Amish Head Covering
Why do the Amish women wear head coverings? You may have noticed that Amish and Mennonite women all wear a covering of some sort on their heads. Why do they do this, and what does it represent?
I grew up Amish and wore a prayer covering on my head until I was in my thirties. So I will try to answer your questions about this practice among the Amish and Mennonites.
History of Women's Head Covering
I have never studied the history of the Amish prayer covering, and I don't know exactly when this practice began. But I found an article on this subject which I found to be interesting, and I'm leaving a link here in case you are interested in reading it.
A head covering or hat for women seems to have been a cultural thing in numerous countries for many years.
The Amish and Mennonites originate from the Anabaptist movement in Europe that began in the 16th century. So wearing a head covering was probably a part of the culture that they originated from.
Amish Prayer Covering
Growing up in the Amish church, I was taught that wearing a head covering is a Scriptural command. First Corinthians 11 has several verses that address this issue:
Verse 4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6. For if the woman is not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
Verse 10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Verse 13. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman prays unto God uncovered? 14. Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15. But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 16. But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
I left out a few verses from this passage that you can find in your Bible. But these are the verses in the Bible that address the head covering.
Amish Traditions (Hats and Bonnets)
The Amish people try to obey every command in the Bible and they take them literally. Although, I will say that there are some commands in the Bible that they completely overlook because they are not included in their traditions.
But this Scripture passage is why they believe that every woman must have her head covered to pray. You may ask, "Why does she have to wear a head covering all the time and not only when she's praying?" Their answer would be that a person must always be ready to pray.
So then you may ask, "Why do Amish men wear hats then if they are supposed to be uncovered to pray? Should they not also be ready to pray at any moment?" This is one example where their rules are not consistent. Because technically, a man should never wear a hat if they want to be consistent in following this Scripture.
But the Amish people are often more concerned with keeping the traditions than they are in actually figuring out what God wants them to do. There are many things that they do simply because that's how they have always done it.
Prayer Coverings or Bonnets?
Many people mistakenly call the prayer covering a bonnet. There's a difference. The prayer covering (Kapp) is the head covering that's pinned onto the woman's hair. Amish women wear this all day long, taking it off only to wash and comb their hair. (Remember they must always be ready to pray.)
And they usually wear something on their head at night as well. Some may wear an old covering that they don't care if it gets smushed and wrinkly. But we used to wear a big handkerchief or a veil made out of fabric.
The bonnet, however, is usually black and is worn as an outer covering. In our church, it was worn only in the wintertime to help keep our heads warm. But some of the stricter Amish women have to wear it anytime they leave home.
Should Women Cover Their Heads?
The women's head covering is one of the most important doctrines in the Amish and Mennonite churches. And I was taught very strictly that a woman MUST have her head covered to pray. I honestly felt like God would not hear me if I did not have my head covered. And I thought that I might go to hell if I didn't wear a covering.
We knew that other Christian women in the world did not wear head coverings. So the question arose, "Will they go to heaven?" The answer to that question was, "They can probably get to heaven without it because they were not taught like we were." But for us to not cover our heads would be a sin, since we know better.
But, in answer to the question, "Should women wear a head covering?" I will never say that it's wrong for a woman to wear a prayer veil. And if you feel convicted by God to wear a covering, go ahead and wear one. But I have concluded that making a doctrine and law out of this issue is wrong. And if you believe that wearing a head covering is a salvation issue and will help you get to heaven, you are very wrong.
I don't claim to know exactly what Paul was trying to say in this passage to the Corinthians, but I honestly believe that it was a cultural issue.
My Experience with the Head Covering
As I've stated, I was taught very strictly on this issue of the prayer covering. It was ingrained into my very being that this is something I MUST do. But after listening to one pastor, I concluded that the head covering needs to be worn, with my head covered completely, only while praying or prophesying in a public assembly. And the church we attended at the time started practicing it like this.
But after we completely left the Mennonite church, and I was the only woman in church wearing a head covering, I began questioning this passage very deeply. I went to church with some very Godly women who didn't cover their heads. And it hounded me daily, "What does God want me to do?? Why is this passage of Scripture in the Bible, and what does it mean?"
I battled over this Scripture for many weeks and couldn't seem to come to a conclusion as to what this Scripture was saying. Is long hair considered to be our covering? Is Scripture saying that we should wear a covering over our long hair? Or was Paul addressing a cultural issue that doesn't necessarily apply to us today?
I kept seeking God about the issue and finally came to a place where I felt like He was telling me to let it go. I felt like it wasn't a big deal to God, whether I covered my head or not. He kept bringing the verse to my mind, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And I found so much freedom and rest in Christ when I quit trusting in works to make me holy.
Reasons Why Amish Women Wear A Prayer Covering
- The Amish and Mennonites believe that it is a Biblical command for women to cover their heads while praying. And we must always be ready to pray, therefore they wear a prayer covering all the time.
- They believe that a woman having her head covered is a sign that she is in submission to her husband. For unmarried girls, it's a sign of submission to their father.
- They believe that a woman with her head covered has extra protection. She has power on her head because of the angels (meaning she has extra protection from the angels).
Different Types of Amish Hair Coverings
Even though Amish and Mennonite women all wear head coverings, there are many different styles and sizes. Each church has its own rules on what type of head covering the women must wear. And many times you can tell how strict or plain a church is by the size or style of the women's head covering.
Most of the Amish women wear similar straight-sided box-style coverings, except the Lancaster County Amish (and maybe a few churches that branched out from there and kept the same dress style). The Lancaster County Amish have a unique dress and head covering style that is different than most of the others.
I'm not sure why they have a different style. But I grew up wearing the Lancaster County heart-shaped head covering, and I hated it.
I'm leaving a link here where you can find photos of the numerous different styles of head coverings that Amish women wear.
If you enjoyed this article about the prayer covering, perhaps you would like to read more info about the Amish...
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Doctrines of the Bible - by Daniel Kauffman includes a discussion on the women's head covering along with other Doctrines that the Amish and Mennonites teach.