Monday, August 7, 2017

Haint to repel evil spirits and spiders too

The next time you go out and sit on your porch, relaxing, rocking, bird and people watching, look up. I mean directly up at the porch ceiling. What color is it? If you live here, in Edenton, or any place in
Author's Front Porch Ceiling photo by KL Wood
the South, it is mostly likely a soft shade of greenish blue, especially if it’s an older home. Huh. Never thought about it, did you? Unless it’s time to repaint that outdoor ceiling, even those of us who grew up kicking our bare legs back and forth on a southern porch swing, often take that color for granted. I mean it’s pretty and it’s obviously what our ancestors preferred so it’s just traditional, right? But why?

The answer comes in the form of its regional name, “Haint Blue.” From the Gullah culture of coastal South Carolina, comes the word “haint,” referring to restless spirits of the not-so-dearly-departed who might bring evil into a home. This particular shade of blue was believed to keep the haints away and, thus, thwart their plans to spirit the residents off or influence them in some negative manner. Why would haints be repelled by such a lovely color? Because, apparently, they are easily fooled. Evil spirits are said to be unable to cross water and this shade of blue mimics the color of water. So since it’s not practical to include a moat around our homes, this paint does the trick. In some places, such as Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, you will find not only porch ceilings painted Haint Blue, but shutters, trim work, and sometimes entire walls.

Haint Blue is thought to repel, not only evil spirits, but insects, as well. Some theorize that, like the haints, the pesky little critters are also fooled by the color. Not because they think it’s water, but because they think it’s the sky. As with much folklore, there is a kernel of truth there. The original Haint Blue paint was a mixture of indigo, milk and lime. It’s the lime that, most likely, kept the ceiling bug-free. Today’s modern versions of Haint Blue do not contain lime, so keep your fly swatter handy as you lounge beneath that lovely ceiling.

Whether, or not, Haint Blue repels evil spirits or insects, it remains a calming, cooling, peaceful color with which to greet our upward gaze. Coupled with its tie to our past, please consider it when sprucing up your porch. I’m squarely in the “can’t hurt, might help” camp. And besides, it’s so pretty!

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