Haint Blue

Juleigh Howard-Hobson

 

Known variously as Haunt Blue, Spirit Blue, and even New Orleans Blue, Haint Blue refers to a certain kind of color that sits somewhere between greenish blue and blueish green.

Originally a milk-paint made up by the Geechee or Gullah folk (for the most part African-American slaves or descendants of slaves, although low country South Carolina Caucasians also are considered to be Geechee) in the deep American south, it was typically comprised of lime, milk and indigo dye.  Haint Blue is not named for any one particular shade of color, rather it is named because of what it does.  Haint Blue repels.

It is a color traditionally reserved for a single purpose.  It is intended to be used on doors, window frames, shutters and porch ceilings of homes. It doesn’t matter if a home is an island shack with only one door, or a huge Charleston Victorian: Haint Blue is used to do one thing. Repel Haints.

Haint comes from the word haunt, which in turn is synonymous with spook or ghost. The difference between Haints and haunts is that while some ghosts can be friendly, Haints rarely are anything but malevolent. And since there is no need to welcome any of them into your house on the off chance that one of them is of a gentle persuasion, it’s for the best to make sure that none of them can get in at all.

Designed to resemble water, Haint Blue takes advantage of the fact that many non-living creatures, Haints included, cannot cross the stuff. Just seeing the color acts as an effective guardian against them. (And why can they not cross water? There are many theories—some say that water is pure therefore the undead cannot stand it, others say that water is reflective and ghosts must avoid it to avoid being trapped as in a mirror or witch bottle, some say that this water boundary only applies to salt water because salt is an anathema to the spirit world… If you don’t agree with these, it still is worth noting that from the River Styx which divides the land of the living from the place of the dead to the covered bridge that Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman couldn’t ride over, most legends stand as firm on this point as Haint Blue does.)

When Haint Blue was first being mixed and applied, it wasn’t known that certain insects carried disease—in particular that mosquitos carried Yellow Fever, which plagued the southern states. The lime component of the original formulas of Haint Blue acts as an effective insect repellent—keeping out living things which cause more grief than the undead Haints could ever do.

While you can buy Haint Blue to this day, (The Charleston and the Savannah Historical Societies have both created and licensed renditions of it) these modern formulations don’t include lime. Still, it’s said that Haint Blue keeps wasps and spiders from making homes anywhere near it.

And it still repels Haints.

1 Comment on Haint Blue

  1. Denise Kopplinger // March 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm // Reply

    Great artical. It taught me things I didn’t know, which is wonderful..

    Like

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