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Painting a positive porch
Ever wonder why a porchs ceiling may be blue? The tradition involves an old culture and good energy
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The porch ceilings of Bob Thompson's Gainesville home are painted blue like the ocean. But the tradition of blue porch ceilings originated with the Gullah/Geechee culture of Southern coastal areas, and the color is meant to allow only positive energy to enter a home. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

1017HaintAUD

Queen Quet talks about the religion of the Gullah/Geechee nation.

Not many people think of painting the ceiling of their front porch a different color.

But from time to time you may pass by a house with a porch ceiling painted blue.

At Bob Thompson's house in Gainesville, the light blue color highlights the front and back porch ceilings, along with the carport's ceiling.

"It was green at one time and I changed it to blue ... around 1984-85," said Thompson, who grew up in the house on Park Street. "It makes me think of the ocean; I just like the color."

What Thompson didn't know is the trend originated from the days of slaves being brought to America.

In Savannah and Charleston, S.C., many stately Southern mansions have blue porch ceilings, which some locals there refer to as "haint blue."

The word haint refers to haunt or ghost, and the legend is that the color guards the home from evil or bad spirits entering the home.

This tradition began in the United States with the Gullah/Geechee nation in South Carolina.

But according to Queen Quet, chieftess and head of state of the Gullah/Geechee nation based in St. Helena Island, S.C., people of their culture would never refer to the blue ceiling or doorway as haint blue.

"First of all, in our culture, which is the Gullah/Geechee culture, we have no such thing as haint blue," Quet said. "That is something that other people refer to. We use indigo blue. We do not and we have never called it haint blue. It's used on the porches or on the doorway, basically entry way ... so the porch that you are talking about is the entry way.

"It really came down from the Sea Islands, which is part of the Gullah/Geechee nation."

The Gullah/Geechee nation stretches from Jacksonville, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., and 30 to 35 miles inland of the Low Country and northeast Florida, according to the official Gullah/Geechee Web site.

Quet also said the indigo color protects the home or business and allows only positive energy to enter.

"What it is, is that it is a misrepresentation," said Quet about the term haint blue. "It came from Anglo people that started calling it haint ... because they didn't understand the spiritual part of it. So when we hear that, it is offensive to our people and tradition."

Chris Surber, a docent at the Owens-Thomas house in Savannah, said he always had been told the haint blue was a regional term, started in the Savannah area with the Gullah/Geechee influence, with roots in Africa.

"I think if you go up to Charleston, S.C., they have Charleston blue and things like that," he said. "They talk about the Gullah culture, which are the people who settled down here in the Low Country, so that's possible, too."

He added that the "darker the blue, the worse the haints. I've also heard that it was blue because they felt that spirits couldn't cross water, so they're trying to simulate the color of water." Although Quet disputes that claim.

Quet said even though there may be some misunderstanding of the indigo color of entry ways, she is proud to see the paint.

"Usually for me, as I travel up and down (the coast)... it's an indicator," she said. "For me, I am proud of it because it shows our cultural connections and the strength of them. That no matter where we go, we don't just assimilate and melt into the pot but we still have those connections."

Even today in parts of West Africa, the indigo paint will appear on homes and buildings - and even people.

"You'll see it not only where people use it to adorn the buildings, but that they will dress in indigo for different types of things," Quet said.

Times' reporter Kristen Morales contributed to the report.

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