There is a notion among some Amish that bellyaches (abdominal pain) can be “pulled” from another person. The notion is that, coming into physical contact with a person suffering from a bellyache will cause the bellyache to transfer to the new person.
In a show of empathy and altruism, a grown person will attempt to pull a bellyache from a suffering child or baby. Some Amish parents go so far as to judge the health of their babies by whether or not the parent gets a bellyache while holding the child.
I don’t think this medical superstition is widespread among the Amish, and it is also possible that it’s not restricted to the Amish. It’s just that on the few occasions I ever heard about it, it’s been an Amish person that has told me.
Kate A said:
Superstitious beliefs – like “pulling” are very common in closed societal groups. One Ultra Orthodox Jewish group believes that you can cure an ill infant by placing a live pigeon on the baby’s bare chest – with the pigeon’s anus making contact with the skin. The belief is – the pigeon absorbs all the poison and bad stuff from the baby through it’s anus – and dies (well, it’s actually killed by the rabbi). When used, repeated pigeons are place, killed and replaced until a “healthy pigeon” gives proof that the illness is totally absorbed. …this practise has, for obvious reasons, been banned from hospitals and care centers.
I’ve also learned from orthodox, cloistered, armenians, that walking barefoot in the house causes diarrhea – and from a middle east muslims that eating ice cream in the winter causes colds.
These belief systems thrive in groups that have closed themselves off from the greater world (in whole or part) – because they don’t allow outsiders to correct them (either through books or teaching).