Monday, January 14, 2008

I got the blues

People (Connor especially) have asked for a more in depth explanation of "Haunt blue".
Haunt, or 'Haint' blue is a color that is used to decorate the underside of porches and window trim on houses all 0ver the Southern United States. Since Haint blue is a historical color, several variations of it exist. It can look like baby blue, but can also range into green blue tones. Below are samples of Haint Blue Light and Haint Blue Dark from the Savanna historical society (1980) for use on historic homes.

The term Haint as used in the Southern United States is thought to derive from the mingling of Europeans and African slaves. For example, the Gullah people of South Carolina refer to a haint as a spirit or ghost. Another occurrence of the term haint is found in the Appalachian mountains, where it likewise means "that which haunts" and derives from Anglo-Germanic myths of spirits. The interaction between slaves and Europeans produced in Carolina people whose religion was Hoodoo but who had incorporated other ritualistic beliefs from Europe, such as the existence of spirits into their mythology. Ok, now that we know what Haint means, what about the blue, and why use it on porches, door and window frames? Blue painted porches are thought to have many purposes, one is to drive away nesting insects (this is probably caused by the lime originally used in mixed colored paints, rather than due to the color itself.) Apparently, painting the ceiling blue also prevents wasps from building nests on it, as they mistake it for the sky. A more relevant reason to paint entryways blue is that it was thought to confuse evil spirits into believing that the surface painted blue was made of water. In Gullah folklore, Haints cannot cross water, and by painting a surface blue you can trick them into not entering a house by a door or window. Similarly, this may have origins in the Mediterranean belief that the color blue protects against the evil eye.

In addition I think I should mention another iconic New Orleans blue, "Commander's blue". This is named after the famous New Orleans restaurant, Commander's Palace, which, as you can see below, is painted an aqua color.

In 1974 when the Brennan family took over the venerable Commander's Palace restaurant, they painted the brown Victorian mansion bright aqua blue, shocking the staid neighborhood which was colored white beige and brown. Now the color is emblematic of the restaurant, and you can request house paint colored "Commander's Blue".


Blogger Benjamin said...

Is it just my colorblindness, or is that "blue" really gray-green?

January 15, 2008 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

No its kinda grey green in color. I have seen porches painted a baby blue or sky blue color before, so I think the exact shade of Haint is variable.

January 15, 2008 at 7:11 PM  

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