Inspired by my friend Ryan and his blog A Changing Altar, I've decided to join the Pagan Blog Project. I anticipate posting every two weeks, so only once per letter of the alphabet. This Friday, the letter is H.
I think when many people hear the word "hex" they immediately thing of "curse". However, when used to refer to a type of folk art traditionally painted on barns and homes, hex takes on an entirely different meaning.
"Hex signs" originate in Pennsylvania Dutch country and can be used magically or simply appreciated for their artistic beauty. Indeed, many historians and folklorists believe that the designs were originally nothing more than folk art brought over from Germany, but which later developed into a form of ethnic symbolism. These days, many hex signs are associated with specific intents and carry quite a bit of magical power with them. But some are still just art. It's all in the intent, after all.
The term "hex sign" was probably picked up because of its sexiness. In a book published in 1924 about the Pennsylvania Dutch, many terms were used by local farmers to refer to the signs, including "blumme" (flowers) or "schtanne" (stars). However one farmer called them "Hexefoos" and that's what stuck.
There are a few classic designs for hex signs, many of which incorporate geometric shapes with symbols. Magically, the meaning of the hex is based on the shapes, colours and symbols used in its design. For example a six-pointed rosette chases away bad luck, an eight-pointed star invites good fortune and an eight-pointed star or "sun ray" with a circle at the center is a symbol for success. If you add rain drops and/or wheat to this design, the hex may mean a good weather for successful harvest, however if you add acorns to the design it may mean success with conception or with a new project.
Here are some traditional meanings for hex signs:
- Rosettes: Luck (or chasing away bad luck)
- Stars: Luck or success (or protection)
- 4-pointed sun wheel: Warmth and fertility
- Acorn: Fertility or "humble beginnings"
- Dove: Peace or friendship
- Heart: Love
- Oak leaf: Strength and endurance
- Raindrop: Good weather or abundance
- Tulips: Faith, hope and trust (or chastity)
- Wheat: Abundance, prosperity (abundant crops)
Hexes can be drawn, painted, embroidered, knitted, carved, planted as a design in a garden, decorated into a cake, or made in any way that results in a visual symbol. It's a fun and powerful form of spellcraft.