If you drive through the South, you'll notice old houses painted in a peculiar shade of blue. The entire house is never blue. It is always the details that are blue. The shudders, the door, the top of the porch may all be this lovely, eerie shade. The blue is deeper than a sky blue and more subtle than an eggshell blue. It is completely unique and utterly Southern.
This blue is called "Haint Blue". A Haint in Southern parlance is another word for a ghost or a specter. It is the restless spirit of one that has been left behind in the after life. The blue that is so beautiful and so engaging is not just a color, it is a form of magic.
Although Haint Blue can be seen on every kind of Southern house from sprawling mansions and old plantation homes to decaying shacks, the history of Haint Blue goes back to the Gullah or Geechee people. These were the decendants of African slaves that lived in South Carolina and Georgia. Their ancestors were brought to the Americas from Angola which is where the word Gullah is thought to have come from. These peoples clung to the traditions of their ancestors and stories of ghosts and haints were common to their ancestors. Haints were not kind ghosts in their traditions. They were tragic, angry ghosts that were set on causing pain and heartache for the living. As is common in many spirit traditions, however, Haints were unable to cross over water. Therefore the best way to protect yourself from a Haint was to surround yourself in water. The descendants of these African people found the easiest way to protect themselves was to fool Haints into thinking their homes were surrounded by water. They painted their doors and shudders and porches in a watery blue to trick Haints. This Gullah practice spread throughout the South as a method for keeping spirits and Haints at bay. So now you can see the remnant of this old African tradition in homes throughout the South.
My neighbor recently painted her ceiling of her porch and patio Haint Blue. She hasn't told me if it has driven off any dark spirits yet, but I remain hopeful that this old tradition will hold its power as I am planning on painting my porch ceiling Haint Blue this summer.