There is a great variety of rites and ceremonies practiced by the Kankanay. Several types of economic activities such as planting, harvesting, house building, or digging irrigation ditches call for the performance of these rites. A whole village, or a family financially capable of throwing a feast, takes responsibility for the holding of big and elaborate rites. For determining the cause of illness or divination of events, simpler rites are performed by an individual or by a family group.
One of the ritual ceremonies already mentioned is the bayas. This canao or feast is the most important festival in northern Kankanay society, which is hosted by the kadangyan, and involves the slaughter of many animals. Only a person of means can afford the amount of food consumed. During the bayas, the kadangyan calls upon his ancestral spirits, and appeals for their continued support for his prosperity. Relatives, villagers, and visitors from other places are all invited to the bayas ritual. During times of plenty, the bayas would be celebrated at least every three or four years, but in recent years the interval has become longer. The rites observed in connection with the agricultural cycle are deemed indispensable because the whole success of planting and harvesting, i.e., survival itself, may depend entirely on such observance.
Legleg is performed to improve the growth of the plants. This is done whenever the bonabon seedlings show telltale signs of withering. A chicken is killed, and is offered to the spirits of the field, trees, rocks, and other things in the surroundings believed to have been angered or displeased. Four or five long feathers of the chicken are pulled out and stuck into the site where the bonabon are planted. If the seedlings do not show any sign of improvement, the ritual is repeated, this time with more sacrificial chickens.
The an-anito is similar to the legleg, except that it is performed to seek intercession for an ailing person.
Harvest entails a different set of rituals. On the fist day, the rice fields are declared off limits to strangers. Along trails, crossed bamboo sticks called puwat are laid out as a warning to passersby against intruding. The owner of the field cuts a handful of rice stalks and recites a prayer asking for a bountiful crop. Then, the other reapers proceed to cut the rest of the harvest. Nobody is allowed to leave at anytime throughout the day, to prevent "loss of luck."
The opening of a baegl (granary) by a family for rice pounding is an event with its own ritual. The head of the household declares an abayas (holiday) which lasts two days. The father opens the granary and takes out as many bundles as required for the period of celebration.
The largest and most important of community celebrations among the Kankanay is the pakde or begnas. This is observed for a variety of purpose. When called to ensure an abundant rice harvest, it takes place sometime during May, a month before the actual harvest. It may also be bserved when a person dies to ask for the protection and favors of the benevolent deities. The village elders may decide to hold the rites, after the observance of a bagat or big feast by a family to regain luck for the community. Or the occasion might be to celebrate a strange event, such as lightning, striking a tree near a house or near a spot where people have assembled, which is interpreted as Kabunian himself speaking. A pakde or begnas serves to appease him. This usually takes place during the rainy season, when lightning is most frequent. The celebration is held for one day and one night with preparations of food and water, and tapuy (rice wine). On the day of the feast, men with bolo and spears come out of their houses and proceed to the village borders to put up barricades across all entrances. Others take up their spears accompany the mambunong to a sacred spot where there is a wooden structure called pakedlan. On this a pig is butchered and offered to the guardian deities of the village. The pakedlan is usually built by the mambunong at one end of the village. It consists of a solitary wooden post about 1.3 m in height, with large white stones laid on the ground surrounding it.
When a diwata wishes to convey a message, it sends a spirit messenger to possess the baylan and speak through him/her. While in ebpintezan or state of possession, the baylan performs the healing ritual. However, a baylan may also be possessed by a timbusew, a bloodthirsty evil spirit. So, instead of treating the sick, the baylan kills the sick person so that the demon could devour the sick person.
There are three levels of leadership in the religious community: the baylan, terewtawan, and sangka. The baylan appoints a terewtawan, a male assistant who travels from village to village to spread the baylan's teachings. About 10 sangka, male and female , assist the terewtawan in preaching and healing the sick.
Anyone of any gender can become a baylan. One may ask to become apprenticed to a baylan by offering the tendan he idtendan, a gift consisting of the following: mirror, comb, turban, pair of trousers, shirt, a bolo, seven pieces of cloth of varying patterns, white and black handkerchief for betel chew offerings, and seven chickens.