I was reading my friend Duckhunter’s blog about his discovery of a house with “Haint Blue” paint on the porch. Duck does a great job of describing this practice, but it got me thinking about other, similar superstitions. In particular, I wondered if there were other superstitions like this, perhaps some even specific to the Piedmont region of South Carolina. I’ve done some preliminary online searches, but so far I’m coming up short.
What I’m really looking for are superstitions that take on a tangible sign, not practices such as avoiding opening umbrellas indoors. One that comes to mind is the practice in the lower part of the state of putting up bottle trees in the yard to capture spirits. The hex signs found on many Pennsylvania Dutch barns would be another example.
Searching on the terms “Southern Superstitions” and “South Carolina Superstitions” in Google didn’t turn up many hits. There is plenty online about Gullah culture and one can also find a good bit searching on Appalachian folklore. The coast is covered, the mountains are covered, but it can be hard to find something for that vast tract in between. There are many, such as putting up a horseshoe for good luck, that aren’t limited to a specific region. I know I could get more hits by searching for symbolism or good luck charms, and I may try that, but I was hoping for a more refined search.
While not exactly what I was looking for, one good resource I found is The Moonlit Road, a collection of “Strange Tales from the American South.” This looks like a collection of user-submitted stories from all around the south. Unfortunately, some of the later links appear to be broken, but there are some good stories there.
I’m going to keep searching. In the meantime, I may see if I can find some haint blue painted porches, like my friend Duckhunter.
“Out front was a clean dirt yard with every vestige of grass patiently uprooted and the ground scarred in deep whorls from the strike of Livvie’s broom. Rose bushes with tiny blood-red roses blooming every month grew in threes on either side of the steps. On one side was a peach tree, on the other a pomegranate. Then coming around up the path from the deep cut of the Natchez Trace below was a line of bare crape-myrtle trees with every branch of them ending in a colored bottle, green or blue. There was no word that fell from Solomon’s lips to say what they were for, but Livvie knew that there could be a spell put in trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house–by luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again. Solomon had made the bottle trees with his own hands over the nine years, in labor amounting to about a tree a year, and without a sign that he had any uneasiness in his heart, for he took as much pride in his precautions against spirits coming in the house as he took in the house, and sometimes in the sun the bottle trees looked prettier than the house did.” — Eudora Welty