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Hex Signs on Rural Buildings and What They Mean

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Hello, for this Blog installment I would like to share a piece in response to an email I received regarding Hex Signs.

Dear Saveta: My wife and I recently returned from a road trip that included traveling through Pennsylvania. While there we stopped, as we love to do, and browsed some wonderful old bookstores. As we were browsing we happened to encounter the owner of the shop (an older woman) and a younger female customer looking through a book together and speaking excitedly about an old farmhouse nearby that the younger woman and her husband were in the progress of renovating.

The short of it was Saveta, that the young woman had come across references in an apparently very old book about “Hex Symbols?” that she believed were the same as ones she had discovered faded but intact on her home and was in the bookstore to discover if the owner had any knowledge of these Hex signs and could she provide any details of their purported magical and protective abilities. My wife and I were only able to engage the two in conversation for a few minutes before the owner had to leave to attend other customers. The bit we heard about we thought was fascinating.

We found a book on these Hex signs but other than very beautiful illustrations, the book was scanty on any other information on this. Saveta, my wife and I are intrigued.

O.W. Delaware N.Y.

Dear O.W.: A delightful question! Here's what I was able to dig up...What I believe the young woman you mentioned in your letter was actually referring to is what is known as Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Symbols. These round symbols are found even in present day particularly in South Eastern Pennsylvania painted on barns, assorted outer buildings and homes.

Earlier in the century a large number of refugees settled in Pennsylvania bringing with them these Hex symbols. The original signs incorporated were called Sechs which is the word for the number six in German. They were most likely called this because they often contain six points. At some point the word Sechs changed to Hex (a derivative of the German word for witch) and have now in present times arrived as Hex symbols.

In the reference I checked they were described as an energy guard, as well as a graphic celebration of nature and God. Acorns, doves, lilies, hearts, tulips and abstract geometric patterning are frequently incorporated as design elements. The colours used to paint the actual Hex symbol were seen as very significant and capable of drawing specific desirable effects....

Green - abundance, Iuck with money, family happiness

Blue - spiritual enlightenment, love, protection and beauty

Brown - sensual pleasure, earthiness and fertility

White - purity and joy

Red - love and freedom to your own person

Finally, combinations of blue, red and yellow were purported to guard against sickness and spells cast by "bad" witches.

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