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The Art and Magic of Hex Signs

Updated on January 22, 2013

The Magic of Hex Signs

Hex Signs were first seen painted on the sides of barns, stables and houses of the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 18th century. The custom of using these signs was derived from the Old World, brought from Germany and Switzerland by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania.

The name "Hex", has two possible meanings; 1. taken from the German, "die hexe"; meaning Witch or 2. the popularity of the six-pointed star design and the German word for six being "sechs", which sounded like Hex to their English-speaking neighbors.

Either way, these colorful Hex Signs are filled with geometric shapes and elaborate symbols full of meaning and Old World history. They were magical designs of protection created by a "hex-master" or "hexen-meister" to ward off evil, "heverei" (Witchcraft), and to bring good fortune.

The History and Symbolism of The Hex Sign

Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols & Their Meaning: Revised & Expanded
Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols & Their Meaning: Revised & Expanded

The authors explore the meaning of hex symbols by examining evidence from popular writers, scholars, and contemporary hex-sign painters. Full-color photographs display the grandeur of this Pennsylvania Dutch phenomenon.


Shapes and Symbols Used in Hex Signs - Legends and History

The Circle - among the oldest symbols known to man, a symbol of eternity or infinity. Hex signs are traditionally round, utilizing this ancient symbol of continuity.

Distelfink (German: goldfinch, the good luck bird of the Pennsylvania Germans.) - good luck and happiness;

Two Distelfinks - good fortune doubled

Two Distelfinks Crossed - true friendship

Doves or Birds of Paradise - friendship, camaraderie, peace, purity and happiness. The beauty, wonder and mystery of life.

Crescent Moons - the four seasons, fertility, birth

Eagle - strength, courage, clarity of vision

Heart - true love, lasting love, charity, and love for others

Oak Leaf - long life, endurance, strength in body, mind and character.

Pineapple - welcome, hospitality, friendship

Raindrops - water, crop abundance and fertility

Rosettes - good luck

Scallops - ocean waves, smooth sailing in life

Stars - 5-Pointed Star - protection from fire and lightning or a protection for livestock, good fortune, hope, love, fertility, energy and harmony.

-The Eight-Pointed Star- The star is usually blue and symbolizes goodwill. Good omens, light and protection.

The Triple Star - good luck, success and happiness.

Sun Wheel - warmth and fertility

Trinity Tulips - proclaim faith, hope and charity

Wheat - abundance and goodwill

Sources: Igou, Brad. The Story of the Hex Sign (Available, Symbols.Com

Colors and Meaning in Hex Signs

Black - protection, unity, binds elements together

Blue - protection, peace, calmness, heaven and spirituality

Brown - mother earth, cycle of life or friendship and strength

Green - life, growth, fertility, success, ideas that grow

Orange - abundance in career, projects and matters needing an added push

Red - emotions, strength, passion, charisma, lust and creativity

Violet - sacred, dignity, royalty

White - purity, power of the moon, positive energy

Yellow - health in body and mind, the sun, connection to God

Description of Hex Signs - 2010

Your Thoughts and Feedback

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    • RubyRavn LM profile image

      RubyRavn LM 4 years ago

      @geosum: The Amish absolutely would NEVER allow these on their barns or buildings. It is the Pennsylvania Dutch and other Germans (usually) that use them. The Amish consider these to be evil and of the devil. Plus, they're colorful in a man-made-trying-to-improve-on-God sort of way, and this is also not allowed.

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 4 years ago

      We used to see lots of these in years past. We just spent 4 days in the Amish areas of Lancaster. I don't recall seeing any this trip.

    • profile image

      michabouyea3 5 years ago

      Wonderful...brings back many ond memories. However, I recently read an article referring to "an old German 'sign' of life" Any thoughts on this???

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago


    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      I'm always loved the creative hex signs ... fabulously artistic.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 6 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      Some of the signs are really pretty. A lovely lens.

    • David Dove profile image

      David Dove 6 years ago

      New to me, quite scary on a deeper level but really interesting, thank you

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      It's always learning about the colorful customs of other places. I enjoyed the information about what the various colors and symbols in the hex signs represent. Blessed by a SquidAngel and featured on my angel lens.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      I bought an evil eye and wear it every day. Things have gone better

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 7 years ago from Vermont

      Just stopping back to give this wonderful hex sign and symbols lens a Squid Angel blessing ...

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I did not know a lot about hex signs before this. Great translations of the designs and colors. I remember seeing them in PA and OH. Blessed, too!

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens, but you knew that :) Just wanted to remind you that this is featured on the Religious and spiritual gifts Headquarters:

      It's now transformed into a lensography and I would love it if you could feature it here, or lensroll it or something.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 8 years ago from Vermont

      I live in Pennsylvania "Dutch" country and it's a real treat to see beautiful and symbolic hex signs on the barns and covered bridges in this region. Featured on my Pennsylvania Dutch country local lens in the hex signs module - thanks for this beautifully researched and presented lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great info, love the pages pics and all the color ;)

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      "Another great one by the Queen of Symbols! Well done."[in reply to RinchenChodron]

      Ya she sure is the queen of symbols.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      greetings from gothic temptations

    • Spitfire70 profile image

      Spitfire70 8 years ago

      And yet another great lens that I just HAD to lensroll, fav, and give 5* to! Great job!!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Fascinating lens on hex signs. The meanings of symbols and colours was particularly interesting. Welcome to the Art and Design Group.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 8 years ago

      Fantastic Lens! Thank you for adding it to the Pagan Group

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 8 years ago

      Another great one by the Queen of Symbols! Well done.