got together, prayed a rosary, drank the Daime and went to sing until midnight. We only had eight hymns! One from Germano Guilherme, four from Mestre, two from João Pereira and one from Maria Damião. They were repeated in the same order for the whole night. When it was midnight he gave an interval, the supper already prepared on a great table, when he told us to sing three times that hymn:

Father of heaven of the heart
Who today on this day
Was who gave our bread
Thanks to mom

Mother of heaven of the heart

Who today on this day
Was who gave our bread
Praised be God

This hymn was sung in such a beautiful way that I will never forgot... even today…” Cries, touched with emotion, Mrs. Percília Matos. After midnight the group came back to sing the determined sequence of hymns till the dawn of the day. It was the day of Saint John the Baptist. [4]

Luiz Carlos Teixeira explains to us a little about the reality surrounding the doctrine in the decades after the settling of the first followers which helps us to understand about the oft-referred to quality of Maria Damião being a forlorn sister.

“[In 1945] after Mestre’s move to the rubber plantation called 'Dispersed' -- donated to him by the Administrator of the territory of Acre and later designated as 'Alto Santo' -- his practice was the concession of small lots in the immense area so that close followers could build their houses and there live with their families, without this constituting a 'community'. This concession was free, but there was no legal transfer of property; it was mostly a 'loan', so to speak, and not necessarily for 'homeless and needy ones' or in the sense of being for 'the ones who do not have anything'…

Many worked in the city -- in various occupations -- and even Mestre Irineu hired some of them for small services on his land or plantations (it was vast...), paying them in cash for a day's work or for a job (Luiz Mendes was one of these).

Therefore, in the context of this local pattern of the time, it makes sense to think that Mrs. Maria Damião had her own plantation and lived by selling her products locally. But it should not be understood to be an indicator of her being the only 'independent one', since many were as well, each in their own way.

In this sense as well, the 'forlorn sister' that Maria Damião sings of in one of her hymns should not be understood in the material sense of penury, but actually in regard to her situation of surrender to God, awaiting salvation. The humble attitude implicit in this latter concept is a quality present in countless holy people." [5]


For many who know her hinário, it has become a symbol of justice and recognition of the human struggle on earth. We also should not disregard the fact that the remembrance of the first followers is often filled with the spirit of the northeasterners, strong people who resiliently faced the many diversities of life with courage and faith. It is not by chance that they are often called “pioneers”. Today, with the works already established, it is difficult to understand how much they gave us when first accompanying Mestre Irineu in the opening of his mission.

I slacken things by an inch
The people are already going to scream
Rescue me, my Eternal Father
Master, I'm going to die

“Due to being well organised and independent in her life, she was the target of many intrigues and jealousies regarding Mestre, woven mostly by his wife, at that time Mrs. Raimunda Marques. Then, when she lost her husband -- who died of pulmonary deficiency –- the stigma of a sick woman was attributed to her, but in fact she was perfectly healthy. She worked hard in farming and the charcoal-pit, sending the results of her labor –- with the help of Mr. Manoel Dantas -- to the old market in the 'Iron Bridge' wharf, because he was the one who had a cart, besides João Pereira who Maria Damião avoided due to the intrigues of Mrs. Raimunda (João Pereira's step-daughter).

Mrs. Adália Gomes was very close to Laura Vieira, to the point of being made part of the 'imbicirica' [a mocking term] of Maria Damião, which was what the jealous ones called her offspring, because in every work she would bring along all her children.

Because she had a girl's stature, Mr. Dantas would, on a monthly basis, transport the produce of Maria Damião, delivering it on a Saturday . He received the delivery's money to bring back kerosene, salt, tablets of brown sugar, dried meat etc., because the rice, beans, flour and milk she had at home in a barn. That was when she would go with Mrs. Cecília to the market to sell cakes, sweets and other cassava products, and where she became recognized for her humility. One of the things that proves the divine aura of this creature was the fact that she was never tricked in her profits, because by not knowing how to count money she would humble herself to her customers asking if she still needed "to give more change", confessing her ignorance on this matter. With this, folks would take pity on her and even give back what she had often given in excess." [6]


Assisted by another personal account, we can understand many of the passages lived in the doctrine, as is told to us by Mr. Luiz Mendes, 

“Throughout Mestre’s history he had his ups, very high impressive ones like he still has, but he also had his downs. It is characteristic of the mission, isn’t it? Then he acted as everything, even as God. He was the delegate, he was the judge; everything was in him. Then, in view of this, if today people give trouble, which is characteristic of the mission as well -- he even classified as 'the worst animal there was to struggle with were people' -- well, it also existed at that time; there were already all these people and they would give a lot of trouble. Many unpleasant things; it is such a thing, such a shame.” [7]


Also writing to Débora Gabrich -- veteran researcher of the doctrine and the feminine leader of CICLUMIG -- I had an important confirmation, indeed a moving one, where she tells us about the mutual respect existing between Mestre and Maria Damião.

“They say that she was blonde, white, young, pretty and that the former wife of Mestre [Raimunda] would die of jealousy, to the point of not allowing her presence in the works for several months. Then Mestre would send Daime to Maria Damião and they would meet in the astral. I witnessed Padrinho Luiz [Mendes] telling this.” [8]

About her passage, Maria Damião died suddenly, working with masonry, supposedly of an aneurism.

“(…) and she had already run away from the oven with a strong headache, assisted by her companion, Mrs. Cecília, who was saying, 'Maria, this is going to pass, I'll quickly make a tea...' But she asked for Mestre Irineu to be called, who came from Alto Santo and administered to her the Santo Daime. Then she asked, 'Mestre, take care of my children'. He just answered: 'Maria'. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cecília consoled her, saying, 'This is going to pass soon...' And she answered to her, 'Only God, only God...' these were her last words.

Concerning the spiritual works, Mrs. Adália tells us that Maria Damião didn’t attend the center for a certain period of time. She suffered too much, feeling great sadness, because upon her arrival the wife of Mestre Irineu -- Mrs. Raimunda Marques -- would leave in jealousy; a fact that would sadden Mestre Irineu, especially when it happened on a 'Christmas' night. Mrs. Adália does not tell us of dates, because back then it wasn’t a habit to set [calendar] dates, but instead to follow the moon phases or festivals.

Another fact is that whenever she received a hymn, due to not knowing how to write, she would run to the house of Mrs. Percília Matos, with whom she was a great friend, so that she could copy the hymn in her notebook. Then she would sing it to Mestre.

Regarding the saga of her children, after the request was made to Mestre, Mrs. Raimunda would have commented, 'I still have to swallow this lump!' To which Mestre answered, 'Charity exists to be practiced'. The children plus the nephew came to Alto Santo, where they were very well cared for by Mestre and even by Mrs. Raimunda, who tried to learn the lesson. But it did not prevent some of them from receiving a punishment on occasion, because they were mischievous
kids.” [6]

Regarding the situation of the family after the death of Maria Damião, the book "Eu Venho de Longe", by Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae, tells more:

With the death of Maria Damião, her children were orphaned, and they were still minors. Only the eldest, Raimundo, was close to eighteen. So, Raimundo, Laura, Lúcio, Hugo, Valdir, Matilde and Wilson (the nephew raised by Maria Damião) were all sent to live with Mestre Irineu in Alto Santo.

Later, Raimundo said he went against his will [to live with Mestre] and, according to some reports, the stay of Maria Damião's family in the house of Mestre Irineu would have been marked by conflicting relationships with his wife, Mrs. Raimunda. On this passage of his life, Raimundo said:

We went to live there, in Alto Santo... I did not want to go, but Guiomard dos Santos said: "No, Irineu, you have to take them, because these children will not stay here alone."

I did not want to go, I said: "I can take care of my siblings", because we had the house of my father, which my mother left to us, but to live in the house of others? No way. Then Mestre Irineu came with my brother in law, João Belém, with two carts. It took one week of moving; pigs, chicken and everything else. Then we spent some nine years being raised in Mestre's house, and when we reached maturity, we left. (Raimundo Damião) [9]

About the children of Maria Damião, it is known that Laura Vieira married the son of Manoel Belém, known as “Tronquinho”. Laura Vieira's siblings accompanied the new couple in this union. Years later, in the 50s, Manoel Belém left the work of Irineu Serra and with him went his son and Laura Vieira, his wife, and her siblings. Some time later Laura Vieira separated from Tronquinho. Despite the changes, Mrs. Matilde, Laura Vieira’s surviving sister, remains today at the same place. Raimundo and Valdir, sons of Maria Damião, are also still alive.

Teófilo recounts, concerning the memory of Maria Damião:


The reverence given to Maria Damião today comes from the recognition of her value by the whole fraternity. There is even a comment made by Mr. José das Neves -- who was and still is in the spiritual plane the Master Counselor and who lies buried to the left of Mestre Irineu’s grave -- that recognized Maria as the disciple who learned the most.

Within all the centers, in Alto Santo and beyond, the hinário of Maria Damião is sung mostly in the cura [healing] works, because it is considered, like the others -- Germano, Antonio Gomes, João Pereira... -- to be Mestre’s messages that would have arrived through this very delicate vessel. Besides the cura works, it is the favorite hinário for closing the feitio in many centers, together with the hinário of João Pedro.

In this way Maria confirmed with her [living] presence all that already had been taught, so much so that she received the hymn “Despedida” in perfect state of health, and in her work was shown that her mission had become ephemeral -- that she needed to depart. This fact is present in the general comment that, when receiving the hymn Despedida and taking it to be written down in the notebook, she heard, perhaps from Mrs. Percília, 'Hail Mary! What is this, I am all creepy....'  This happened a few days before her stroke. There is no knowledge of a comment made by Mestre Irineu concerning this hymn, we do not even know that it was presented to him as well as the previous ones. [6]


Therefore, here is surrendered this small homage to the one who was always a fortress of the doctrine: Maria Marques Vieira, one of the four known “companions” of Mestre and who with him, Germano Guilherme, Antônio Gomes and João Pereira gave us the ABC of this doctrine.

Your little house is ready
Your paths are open
A garden of flowers
Is offered to you

Jesus Christ the Savior
And the Queen of the Forest
If Thou thinkest I am worthy
Receive me oh honest Mother

In my listening I heard
A great celebration
My brothers arriving
And my body liquefying

I corrected my thought
I asked for pardon from my Father
So that I would be able to follow
My happy journey

The Master who teaches us
Thou art my guide
Thou takest me to the Divine
And to the Ever Virgin Mother

Alto Santo

***

 

[1] Rodrigo Borges Conti Tavares graduated in Visual Communication from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro - UFRJ and is who envisions and maintains The Juramidam Family website, where he dedicates himself to the studies of the doctrine, particularly its roots.

[2] Eduardo Bayer Neto is a writer, video-documentary producer and forest engineer. He is also employee of the Elias Mansour Foundation, of the Acre state and envisioner of the Ayahuasca Virtual Museum project - of which the cyber magazine Arca da União (Union Ark) is an integral part.

[3] José Francisco das Neves Junior.

[4] Personal Account of Jairo da Silva Carioca, published in the website mestreirineu.org.

[5] Luiz Carlos de Carvalho Teixeira de Freitas is a journalist, psychologist and writer. He is a student of Jungian and transpersonal psychology and of comparative religions. Also, he is the founder and adviser of the Beneficent Association Santo Antonio de Pádua, the organization that is the keeper of the Casa de Oração Sete Estrelas, in Cotia, São Paulo state.

[6] Teófilo Maia is a fardado living in Céu do Mapiá, who conducted this research while in Alto Santo, in the center of Mrs. Valdirene who is the daughter of Mr. Paulo Serra (Mestre’s adopted son).

[7] Recorded interview with Mr. Luiz Mendes do Nascimento on January 8th of 2007, in his house in Vila Fortaleza, State of Acre, during the VI Encounter for the New Horizon. This interview belongs to the patrimony of CEFLI, and its use for any means should be authorized and accredited.

[8] Débora de Carvalho Pereira Gabrich is the co-leader of the Centro de Iluminação Cristão Luz Universal de Minas Gerais – CICLUMIG. She has a Master's degree in Rural Extension by the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) – MG and is a founding member of the Nucleolus of Studies Pro Amazon of the UFV. Since 1996 she has carried out research in Acre about the cultural and religious tradition of the Santo Daime; specifically in the centers of the lineage designated as “Alto Santo”, whose ritual has been adopted by CICLUMIG.

[9] From the book "Eu Venho de Longe", by Paulo Moreira and Edward MacRae / EDUFBA, Salvador, Bahia - 2011