Spirituality and the Dead in the Opateria

Spirituality and the Dead in the Opateria

Before all the restrictions of singing, talking, dancing and speaking our culture were increased, and in the times when we still had enough Nemuchan (even one per town), these were our beliefs which we are recovering to revitalize and reinforce Our real identity and not the implanted identity:

The Dead

Traditional spirituality teaches us that our spiritual helpers include “spiritual relatives”, which consist of worthy ancestors who communicate with us from the spiritual world, often in silent thoughts during the waking state or during the dream in dreams, and that Sometimes, under certain conditions, they appear temporarily in a body of visible spirit during the waking state.

Show your devotion to your dead by burying all the deceased’s belongings plus some pinole and a jug of water with it.

Stigia Lagoon

The souls of the dead go to a spacious lagoon, on whose banks on the north side sits a very small little man named Buchu-uri, who receives the souls and places them crowded by his crowd in a large canoe, sending them to the South side of the residence, where Batecom Hoachiqui is eating one by one, but if he finds them painted with stripes on his face, he throws them into the lagoon saying that they did not eat them because they had thorns, and the unpainted ones passed to the belly glad to enjoy an unclean bliss [74].

This story according to Adolph Francis Alphonse Bandelier 1880-1885, recalls by force the lagoon od Shi-Pap-i, or Cibobe de los Queres and Tehuas of New Mexico.

Day of the Spiritual Relatives

This day is not celebrated on a specific date such as November 2, but the date is dictated by the vision of the Nemuch who is always in constant communion with the spirit world.

The Nemúchan announce to the village during the autumn months (usually in October) that there will be a day to commune with the spiritual relatives collectively. The Nemuch would know when to make the announcement for an omen in a waking state; during sleep, or while in an altered state of consciousness, such as a mescalito (peyote) ceremony or a Huûqui meeting like a temescal (sweat accommodation). The rite would take place on the first day of the full moon.

It was not uncommon for a Nemuch from a town near a neighboring town of Opata to share his revelation with the Nemuch of the other town, which would lead to a regional and regional rite of the Spirit Relative Day among neighboring towns. Relative Spirit Day was particularly healing for non-shamanic members of the community who were still mourning the death of a loved one.

The “Day of spiritual relatives” is exercised by the chief Nemuch who designated a large sacred circle where the members of the village gathered to offer offerings to spiritual relatives, such as legumes and goodies. Offerings often included an item that had belonged to a deceased loved one. This gesture was an invitation for family spirits to manifest.

The Nemuch and / or an apprentice would also build a sacred thai (fire) in the center of the circle and place a human skull or other human bones next to it. Such bones came from fallen opponents killed in battle, usually Apachis, who had not been cremated or buried.

The Nemuch and the apprentices then put on wooden masks of the skull of death and begin to dance and sing with bells and drums around the sacred thai to summon the spiritual relatives. Other participants in the sacred circle also wear ceremonial instruments, and some wear carved and painted wooden masks that resemble the faces of their deceased relatives.

Fermented atole made of corn and cactus known as “tanori” drank by many of the participants as a means of altering the senses to better perceive spiritual relatives. When individuals began to perceive their spiritual relatives, they communicated with them in speech and song.

This rite would begin at sunset and last all night. It was appropriate for people to leave the circle whenever they wanted to walk with their spiritual relatives to another place outdoors, or to their own home or a Huûqui, where family gatherings of smaller communal spirits would take place in a thematic environment run by a Nemuch apprentice.

The chief Nemuch officially ends the rite by extinguishing the sacred thai within the sacred circle at dawn. All the rest would go to sleep in their homes and remain in closer spiritual communion with their loved ones most recently deceased by the rest of the four seasons.

Huûqui from Ponida, Sonora, Mexico 1961 -Roberto Escalante H.


  • Nemuch: Shaman.
  • Nuemûchan: Shamans.
  • Stigia: The lagoon to which souls of the dead go.
  • Buchu-uri: The little man who recives souls.
  • Batecom Hoachiqui: Who eats souls that are not painted on his face.
  • Tanori: Fermented atole made of corn and cactus.
  • Thai: Fire.
  • Huûqui: Underground shack dug in the walls, always wet, where the Opatas weave palm which is always preserved “huaromi” or is flexible and easy to handle. It is also used for special ceremonies.
  • Pehori: Peyote [Lophophora guilliamsii].
  • Euûqui: Spirit.
  • Muco: Dead, deceased.


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