The tradition of boiling herbs and leaves in water seems to be a universal one. While in the East and Europe the plant Camelia Sinensis (a.k.a. the tea plant) is favoured, in South America, a different plant has been the preferred brew for hundreds of years.
Yerba Mate is a plant of the holly family, which grows abundantly in South America and in particular, Paraguay. The native Guaraní people of the region have made use of the Yerba Mate plant for centuries, as a currency, a medicine, and a sociocultural drink. In fact, they consider the Yerba Mate tree the most precious tree of the forest, and one that was gifted by the gods. Read one of the many origin stories for the Yerba Mate beverage.
The Gift of the Moon
Guaraní legend has it that there was a beautiful goddess with pale white skin and pitch black hair who was fascinated with humans and the world in which they live. One night, she convinced her father, the god of all gods, to allow her to visit Earth so that she could walk through the world of her beloved humans. She descended from the heavens and spent hours wandering through the jungle, captivated by the plants and animals of the earth. So captivated by the humming of bees was she that she did not notice the jaguar that had crossed her path. Paralysed by fear and having lost her heavenly powers upon descending to earth, the goddess closed her eyes, convinced she was going to die.
But the jaguar never pounced. eventually the goddess opened her eyes to find a man, whispering to the jaguar, calming and taming it. The man noticed the goddess watching her, and spoke.
"My name is Arami," he said, bowing.
"I am Jasy" said the goddess. "Thank you for saving my life. The heavens will be eternally grateful for the help you have given me"
Arami looked up at the night sky. "The sunrise is still some hours away, and it is dangerous to be out in the jungle on a moonless night like tonight. Come and rest at my family's home until daylight comes."
Jasy smiled at the mention of the moon, and Arami was captivated by her beauty. She agreed to take shelter in his hut, and soon they were both asleep.
Arami dreamt of Jasy that night. He dreamt that he was floating over a huge white forest, and behind him, watching was Jasy. She had the same pale white sking and dark blackhair, but was so much taller and her hair was so much longer. Her face rose above the treetops, and her hair spread over the whole night sky. As Arami looked up at her face he realised that he was not floating, but was perched in the palm of Jasy's hand.
"As a reward for saving my life from the jauguar," Jasy said, "tomorrow when you wake up you will find a new plant in your garden. It's name is Caá." She went on to explain how to roast and grind the leaves to prepare a special kind of tea.
"This you will call Mate. You will share this with those whom your heart is attached, and feel the joy that comes from discovering the beauty of everyday life".
When Arami woke the next morning Jasy was no where to be found. There was however, a new plant in the middle of his garden - Yerba Mate. Marvelling at this discovery, Arami prepared the leaves in the way Jasy had instructed in his dream. As night fell, he took his first sip, and thinking of Jasy and her smile, he looked up to the skies to see a dazzling new moon rising.