Cahita - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Contemporary Cahitan beliefs are a unique and complex fusion of indigenous traditions, Jesuit teachings, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mexican culture. The Yaqui pueblo political organization is tightly integrated with the ceremonial and mythical systems. The modern Mayo church-pueblo organization consists of several sodalities: five church governors and five helpers; the lay ministers; the Matachini dance sodality; the Parisero sodality (the Lenten masked male society); and the Paskome ( fiesteros), who promise to serve the patron saint of the church.

The realms of nature and the supernatural are also organized as a family, with God (Our Father) identified with the sun, the Virgin (Our Mother) equated with the moon, and Jesus (the Child of Our Father and Our Mother). The animals of the forest are the Children of the Old Man of the Forest, and the fish are the Children of the Old Woman of the Sea.

Religious Practitioners. The Cahitan religious organization requires several part-time specialists, such as the maestro, or lay minister, who "prays for the dead"; cantora or female chanting assistant to the maestro; deer and paskola dancers and musicians, who entertain at the fiestas; Matachinim, church dancers and their musicians; Pahkome and Parisero sodality members, who maintain the yearly and Lenten ritual cycles; and yorem medikom (curers), who mediate between humans and the gods.

Ceremonies. Among the Cahitans, saints'-day fiestas or ceremonies are celebrated with prayer, feasting, fireworks, and the entertainment of masked paskola and deer dancers and musicians. Especially elaborate are the Lenten and Holy Week ceremonies, which are characterized by masked Pariseros who crucify Jesus and ultimately are destroyed by the power of God as Christ returns to the church from the land of the dead. In the Mayo-Yaqui ceremonial cycle, the Easter ceremonial is followed by village ceremonies for the Holy Cross, the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, Saint John, the Virgin of Guadalupe and, early in November, for the returning dead (Animam Velaroa).

Arts. A range of art forms is still dynamic among modern Cahitans, including paskola and deer dancing, deer and secular songs, alabanzas (various Mayo, Spanish, and Latin hymns) sung by maestros and cantoras, the decoration of altars and the images of saints, and weaving styles and designs.

Medicine. Social Security clinics and hospitals for ejido members, private doctors, and yorem medikom provide assistance to ill Cahitans. Medicines are available in clinics and from drugstores, market herbalists, and the thorn forest. Illnesses are attributed to natural causes; fright; problems with God, the saints, the dead, and bad wishers (witches); and violation of the hot/cold principles.

Death and Afterlife. The funeral rituals are the most important life-cycle events. Cahitans have a dual set of societal rituals associated with death and the dead: 1 and 2 November (All Souls' and All Saints' days, Animam Velaroa) and Lent. For the Mayo, there is a very close relationship between the family, the ritual for the dead early in November, and the form, structure, and meaning of the Lenten ritual. Rooted in this model, the Mayo continue to experience visitations of Our Father and Our Mother and, to avoid the wrath, punishment, and destruction promised by Our Father, who is angry with the secular state of the modern world, continue to innovate ceremonies in honor of God and the saints.

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