Colours

How Haint Blue Protects Against Spirits And Bugs

Haint blue is commonly found on porches in the Southern States of America like South Carolina and Georgia. They are usually on large outdoor entries, windowsills, shutters, ceilings, and door frames. The colour can reflect more light on the porch making the effect of extended daylight. Haint blue ranges from light turquoise blue to mint green. Due to Haint blue not being one specified colour, it is associated to be just a light blue mixture.

Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

Haint blue translates to haunt blue from Creole English referring to the ghosts and spirits. The blue represents water which haints, boohags, plat-eyes, spirits, ghosts and other spectres can not pass. A haint is a restless ghost who has not left the world but has remained behind to haunt the living. Plat-eye haints were shape-shifting spirits of spirits that have wronged them on Earth. They have large glowing eyes haunting the area of their untimely death. Boohags were shape-shifting, skin-shedding, witch-like trickster spirits. They would suck the energy out of a victim like an energy vampire so that their victims would walk around in the morning listless. Evil spirits that would escape their human forms by night to paralyze, injure or kill innocent victims.

Haint blue was a colour painted on doors and ceilings. The ghosts would confuse the colour believing that the ceiling was a part of the sky or the door a part of the water. The ghosts would think that the house is somehow protected with something sublime and powerful. This would confuse the ghosts unable to decipher how to enter the home. It was used as a protection colour from ghosts and spirits. The same idea would be for the blue bottle trees to protect people from evil spirits. It is a tree with a bunch of blue bottles off the tips of tree branches. The bottles would trap the spirits inside them at night so by daylight the sun would destroy them. Even some West African spiritual traditions included wearing blue beads, amulets containing blue materials and clothing for protection.

Painting of “The Old Plantation”, c. 1785–1795, watercolour on laid, John Rose, South Carolina, U.S.A. – Source: Wikipedia

This was a tradition that the enslaved West African Gullah people (also known as Gullah Geechee). They were brought over as slaves to the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia on plantations and antebellum mansions in the 18th century to early 19th century. The Gullah people were from different parts of Africa. According to Port of Charleston, South Carolina’s records they came from Angola, Senegambia, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Mozambique. Many of the enslaved Africans taken in West Africa were processed through Bunce Island (formerly called Bance Island) located in the Sierra Leone River. The Gullah people blended their cultures into a creole culture of languages, foods, craft techniques and storytelling. They also brought cultivation and tidal irrigation skills that made African rice farming domesticated and grown for around 3,000 years. Slave traders, Henry Laurens of Charleston, a planter, and Richard Oswald, a Scottish merchant, captured and sold many African people as slaves to Lowcountry rice plantations in the mid-1700s.

The blue came from the cultivation of indigo dye. Leftovers from the indigo vats were used to make the Haint blue with a mixture of lime, milk and other pigments. This mixture would create a blue close to the shade of Robin’s egg.

Photo of the William Simmons House,
South Carolina Historical Marker, Gullah Museum,
Photographer: David McCoy, April 2012 – Source: Wikipedia

It also kept bugs out because of the lye added into the paint that acted as a wood varnish and bug repellent. The lye paint mixture was particularly effective against wasps, spiders and infestations from building their nests or webs between the wood. Furthermore, if the bugs associated the colour with the sky, they would not make nests in the ceiling. 

Over time people across the Southern states of America painted their front porch this colour. It was a colour that was always there in the houses passed down from generation to generation.

These are the shades of modern day Haint Blue:

HEX Code for Haint Blue – Common Hue for the colour – #D2E4EF
HEX Code for Haint Blue – Blue Grey for the colour – #C1D1D0
HEX Code for Haint Blue – Turquoise for the colour – #BAE2E6

References:

Today – What is ‘haint blue’? Here’s why Southern porches have blue ceilings

Orangebean -Haint Blue: the Light Blue with a Dark History

Atlas Obscura – What the Color ‘Haint Blue’ Means to the Descendants of Enslaved Africans

The Awl – Haint Blue, the Ghost-Tricking Color of Southern Homes and Gullah Folktales

Explore Beaufort SC – Lowcountry Life: The legend of the bottle tree

Scares and Haunts of Charleston – The Boo Hags of Gullah Culture

How Stuff Works – The Gullah Geechee Tradition of ‘Haint Blue’ Paint Keeps the Spirits Away

Wikipedia – Gullah

The Chronicle – Black History Spotlight: The Roots of Gullah


Banner Credit: Image by Francine Sreca from Pixabay – Andrew Smith House Historical Heritage House, Willington, SC

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