Feb 5, 2016

Weird Brazil: Thick Woods

One of the downsides of living in a post-modern, globalized world is that, due to the ease of mobility, people have had a tendency to lose track of their roots, a factor with underestimated psychological effects. I was born in Brasília, and have lived here for most of my life, but the city was founded in 1960, which means that its inhabitants usually have roots in distant places. It was only a couple of years ago that for the first time, people born in Brasília made up more than half the population of the city.

The old adage goes something like "In order to know where one is going, one must first know where one comes from." For most of my life I had only vague notions of my family's history, on either side of the family. However, a few years ago I began to look into it, and what I found out really changed my perspective on myself.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind my father's family's reluctance to share their history with the younger ones - as it turns out, my ancestors had been quite wealthy, as they were owners of an engenho, basically the Brazilian equivalent of the American plantation - which meant that they had slaves. But it can be quite dangerous to withhold this type of knowledge, because it means that there is an aspect of ours that remains in the shadows.

And as a matter of fact, one of the matriarchs of the family freed all their slaves once her husband passed away, showing at least an attempt at some form of redemption. Good is always intertwined with bad. Anyway, the family remained influent - my greatgreatgrandfather was state governor - until the rise of Getúlio Vargas, who effectively dispossessed many oligarchic powers. As a result, the later members of the family just went into areas such as the military, diplomacy and teaching.

The aforementioned state is the state of Mato Grosso, or "thick woods". The state, now divided in two, is a bit of a non-factor in the national discourse, as it's not very populous - much of the state is forests and swamps. In my view, though, this makes it a bit of an occult place, begging for a more in-depth look.

Mato Grosso was basically just raided until the early 18th century, when gold was found. Much like in the US, it was in large part the search for gold that propelled the westward expansion - though not much Manifest Destiny around here. It was exactly this which first led my own family there from Portugal. From what I've gathered, my first ancestor in Brazil was a member of the Order of Christ, into which he got not by blood but essentially by getting rich.

After the Pope dissolved the Templars, many of them fled to Portugal, where they were welcomed with open arms. There, they became the Ordo Cristo, and it won't be a surprise to anyone that Portugal (Portu-graal) thereafter became a major naval power. They then set their sights west, just as the Templar offshoot in Great Britain did. The Order of Christ was a major player in the expansion towards the West, as is evident in their coat-of-arms:

So you've got your Templar cross, your phoenix rising (a prevalent theme in the construction of Brasília) and your golden mountain. Gotcha. The motto is virtute plusquam auro, or 'for virtue more than for gold'. Now, what exactly do they mean with 'virtue'?

Speaking of golden mountains, Mato Grosso is where the proto-Indiana Jones, Percy Fawcett. disappeared looking for the Lost City of Z (incidentally, I just learned that there is a movie coming out this year about this very story). Z is pretty much Eldorado, a mysterious "city of gold". But what exactly was he expecting? Wiki:

"Fawcett left behind instructions stating that if the expedition did not return, no rescue expedition should be sent lest the rescuers suffer his fate" .

His disappearance became shrouded in myth and legend, and nobody knows what happened to him. Where he disappeared, though, is where it gets interesting. Fawcett believed that Z was somewhere in the Serra do Roncador, or "Snorer's Sierra". This name is due to the section of the mountain where the wind passes through in a way that produces a snore-like sound.

Supposedly, Fawcett discovered this location in a vision induced by "Tibetan rituals". Nowadays, this sierra is visited by scores of new-agers of all sorts of beliefs. At the heart of the sierra, there is a crystalline lake called "the Portal". Supposedly there are absolutely no life forms in the lake's water, and it's rumored to be a "portal to Atlantis". Incidentally, the Snorer's Sierra is on the same latitude as Brasília, to the West.

So essentially, Fawcett was looking for a portal to another dimension, the location to which he discovered in a trance state. Huh. The nearest city to the sierra is Barra do Garças, Its own coat-of-arms, curiously, features a couple of antennas, in addition to a cow, a diamond and six stars. I couldn't find out the meaning behind the stars, but it's worth nothing that the stars in Orion's Belt point to the Souther Cross one way, and to the constellation of Taurus, and the Pleiades, on the other.

The city's website nonchalantly features a UFO:

But let's go back to Mato Grosso itself. The principal indigenous tribe in the state are the Xavante. The Xavante believe that the Earth is inhabited by four "types" of people: the underground, humans, the underwater and the celestial. They also say that when a person dies, their spirit doesn't go up to heaven, but rather remains on Earth, and that the Sun and the Moon are "primordial twins" living through experiences on Earth to later take them to the Creator.

In one of their stories, a man was once contemplating the stars, when one of them came down to Earth and became a beautiful woman, and both fell in love. Sitting on palm leaves, they traveled to the sky. After a while, the man came back to tell his parents he wished to remain in the skies, and off he went, to be with his beloved.

Another interesting myth is one which describes a man who was part of a hunting group, when he got sick and boils began to grow on him. His fellows left him behind, but two vultures appeared and took him to the skies. When he returned, not only was he healed, but he had also brought the potato, which the tribe hadn't known about.

It seems easy to imagine why Percy Fawcett would go looking for inter-dimensional contact in the lands of those tribes, to communicate with immaterial entities much as the Xavante shamans do. The Xavante placed a heavy emphasis on the concept of duality, of opposite and complementary forces, pretty much like the Tao. Their alphabet had 13 consonants and 13 vowels, and all the tribes are divided in two groups. Marriages are always between members of different groups. And course, there is this world, and another world...

And as if all this weren't enough: in the Brazilian flag, the 26 (13 + 13) states and the Federal District are each represented by a different star; the star that represents Mato Grosso is none other than Sirius. It makes one wonder what exactly is going on with the state's own starry-eye flag:

On a final note, the Xavante are frequently seen covered in a red dye, which connects us the very name of the country: 'Brazil' comes from pau brasil, a tree with a reddish wood, sought after by the Phoenicians Sephardic Jews who made up a large portion of the country's early colonizers. It's the same root where my own name comes from, Bruno, and it's whence we get words such as burn, blaze, and so on.

Sirius, Templars, portals to other dimensions, contact with celestial beings...Mato Grosso is full of mystery, and I only looked into all this because of my curiosity about my origins. So many gaze longingly towards the future, but I would that the keys to understanding lie, rather, in the past.

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