Mani: A Tupi Legend
Teaser: There’s a Recipe At the end!!!
A long time ago, a chief’s daughter became pregnant without warning. The chief was furious when he learned of this and sought to punish the man who had brought dishonor upon his home. But the daughter told him she had not been with a man in her life. Not believing her, he tortured her to try and get the name of the man from her- but she remained steadfast in her assertion that she had not been with a man.
After 9 full moons, the daughter gave birth to a beautiful girl named Mani. Mani had skin as white as the moon and her eyes were as dark as night. Her skin color attracted the attention of not only the chief’s own village, but also the villages of the surrounding area. For one full year, Mani was a happy child who could walk and talk. But shortly after he first birthday, Mani died suddenly without any signs of illness or pain.
Devastated, the chief buried Mani inside his own hut, and her mother watered her grave every day – as it was custom to do so in her tribe. One day, a new plant they had never seen sprung forth from the grave. Because no one could identify the plant, they let it grow and dared not touch it. Their fear of the plant grew as they watched birds who ate it’s fruits act strange, as is if they were drunk.
Sometime later, a crack in the earth opened and the people found a root that resembled the white skin tone of the dead Mani’s body. The picked up the root from the ground, peeled and cooked it, and to their surprise- It was DELICIOUS. It even renewed their strength. They also discovered that by preparing the root as a drink, it could help them sleep. From that day forward, the root was called “Mandioca” meaning “House of Man(d)i”. (Wikipedia)
Today, we Westerners call this plant vegetable Cassava.
This story is interesting because it reveals a few important facets of the Cassava plant. Just as Mani’s eyes were dark as night- Cassava can be very toxic. This is further expressed by how the birds responded to eating the above ground portion of the plant. But it is also true of the tuber itself. In fact, an alternative Amazonian story about the discovery of Cassava speaks of how a mysterious spirit came down to a tribe and showed them how to extract the evil spirit dwelling within each cassava root in order to be able to eat it. One could say that the entire process of preparing Cassava for eating was effectively an exorcism ritual taught by the spirit.
Cassava has an active cyanide component in it which makes it difficult to prepare for cooking. In fact, once you’re done’ boiling the raw Cassava Root, you have to get rid of the cooking water- it can’t be used for anything else. The CDC recommends that you soak sweet cassava for 4-6 days before boiling; and bitter cassava requires you to grate or pound it, soak it in water, and then boil it. Don’t worry though- any processed Cassava (such as flour or tapioca) are safe, as the industries have already done all this work for you).
Of course, what is intriguing in the story, is a spiritual lesson that can be taken from it. The chief rejected the unborn child until he saw her and was captivated by her. The mother, on the other hand, always accepted her child and saw to it that she was properly cared for. In many ways, this origin story illustrates what the catalyst was that made this plant require so much work to make it edible. In order to receive anything from it, you must show respect for it’s personality in order to have a relationship with it.
This lesson may not have intended to teach people about interpersonal relationships, but there is a lesson which can be pulled from it along these lines. We are all deserving of respect- and through that respect and attention, even the most toxic of people can be transformed. Will it always happen? No. But it is also true that transformation will not come if all we do is ignore who they are.