From the moment I became acquainted with “hex symbols” I’ve been fascinated with them. Both because of their beauty and because of their connotations. I’ve never been the sort of witch who is afraid to protect myself. So discovering a way to hex without being the aggressor seemed like a fine concept to me. It also gave me ideas for creating similar meaningful symbols to protect my personal belongings.
The Pennsylvania Dutch hex symbols give me inspiration. I love them! Contrary to popular belief, they are not used by modern Amish communities. So where did they come from?
About 300 years ago, groups of religious refugees from the Rhine region of Germany and parts of Switzerland migrated to south eastern Pennsylvania. These settlers, peasant farmers, came to take advantage of the religious freedom being offered by William Penn. They included Amish and Mennonites – people of “plain” dress – and Lutherans and other Reformed groups of more worldly dress called “fancy”. Over time, these people became known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Naturally, during the waves of emigration to the United States, these settlers brought their old world customs, traditions and folk magic with them to Pennsylvania. Some of the artwork is very simple and primitive, but often it is quite complex and detailed. The “fancy” farmers decorated their distinctive bank barns with large, colorful geometric patterns. Mystical bird and floral designs graced birth and marriage certificates and some furniture. These very colorful symbols, now called hex signs, had meanings or “legends”. A design was selected based on both its aesthetics and meaning for the family. Some of the more popular symbols included: sun wheel for warmth and fertility, hearts for love, birds (called distelfinks) for good luck and happiness, tulips for faith and stars for luck. The specific colors used also had meaning: red for your emotions, yellow for love of man and the sun, green for growing things, blue for protection, white for purity, and brown for Mother Earth.
Although hex signs are not generally associated with modern or even ancient Pagan religions, they are certainly worth taking note of. These hex signs are symbols painted on homes, cradles and barns for a variety of magical purposes. Typically, the designs are painted on a circular
background. Each symbol has a different meaning, and so some hex signs may include multiple symbols, depending on what the property owner wants to accomplish. These symbols include protection against fire and natural disasters, magical attack and illness. Sometimes, rather than being for protection, a hex sign may include symbols for prosperity, good health and even weather magic.
I know that many practitioners of the Craft may feel that hex signs or symbols are against their personal beliefs because they have the potential to do harm. Those that follow the Wiccan Rede may not care to use hex signs or symbols and I can respect that. However, I am neither Wiccan nor do I follow the Rede. The way that I feel about them is that: Hex signs & symbols are clearly displayed and serve as a warning. They do not impose on the free will of anyone. If someone chooses to intentionally disturb or mess with property that clearly displays a hex sign or symbol then they are knowingly risking harm to themselves. These signs are no different to me than casting a protective circle around myself prior to entering a space I know is volatile towards Pagans. They do not cause harm to anyone else unless harm is first intended by them.
As with any spell casting, hexing in this fashion should not be taken lightly. These symbols are not just lovely decorations, they have meaning and if used as a true hex symbol, they have the potential to cause harm. It is always wise to use such powerful magick judiciously. While it may not be a popular school of thought, I am someone who believes that “a witch that cannot hex, cannot heal.” Life is all about duality and balance. Knowing the gravity of the power you possess is paramount in keeping things in perspective. Newton’s Third Law of Motion comes to mind: “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” While it is possible to try and live in such a way that causes no harm to anyone or anything, it is unnatural and unrealistic. With that in mind, I’d advise any of you who would like to use hex symbols, to do so with the understanding that they are more than just pretty pictures, they are powerful spells.