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Haint Blue?

To: alt.lucky.w,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: "Haint Blue"?
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 22:09:07 GMT

mika wrote:
> (Daniel Hawthorn) wrote in message news:<>...
> > I am looking for anything I can find regarding the history and
> > preferably origins of the practice of painting doors, window
> > frmaes and shutters vivid blue for luck, or to avert the evil
> > eye. Anyone have any idea where this started? It seems still to
> > be common in Turkey and Greece, and I have heard the shade
> > referred to as "haint blue" in the context of Southern U.S. 
> > folklore.
> Have you done a simple google search yet?  This is what I came up
> with just using "haint blue" (I am not advocating or vouching for
> any of these sites, just sharing the google search).

 Thanks for the research, Mika. My comments are

> from:
> Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition
> by Ginger Strivelli (
> (snip)
> > The spirits of the dead are often worked with as well, a lot of
> > ancestral spirit guide workings are passed down through our 
> > Tradition,those practices trace back to not only Scotland and
> > Ireland, but the Tsalagi Nation as well. 'Haints' are widely 
> > feared as 'angry' ancestral spirits, and many spells, charms, and
> > rituals are practiced to keep these troublemakers at bay. One of
> > the most interesting and common haint related spells requires
> > that the doors of a home be painted 'haint blue.' Haint Blue is a
> > bright baby blue with a periwinkle tinge, very close to but about
> > one shade darker than the Carolina Tarheels' Blue color. This
> > color is believed to repel the spirits and keep them out of the 
> > home.

Here we see a beautiful commonality between Anglo-Irish and
Native American (Tsalagi = Cherokee) beliefs that the
spirits of the dead are "angry" or "troublemakers." This
does NOT accord with -- in fact it directly opposes --
African ancestor veneration religions, where the dead are
revered and working with the spirits of the dead is a
commonplace occurrence. 

> from:
> Main Points of Interest on Daufuskie Island
> (snip)
> > Haint Blue - Hags and Haints hold a responsible place in Gullah
> > folklore. Hags are witches who live normal lives during the day,
> > but by night they shed their skin and haunt people in their.
> > sleep Haints are spirits of the dead. As you go around the island
> > you notice a lot of houses have a particular blue on the shutters
> > or doors of their homes, this is haint blue. This color is
> > supposed to keep evil spirits away.

Above is a reference to the Germano-British belief that the
hag sheds her skin while about her evil deeds. See below for
why this points to a European, not an African origin.  

> from:
> (snip)
> > Each state also has it own particular folklore. From African lore
> > in the Low Country of South Carolina, and from Daufuskie Island
> > in particular, come tales of Hags and Haints. Hag and Haint tales
> > hold a respectable place in Gullah Folklore. Hags are witches who
> > live normal lives during the day but by night they shed their
> > skin and haunt people in their sleep. Haints, on the other hand,
> > are spirits of the dead.
> > Gullah houses on Daufuski Island, as well as in the South
> > Carolina Low Country around Charleston, have their shutters and
> > doors painted a particular shade of blue, known as haint blue.
> > The blue color is thought to prevent these and other evil spirits
> > from gaining entry to the house.

This site makes a useful distinction between a hag (a
skin-shedding witch) and a haint (an unsettled or angry dead
spirit) -- but the opinions at this site are otherwise
untrue to folkloric research: as thousands of collected
tales will demonstrate, it is believed that hags "ride"
people and animals (work them, use them, wear them out);
they do not "haunt"  them (hang around and scare them). 

The term hag-riding is still common among almost all of my
shop's customers from the Carolinas, both white and black.
Less common now among my customers, presumably due to
urbanization, is the belief that hags suck cows dry
overnight or that they ride horses into a sweat overnight,
making them unable to plow in the morning. 

> So, it seems that haint blue does have roots in voodoo as brought
> to the US through the Gullah people, and also has migrated to the
> Appalachians.  There even is reference to it in New England. 
> google it, man.

Thanks very much for the references. However, allow me to
correct a few mis-conclusions you have jumped to:

(a) The Appalachian reference does not represent a
"migration" of the belief from the Carolinas or from African
Gullahs to Appalachia. It is an example of the
Germano-British belief in hags and haints that was brought
directly to Appalachia by Anglo-Germanic settlers. The same
will be found true of references in New England.

(b) Gullah refers to what is now Angola (formerly part of
the Congo) and the Gullah people who live in the Carolinas
are descended from Bantu-speakers who practiced Nkisi
worship. They are not descended from West Africans from what
is now Benin et al, who practiced (and still practice)
Voodoo. Hence your statement that painting doors and
shutters blue "does have roots in voodoo" is not true. By
the way, Voodoo, like the proper name of any religion, is
generally capitalized. 

(c) The terms haint and hag are Germano-British and it is
pretty well known (see Harry M. Hyatt, Newbell Niles
Puckett, et al) that the form of hoodoo practiced by
African-Americans in the Carolinas is among the most
Germano-British influenced of all. Hag-riding, as described
in the hoodoo beliefs of the Carolinas, is virtually
identical with Anglo-Saxon hag-riding, including the
recitation of folk tales in which the intrepid
witch-repeller salts the hag's skin while she is away (the
usual name for this tale is "Skineee, Don't You Know Me?").
This tale is told among African-Americans from the Carolinas
almost word-for-word as it has been widely collected in

(d) Belief in hag-riding or hags who shed their skins, as
well as  belief in the "angry dead" or haints are not the
same as evil eye belief. Hag-riding beliefs and haint
beliefs originate in a different part of the word from evil
eye beliefs, namely Northern Europe. The fact that evil eye
beliefs, with their pandemic use of apotropaic blue charms,
had spread into Northern Europe before the Age of Navigation
and Conquest meant that in some colonized regions, and among
some  colonial people, there was a transfer of the use of
circum-Mediterranean apotropaic blue doors and shutters to
the  Germanic tradition of repelling hags and haints from
the home. 

Thus i stand by my contention that hoodoo is not home to
many evil eye beliefs, and that the anti-hag and anti-haint
traditions it has picked up through assimilation can be
demonstrated to have entered through contact with British,
German, and Irish settlers -- especially in the Carolinas --
beliefs that were reinforced by Tsalagi and other Native
American fear-of-the-dead beliefs. 

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --

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