Religious Beliefs. Folk Catholicism predominates, and, in some places, religious and political organization are parts of a single system. Juntas, assemblies led by influential men in the community, assemble people with political and religious cargos and are responsible for new appointments in both the civil and religious branches of the organization.
There are three locations for religious expression: the village church, oratorios, and domestic altars. Each corresponds to a level of social organization: the village, the extended family and its allied members through compadrazgo, and the domestic family. A system of religious cargos ( fiscales, mayordomos, topiles, prayer makers, sacristans, and "companions") favors community integration through family ties and compadrazgo, which unite the constituents of mayordomías. Compadrazgo is established between parents and godparents at the time of baptism, confirmation, first communion, and marriage. Compadrazgo also results from seeking godparental sponsors for a funeral, a girl's fifteenth birthday, a Bible, a priest's new habit, a house, an oratorio, or clothing for a religious image. Lay compadrazgo results from secular ritual events related to primary- or secondary-school graduation and the sponsorship of football and basketball teams. Religious fiestas are accompanied by prayers, music, floral arrangements, and dances and, in general, are complemented with a feast.
Ceremonies. Each village/town holds its main fiesta on the day of its patron saint; there are also two sanctuaries, shared by the Mazahua and the Otomí, to which pilgrimages are made. The shrine of the Holy Cross of Tepexpan celebrates the day of the Holy Cross in May and the day of Saint Theresa in October. The other sanctuary is Chalma, a famous mountain shrine to the southwest of Mexico City, on the edge of the Mazahua area. During rituals in which a community participates in the religious fiestas of a nearby pueblo, the patron saints "visit" one another. Among the most important ritual dances are the "Moors and Christians," the "Arrow Shooters" ("Huehueches"), and the "Shepherdesses." There are also dialogues (stagings) called "Charles the Great" and "The Shepherds."
Medicine. There are several traditional specialists, among them midwives, curers, bonesetters, and sorcerers. On different levels, they are knowledgeable about medicinal plants, the human body, the world in general, and the supernatural world. Illness may be caused by sorcery. As is the case with the majority of indigenous peoples of the area, the Mazahua have recourse to three types of medicine in case of illness: biomedical, traditional, and domestic. The last involves folk and herbal remedies and is mainly the domain of women and elders in treating their families. Migrants have recourse to health centers in the cities where they live, that is to say, when it is not a matter of culturally defined illness, in which case they return to their place of origin to be cured.
Death and Afterlife. Death, like birth, is an important ritual moment in which ties of compadrazgo and group solidarity are reaffirmed. For the Mazahua, the supernatural world is the origin of many illnesses and of death. When someone becomes ill, a curer must be consulted for a "cleansing" and to determine the origin of the illness. The illness may be caused by the "masters of the earth," some deceased person, the animas solas (lonely souls), the envy of a still-living person, or the failure to comply with some social or ritual norm. The dead can cause illness when their relatives forget them or when they enjoy the benefits of an inheritance that was not rightfully theirs. In order for the dead to rest, they must receive prayers, and a mass and offering must be given them. The dead must be remembered on the Day of the Dead (Todos Santos) ; offerings of flowers, fruit, drink, and breads are placed on domestic altars.