HEX SIGNS

Hex signs have become an art form, along with FRAKTUR used to decorate furniture, birth and marriage records of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

 

Have you ever driven through rural Pennsylvania and wondered about the colorful circular designs decorating their barns?

Let me tell you about the tradition that developed somewhere in the 18th and 19th century among the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) who settled there. There are several explanations floating around. They were mostly farmers, but they were a superstitious, hard working people. They used symbols, mostly six pointed stars, painted directly on their barns to ward off witches or to bring them good luck. At first the stars were six pointed and called ‘sech’ or German six.  By some, they were called ‘hexafoo’, meaning witches foot. Eventually the stars became a symbol of prosperity, with the most points on the most prosperous farms.

‘Hex signs’ soon evolved into a circular design, indicating the circle of life, and boasted a number of artistic and colorful symbols. Some farmers still believed they had magical powers. The eagles painted on them were for strength, the heart for love, the tulip was for faith, and birds for luck and happiness.  The colors were also symbolic. Blue was used for protection, green for abundance as in crops, white emanated purity,

The settlers painted their home furnishings, as well. This tradition gave us FRAKTUR painting and is distinctive in the tulips and disselfinks and hearts on hand wrought chests and furniture and records of birth and marriage.

I grew up in a time we avoided walking under ladders, crossed the street when we saw a black cat, threw spilled salt over a left shoulder, and never opened an umbrella in the house

What are some of the superstitions you still adhere to? Or have you left that part of your life behind as I have?