By Eduardo Bayer Neto*, from the online magazine Arca da União.
I have in hands the certificate copy of her civil marriage that she herself offered to me, once I wanted to photograph Mestre Irineu documents, saying that perhaps one day I could need it. There it says that in Rio Branco, Acre, on September the 15th of 1956 -- having as witnesses the couple Raimundo Estácio Neves and Erecina Amaral Neves -- Raymundo Irineu Serra (with Y) and Perigrina do Nascimento (with I) got married, she being born in July 14th of 1936, in that same city, daughter of Sebastião do Nascimento and Zulmira do Nascimento, residing in the Colony Alberto Torres. The age difference among the groom and the bride was of more than a half century, being her in that year only twenty years old, and that in this year of 2006 she will celebrate her 70th birthday with renewed vigor and beauty, as well as the fifty years anniversary with the one that would be known as the Master Emperor of the Santo Daime doctrine.
To homage Madrinha Peregrina is not an easy task, for the much perfection that I know she will demand from my intention, although this task arrives as one of the more necessary and pleasing for me, who had the privilege of harboring her friendship.
She, who arrived in the Doctrine while still in her mother's arms -- when the family of Antônio Gomes, her grandfather, joined the doctrine founded by Mestre Irineu -- still is today one of its truest symbols, and however one of the humbler people among his followers. Bestowed with the fiber of Ceará’s people, firm and strong, she spent her youth working in the fields, as well as the whole family, perhaps the reason that in her maturity, in the modesty of her home she wanted to collect dolls, like a childhood wish that only later could be attended. And to the ones who imagine that she, for not having had children from her own womb is “less of a mother”, it is because they don’t know the family's children that she protected neither her adoptive children to whom she dedicated herself with extraordinary fondness.
The story of how Mestre’s marriage with Mrs. Peregrina happened is narrated by Jairo Da Silva Carioca:
“In 1956, after spending three years alone, Mestre Irineu began the preparation for a new wedding. This time, following the orientation of his spiritual teacher, Clara, he was more cautious in the choice of his new companion. In fact, of 66 years of age he knew that he had to choose as a companionship the one that would be heiress of the whole fortress of his teachings.
This way the preliminary contacts with Mrs. Zulmira Gomes, mother of Peregrina Gomes, were made. Peregrina Gomes was a woman that at the peak of her youth stood out as the ideal person for the great master. “It was months of observation before he had the first talk with Mrs. Zulmira,” reports Mrs. Percília Matos. After receiving the family acceptance through Zulmira Gomes, who acted as a mediator, Mestre Irineu sought the bride’s consent that was only 17 years old. “He asked me if I would accept to marry him and I said yes, if it is also accepted by my family,” reports madrinha Peregrina.
And so it happened. After the arrangements and document preparations, the 15th of September of the same year was settled as the date for the great festivity. “I met him two or three times before the wedding”, told me madrinha Peregrina. The fraternity was invited for three days of intense festivities. It was Mestre’s matrimonial union. On the 15th of September, after the civil and religious ceremony, the new couple hosted the fraternity at Alto Santo. Music, dance and a feast marked the unforgettable day. From that day on Peregrina Gomes started to sign her last name as Serra. It was unified the divine love that united the couple. Mestre Irineu was aware that from that point on he would be preparing the one that would be the heiress of his teachings”
After Mestre’s death in 1971, Madrinha Peregrina was only thirty-five years old, proceeding behind the scene in the CICLU's life, presided by her uncle Leôncio Gomes, for being still considered “very young”. There wasn’t lack of people with the intent to marry Mestre’s widow, this way getting to the Center’s command, because the greed for power is always one of the easier temptations to feed on and the youth and perfection of the young Madrinha also fitted as an excuse for the more susceptible ones. In a way this fact motivated her mother, Madrinha Zulmira, to place Peregrina in an unreachable space, making her even more pronounced as a symbolic illustration representing the Queen of the Forest in the Santo Daime rites.
When her uncle Leôncio died, the Gomes family would stand up to refuse the command that proceeded being exercised by Francisco Fernando Filho, Tetéu, who would forever modify the life in the Alto Santo colony -- today the Irineu Serra district -- with the appearance of the first of the dissident churches in the same neighborhood, which would anxiously reach for the ownership of the center original documentation. Thus, CICLU proceeded being the headquarters raised by Tetéo and his companions while the old headquarters would remain without documentation. The legal matter was lost in court and Madrinha Peregrina, in order to pay her lawyers, had also to bear with the loss of great part of her patrimony, made of land inherited from Mestre. Much later is that Madrinha’s headquarters received another statute, as the CICLU – ALTO SANTO, and such complaint was just recently undone with the devolution of the old CICLU's documentation to which in fact it belonged.
Today, when I visit her in the porch of her house, I see Madrinha’s eyes gaze towards east, while she says,
“You have no idea to what has been happening with these people, no... It is everything so different. The old folks are all passing away... and the ones who left were not because anybody sent them away, they left because they wanted. And here it has the hymn that says ‘withdrawing from this line, don’t expect to be called…’ It is not me who is going to ask anybody to come back; each one that settle in their own deeds and wrongdoings... Thence I feel sad on seeing that the progress arrived to the Alto Santo colony but with it also the calmness is gone; the way of life from Mestre’s time, the peace of mind, and even the concentration sessions has to have sound-track because there is no silence anymore in the suburb nights. And to think that I still had the happiness of in 1994 take part in my first concentration, in the old headquarters, only with candle lights (because there was a blackout in that night and there wasn’t diesel generators anymore) and an immense silence, connecting many dimensions of time in which that same work was done since the age of Mestre Irineu, alive, among his faithful followers”
To the ones who considers that the doctrine founded by Mestre Irineu, in that sacred space of prayer, would not have pertinence or cultural relevance if it wasn’t by the continuity provided by Sebastião Mota de Melo and the Eclectic Center of the Universal Flowing Light, and considers that Madrinha Peregrina owns a retrograde mentality for not leaving wide open the gates of the center, of which she is a Dignitary, for all the ones who want to know the Santo Daime, it is good to clarify that everything that she and the fardados of her center, to her obedient do is to accomplish precisely something that was asked for, and more than requested, determined by Mestre to them. First of all: If Mestre Irineu had predicate to them to take care for the doctrinaire expansion, establishing branches in other cities and regions with the purpose of doing of the Santo Daime worship a new religion, they would have attended his wish, especially because it was already being formed at that time a nucleus in Rondônia. Second of all: If Mestre Irineu had predicate to them a spiritist channeling work and of the visible mediumship development, they would have dedicated themselves to this line, because it has been always clear that the work with the Santo Daime was a work with reincarnation beliefs. Third of all: If Mestre Irineu had by chance predicated to them to make use of the “cannabis” as consecrated plant, they without dread would have been obedient to this instruction, because with equal confidence they learnt to use the ayahuasca as a communion ritual. However, Mestre Irineu did not assign to them none of these attributions, or even better, he prohibited them to do it so. Nothing more logical, therefore, that the ones who remained in their places for more than thirty years don’t have the slightest disposition to modify their ritual standards or even to collaborate with the propagation of disfigured copies of the same in the purpose of attending personal interests of prestige or hegemony.
Authentic and abnegated, the example given by Madrinha Peregrina over the fifty years as Mrs. Peregrina Gomes Serra is exactly the one of being keeper of the perseverance and of the firmness qualified by the teachings of the esteemed Mestre Irineu. Her only attitude regarding the ones who abandoned their places in the headquarters to follow the path that to them fitted better is the one of strangeness, and never the one of persecution, boycott or curse. Madrinha Peregrina belongs to the peace flag, not the one of the surrender to the mandatory modernizations or to egregores’ manipulations, but to the peace sword’s white flag, where only is accepted who accepts the conduct rules of her house, not the rules that she instituted but the rules that were left by the one who is long gone but that continues to own her; Mr. Raymundo Irineu Serra.
About the doctrinaire expansion, she reminds that the Daime (therefore Mestre) is for all but not everyone is for the Daime; that it is prohibited to invite whoever be to take part in her works and therefore there cannot be proselytism. About the eclectic channeling works with the brew she says that the ones who claim it should stop using the farda [uniform] instituted by Mestre and to establish a totally new uniform and ritual, stopping characterizing themselves as Mestre Irineu’s followers, as he never (although it was under his reach to do it so) instructed that kind of ritual, but instead he instructed the one of acting within the invisible, in astral projection for the assistance of the needful ones. Regarding the “cannabis”, she says that if this plant had in itself a doctrine, they should create their religion based only on its use, leaving behind the ayahuasca communion (and the good name of the Santo Daime) spared from confusions, and if they don’t do it is because perhaps they want to pretentiously reset the doctrine founded by Mestre on behalf of something that they themselves do not even have control.
She understands that many ended up knowing the hinários and the work ritual through these institutions, that are today dispersed throughout Brazil and the world, thanks to the sacrificed initiative of Sebastião Mota, the Padrinho Sebastião, to exercise thus his charity works, but she knows with all certainty that her small center could never want to be responsible for the consequences of the administration of such “disordered” expansion, and she seeks then, above all, to preserve the identity of her house as “Free Center”, an institution without branch that is dedicated to cultivate the doctrine left by its founder through the tradition and of the obedience.
“Whoever wants to run may run, and whoever wants to jump may jump”
In Mestre's old headquarters the hinários follow being celebrated with much harmony --maracás hit on the palm of the hand, the dance being unfolded with martial elegance, under the care of an exemplary musicians' team, without hinário books in the hand and just relying on participants with farda and aligned in unity. When necessary, Madrinha Peregrina indeed innovates, or she attends the need to innovation, because anybody can be rigid while not knowing how to be flexible when the situation requires it. Many of those who left wore accepted upon their whishes to come back. Many of those who came from other centers, getting their stars from other leaders who are not even recognized as such by her, the day in which they asked for shelter and spoke their whishes to abide by the house rules, they were received with open arms, with their same battered uniforms, like myself one day. Others, like Wilson Carneiro, in spite of having opted for their own paths, nevertheless were received with dignity when they wanted to go there as visitors and they kissed her hand in a sign of reverence, calling her “my Madrinha…”
She receives everybody as a mother, because she knows that she is there because Mestre wanted to leave her as his representative and as the owner of his house. She expects people to bring her solutions, not problems, because each one has to account for their own deeds and to “collaborate”. For all this, in this year of 2006, our first homage is dedicated to her, Mrs. Peregrina Gomes Serra, Dignitary of the Universal Light Christian illumination Center, to whom Mestre affectionately called “Píu”, as if he witnessed in her a little bird of the “Celestial Court”.
God blesses Madrinha Peregrina, now and forever, with much peace and Health, for her and for all who recognize her and whishes her well!
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 idealizer of the Ayahuasca's Virtual Museum project - of which the cyber magazine Arca da União (Union Ark) is an integrant part.