Haint blue to ward you, so true, so true,
haint blue to draw you, how’d-ye-do, how’d-ye-do!
It’s wicked them nights, could you? would you?
believing you can, knowing you might,
a few, some do, new and renew,
the devil in you— be done! haint blue.
Writ there and then washed clean away.
Haint blue is an azure paint that slaves and their descendants applied to doorways and windowsills to ward off spirits and is derived from Western African beliefs that water forms a divide between the human and spirit worlds. It is still practiced in the U.S.A. by slave descendants who live in the Georgia Sea Islands and who typically speak the Creole tongue Geechee, or it’s cousin Gullah in South Carolina. (From the article Cabin Fever, Smithsonian magazine, Oct 2013.)
The practice is wide spread and carries on to this day in North Africa as well. I still remember the azure painted doors and windows of the brick and white plaster houses of Tunisia.
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Poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.