If you don’t live in the American south, chances are that hearing the term “haint blue” does little more for you than elicit a “huh?” But for Southerners, this color comes with a rich heritage and history that is so much more than just a pretty shade of the color blue.
So if you’re curious why some of the porches you passed on your Southern road trip had a blue porch ceiling, keep reading.
Southern tradition of haint blue porch ceilings
Haint blue refers to a set of light blue-green shades that you’re likely to see on the porch ceilings of some houses in the Southern United States.
The word “haint” is actually an alternative spelling of “haunt,” referring to a type of ghost that, in the African American vernacular and Hoodoo tradition, kills its victims by chasing them until they die of exhaustion.
Why is such a pretty color associated with so miserable a creature?
Well, haint blue is actually thought to frighten these bad spirits away from the home. Either by mimicking the color of the sky or water, tricking the evil spirits into staying away, or passing through on to a long-forgotten ghost town.
Gullah history and culture through stories
Haint blue originates with the Gullah or Gullah Geechee of Georgia and South Carolina, an African American people who developed a creole culture during their enslavement in the American south.
The Gullah culture is highly influenced by Central and West African cultures, including their creole language, folk traditions, and beliefs. The term “Gullah” can refer both to the people and the language interchangeably.
While the Gullah have been painting their homes haint blue for centuries, this practice came to be adopted by their neighbors over time. This is why it is so common today in Charleston, South Carolina, in particular.
In fact, many people with blue porches don’t even know about the cultural histories of haint blue. They believe that the color is actually meant to deter spiders or wasps. However, there’s no scientific evidence that it’s truly as effective as an insect repellant.
So next time you see this beautiful, pool blue color on somebody’s porch – or even your own blue ceiling – remember that you have the Gullah to thank for this custom.