You’ve probably heard someone say something about the Amish that made you wonder, “now where did that come from?”

Myths are usually the child of a grain of truth and a lot of imagination.  We want explanations for things that puzzle us. When they’re not forthcoming, people fill in the blanks.

Below, three myths I’ve recently seen on the internet, plus my best guesses at where they originate:

A painful dowry

1) “Amish women get rid of their teeth, because teeth is an expense to a future husband. Therefore, having no teeth is a part of a women’s dowry.”

This one may have existed previous to last fall, but I think we have “Breaking Amish” to thank for its spread.  If you recall, one of the show’s characters, Rebecca, wore a full set of dentures.

pliersNo doubt it shocked viewers to see a person so young with no teeth.  The explanation was that Rebecca had had her rotten teeth pulled one-by-one by an “Amish dentist”.

A little myth-making ensues and…a toothless mouth becomes part of the customary Amish wedding gift to a husband.

That noted, Amish dental care varies.  We’ve discussed it on more than one occasion.  Pulling teeth is more common than in English society, especially in more traditional Amish groups.  It can be less expensive to pull problem teeth and have a set of dentures made.  Some Amish even provide this service.

Brothers & husbands, wives & sisters

2) “Oh! Amish! That’s the religion where you are only allowed to marry your siblings, right?”

Genetic ailments present among Amish have gotten wide press.  Few outsiders join what are essentially closed communities.

If you go back far enough, you’ll find a blood connection (only true for Amish..?).  So I can see the mental leap that leads to thinking that Amish are only “allowed” to marry siblings.

Actually we have two issues here–sibling marriage, plus a touch of the idea that Amish marriages are orchestrated from above (a related myth).

Of course, Amish parents (like English) approve of some of their children’s dating partners more than others.  They may nudge or even decidedly encourage a child in a certain direction.  But forced or arranged marriages belong to another realm.

Caskets not made-to-order

3) “I took a tour of one of the Amish farm tourist traps, just for fun. They touched on funeral customs and we were told that the Amish only have 2 sizes of coffins. If a person didn’t fit in one of those 2 sizes, they just chopped off body parts until the deceased fit!”

amish-casket-mythNow this one threw me for a loop.  Never heard anything of the kind.  Nor do I know which “tourist trap” the person who shared this is referring to (actually, I’d like to go on this tour, sounds pretty entertaining).

So I’m drawing a blank.  I’ve met an Amish casket maker, but didn’t think to ask about his sizing policy.  I’ve been to events where dead Amish people were present (viewing, funeral).  The men inside the open caskets looked pretty intact to me. Just a lucky fit?

This isn’t the full extent of myths and misconceptions about the Amish, not by a long shot.  Feel free to add any others you’ve come across.

Pliers photo: whoisccd/flickr