In the wake of our recent discussion of scrub jays and paper wasps, Donna, one of our regular readers, tipped me off to the Southern tradition of painting porch ceilings haint blue to discourage nesting insects — and restless spirits (“haint” derives from “haunt”) — from making themselves at home in our living spaces.
Haint blue is not a single shade of blue, but refers rather to a blue used for this purpose. The actual color could run from soft powder blue to true sky blue to bright teal.
While the cool, airy white porch with a blue ceiling speaks to elegant Victoriana, I’ll note that the practice probably does originate in the traditions of the Gullah or Geechee people, brought to this country as slaves. They’d mix up lime paint in various shades of blue and paint not only their ceilings, but around doors and windows–around every opening into their home, to protect themselves from evil spirits.
I spent a little time ( a very little time, admittedly!) looking for some solid historical writing on this haint blue business, but found nothing but hearsay. The same basic info seems to be distributed all over the Internets, which means the resource pool is pretty small, or pretty shallow. Nonetheless, I think the idea of a blue porch ceiling very appealing, if for no other reason than it extends the open sky into our living spaces.
All this business is novel to me, a Westerner born and bred, but perhaps some of our readers from the South will have comments or experience with haint blue?
In the meanwhile, our front porch is overdue for painting, and I think I’ll try a blue ceiling this time. I’ll let you know what the wasps (and spirits) make of it.
For more information, the good folks over at Apartment Therapy have a post which covers the basics of what the Internet knows about haint blue:
And Donna’s original comment pointed to this show, called You Bet Your Garden.