Many of you already know Mary Ann from A Joyful Chaos. I have long enjoyed her blog, with her riveting stories of her childhood/girlhood. It is through her (and other former Amish people’s posts) that I have discovered just how diverse the Amish traditions, rules, and attitudes are. Mary Ann shares with you her experience of “brauching” practiced in many Amish communities. Without further ado, here is Mary Ann:
Hi there, this is Mary Ann from A Joyful Chaos. I was honored when Saloma asked me to do a guest post for her. She has a lot on her plate right now and it makes me happy if I can help her out by doing this for her.
As anyone who has ever been Amish will tell you, there are no two Amish communities that are exactly the same. What is accepted in one community could very easily be taboo in another one. Since my parents’ brothers and sisters were scattered in a variety of communities I got to experience some of the differences first hand. Some were minor, such as the community we lived in was not allowed to have hardwood floors. I always admired the glossy hardwood floors in the houses of my cousins who weren’t allowed to have linoleum. I never cared for their lack of indoor plumbing and was always glad to come home where we had hot running water and the luxury of indoor bathrooms.
The differing rules extended to almost every area of life from accepted colors to paint your walls, the way you made and wore your clothes, to methods of farming and home businesses. One of the most disturbing differences that I ever witnessed dealt with alternative medicine. While we used many home remedies we were always open to going to a doctor if it was necessary.
It all started one fall when we were visiting family in other communities. We were all enjoying our visit except one of my younger brothers who was always painfully shy around people he didn’t know very well and would refuse to eat more than a few bites. My parents weren’t sure what to do about it but surmised once he became hungry enough he would eat and usually once he got to be a little more comfortable with his surroundings his lack of appetite vanished.
The mother of the family was sure there was something seriously wrong with him that he didn’t want to eat or play outside with the other children. She had just the cure she proclaimed. That there is someone who practised “braucha” (pow wow doctor) in their community who works wonders for any ailment. She would send for her and my brother would be cured since he was such a spindly little thing compared to their chubby children. My parents didn’t hesitate in turning the offer down, believing that “braucha” was not something Christians should be involved with. The mother seemed almost offended as she declared my parents view as pure nonsense that Bible verses were used and what could be more Christian than that. My parents still refused so the subject was dropped.
The next forenoon we visited some people in the community and by the time we got back to their house for a late lunch there were some other people there too. My aunt announced happily that they had invited some friends over to meet us and as Mom was helping get lunch ready I noticed the visiting lady watch the children play. Before long she sat on a rocking chair and offered my brother a piece of candy. When he got it she lifted him onto her lap, pulled up his pant legs and started rubbing a piece of red cloth over his legs and feet while muttering weird things under her breath. I quickly went and told Mom that there was a creepy woman doing weird things to my brother. She quickly dropped everything and went to see what was going on and snatched him off her lap, leaving the woman sitting there looking smug and clutching her piece of red cloth.
Mom confronted her sister and asked why she had invited this quack over after they had told her they want nothing to do with “Braucha” The “doctor” left without eating lunch. Our appetites were all ruined as we sat down at the table. As everyone paused for silent prayer before we started eating I couldn’t help but feel there was something not right as my skin fairly crawled with the feeling of something creepy and undesirable. The prayer ended sooner than usual as a loud bang came from the stove. My aunt got up and went to check the ash drawer in the stove and was quite happy to find that an egg that had been wrapped in that piece of red cloth had exploded. My brother was cured she announced.
My parents were still vexed at the whole deal and our visit was cut short. I can only imagine how violated they must have felt.