THE SOUTH IS RICH with lore about ghosts, spirits, haints, haunts and boo hags. But, these beliefs and superstitions are not limited to the legends of the past by any stretch of the imagination. Today, there are numerous reality TV shows, documentaries and movies that are focused on paranormal phenomena, such as ghosts and hauntings, in particular.
Most folks are familiar with the terms ghosts, haunts and specters, but less so with the terms, haints and boo hags. The term haints is an older term found in the South, and is often associated with a specific color of blue that used to be painted on doors, window frames and porch ceilings. Some may not know why their grandmothers and great grandmothers painted the porch ceilings haint blue - particularly the younger generation - but, let there be no doubt, their grandmothers knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. It was out of the fear of restless spirits known as haints. The grandmothers believed that painting certain parts of the home haint blue would protect the family from being taken or influenced by these troublesome spirits of the dead. The haint blue color functions as a spiritual boundary, preventing evil from entering the home and thus, keeping the family safe.
Some of the older lore possesses a certain undeniable charm. In South Carolina, for example, there is the belief that every house has its own spirit that prompts each person who lives there to do good or evil. If the family is quarrelsome, they say the spirit of the house is argumentative and causes others to be short with one another. If the family is sickly, it is because the spirit is sickly. What a convenient excuse for being rude or difficult: “the house ghost made me do it!” While the household spirits rule the family to a great extent, they reportedly do not have as much control as witches or boo hags, who may physically live with the family in the home.
Just as there are deliberate attempts to avoid ghosts and haints, there are also those individuals who invite interaction with the dead. People who seek to communicate with spirits and specters actively do so in séances, candle magic and occult entertainment, such as using a Ouija board. These individuals often open doors to the Spirit world and neglect to close them due to carelessness and/or a lack of experience. As a result, all kinds of spirits are believed to be given access to the place where the door is opened. Spirits who pass through the opened door can attach themselves to participants, follow them around and wreak havoc in their lives and in the lives of those close to them. Finally, there are those individuals who go a step further and intentionally conjure up spirits, calling forth specific entities for very specific reasons.
SIGNS OF SPIRITS
According to lore, if there are paths newly-made in the morning through the grass which do not show any footprints, it is a sign that a ghost has walked there in the night. In Virginia, they say that if a ghost is present, there is a feeling of heat as it approaches you. If at the same time you notice a peculiar kind of smell, it will warn you that you will be a ghost within a year (Daniels & Stevens, 1908).
The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can easily be applied to practices and traditions for avoiding ghosts, haints, specters and boo hags. For example, placing cobalt blue bottles in a tree in the front yard, much like painting a porch ceiling, door or window frame haint blue, is believed to keep evil spirits out of the home. These bottle trees have their roots in the Congo region of Africa. The practice was brought over by slaves who hung blue bottles from trees and huts as talismans to ward off evil spirits. It is believed that the spirits become mesmerized by the colors of the bottles in the sun and unwittingly go inside the bottles. Once they enter the bottles, they can't find their way out—sort of like roach motels—and are stuck there for as long as the bottles remain intact.
In the past, bottle trees littered the Southern landscape with their spectacular colors and creative arrangements; however, over time, the practice has become much less common. There appears to be somewhat of a recent resurgence, however, as they can be seen cropping up in people’s yards again. For many folks, the meaning of the practice is either unknown or of little consequence; rather, it is the beauty, color and quirkiness that gives them an aesthetic appeal that is hard to resist.
There are also behaviors and taboos observed that are said to ensure a life free of meddlin’ spirits. For example, one must not mention before morning whether one has seen a specter, or one will be pressed and spit blood. And, to keep off haints, fill an old sock with salt, mullein, sage, tansy, and any other spirit repelling herbs you can get, combine with a dried cow patty and bury it under the front steps as an effective ward. If that doesn’t work or as added insurance, boiling prickly-pear roots in stump water and sprinkling the yard with the water is said to stop wandering spirits and hauntings.
Haints Be Gone! products are designed to assist you with restoring peace in the home when restless spirits abound. From conjure oils to room sprays, incenses and powerful witch's salt and witch bottles, Creole Moon has an array of cultural heritage items to assist those who believe in ridding their homes and lives of unwanted spiritual entities and negative energies.
The above article is excerpted from Hoodoo Almanac 2013 Gazette, "Southern Folk Beliefs about Ghosts, Specters, Haints, & Boo Hags" by Denise Alvarado, copyright 2013, All rights reserved worldwide.
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