Thursday, May 29, 2014

The story of haint blue

Larry and I are frequently tooling around on the weekends and we like to pause in small Georgia towns. There's usually a traffic circle with an old courthouse smack dab in the middle of it. I was taking photos of this old mansion (now up for sale). Locals say it's been many things, a wedding/event venue, a tea house, a lawyer's office, and most recently a meeting spot for a local art group.

When we're near these old houses, I like to take a peek up under the porch ceiling (or veranda in this case). Yep, there it is more often than not, the color we in the south call "haint blue."

Now if you look up the definition of haint, you'll see a ghostly connection to the word. When my two sisters and I were girls and we'd come in for lunch looking all scraggly (imagine a screen door banging shut three times here), mom would say "go comb your hair, you look like a haint." I've lived in the south all my life, but just recently learned about haint blue. 

It seems that old time southerners would paint their porch ceilings a particular color of blue. This color was said to confuse birds and wasps into thinking that the ceiling was actually the sky so they would avoid building their nests up in the porch corners. (You especially don't want wasp nests. The hotter it gets, the meaner they get, so don't mess with them in August, for sure!) It was also rumored to keep haints away from your door. I guest the ethereal shade of blue might make them think they were seeing themselves in a mirror and so they'd run (or fly) away. It also cast a soft shadow on those folks sitting in rockers after supper and the cool blue reflected tint would help give a little relief from the heat. I remember those days of sitting on the porch after supper. Those days before air conditioning became prevalent and we talked to our neighbors who were out there doing the same thing.

So I peeked up under to see this mansion's porch ceiling and yep, sure enough, there it was. Haint blue.

I love the psychology, history, and stories behind color. Think I'll go inside now and see if there's any more of that sweet tea left. 

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