Religious Beliefs. Five days after the first two Jesuit missionaries set foot on Yaqui territory, they had already christened five thousand Yaqui natives. Today Yaqui religion is a complex syncretism of native and Catholic beliefs. There are no contradictions whatsoever between them, nor any supremacy of one over the other. The Virgin Mary is identified with Itom Aye (Our Mother) and Jesus Christ with Itom Achai (Our Father). Jesus appears in myth as a Yaqui culture hero, to whom the Pascola, Deer, and Coyote ritual dances are attributed; the Matachines ritual dance is attributed to the Virgin.
Religious Practitioners. The church authorities are the trustees of the liturgy and ritual knowledge that underlie the cults of the patron saints of each town. They also preside over rites of transition. The members of a cofradía (religious brotherhood or fraternity) remain under oath and occupy hierarchical ranks. Their maximum authority is the liturgical master, or yo'owe. The yo'owe masters and the te mastian (liturgist) of every single town once assisted the missionary in his teaching, and they remained in charge of performing religious rites after the deportation of the Jesuits. Today a Catholic priest goes to each town on Sundays to say Mass. The "singers" are lower in the hierarchy. Following them are the women in charge of the altars and temples, then the young girls who carry the banners during rituals, and then the boys who participate in the Holy Week ritual and the Matachines.
Ceremonies. The people responsible for the fulfillment of the ritual cycle in every village are the fiesteros, eight men and eight women who are responsible for the celebrations in honor of patron saints. As in many areas of rural Mexico, there are two groups: Moors (who wear red costumes) and Christians (who wear blue costumes). The celebrations are a ritual contest between the two. The Yaqui ritual cycle follows the liturgical Catholic calendar but puts more emphasis on particular dates and defines two different periods very clearly: Lent and regular time. During Lent, strict prohibitions are imposed on the people and on the kohtumbre yau'ura. During the rest of the year, traditional rites and festivities are classified as follows: organization festivities, religious- and military-fraternity festivities, trade-union festivities, and required Catholic church festivities.
Arts. Yaqui dancing and music go together in their ritual practices. Matachines, Pascola, Deer, and Coyote dancers make a spiritual promise to perform after they are called to their vocation in dreams. The same happens to the musicians who accompany them. Poetry, literature, and plastic arts have evolved in all eight towns.
Medicine. Traditional curative practices coexist with modern ones. Traditional curers, most of whom are female, do not have a superior social status. This occupation is inherited from one of the parents or an ancestor who transmits knowledge of the supernatural, herbs, different types of illness, and curative rites. The main curative techniques are purification, preparation of herbal remedies, and kneading.
Death and Afterlife. Beliefs about death are blended with Catholic elements. Funeral rites, however, have a hallmark of their own. Four godfathers of death are in charge of the funeral rites. At the end of the year in which a person dies, a ritual takes place to commemorate the event.