Pennsylvania Roads: Hex Signs



Here in Pennsylvania we just can’t keep up with the snow! We plow and by time the Love of my Life puts the truck away, its snowing again! I saw him yesterday throw his hands up and yell “I quit!” This was 4:30 in the morning……I am sure the neighbors thought he must be getting stir-crazy!

When He came inside he asked what I was planning for my day….a cup of Earl Grey and a blueberry muffin! and I am hitting the road in search of all that Pennsylvania has to teach me…..He kissed me good bye and said “Well, have a good trip don’t forget to write..”

So where am I going today? I wanted to share with you something that I have grown up with here in Pennsylvania….

……Beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs….What are they? Have you ever sign beautifully painted round signs on barns and some homesteads? Yup! that’s a Hex sign! Ever wonder what they mean? well, read on and smile……

……..”Dutch Hex Signs have a rich history that dates back approximately 300 years. The folk art style that inspired the modern day hex sign played an important part in the culture and traditions of the German settlers that created their new home in the region that is now Pennsylvania. These peasant farmers came here seeking the religious freedom they were denied in their home countries. They were comprised of many groups including Mennonites, Lutherans, to name a few……Fact: The Amish do not use Hex Signs…..

Folk art was a key part of their cultures. Originally geometric style designs were found in and around their farmhouses. It was not uncommon to find hand painted designs on doors, walls, books and other household items. After the 1830’s as paint became more affordable the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers began expressing themselves on the sides of their barns by adding large colorful hex designs to the sides. The elements that make up the designs all had special meanings form the individual colors and star patterns to the birds or “Distelfinks”. These designs were believed to add blessings and good fortune to the home and family such as, fertility, luck, love, good health and many other well wishes. These signs are a form of Folk Art, related to Fraktur, found in the Fancy Dutch tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. By the 1940’s commercialized Hex signs, aimed at the tourist market, became popular and these often include stats, compass roses, stylized birds known as Distelfinks, hearts, tulips or a tree of life.  Two schools of thought exist on their meaning of Hex signs.  One school ascribes a talismantic nature to the signs, the others see them as purely decorative, or “Chust for nice” in the local dialect.  Both schools recognize that there are sometimes superstitions associated with certin Hex signs themes, and neither scribes strong magical power to them……”

Jacob Zook of Paradise, Pennsylvania claimed to have originated the modern sign in 1942, based on traditional designs, to be sold in gift shops along the Lincoln highway. Johnny Ott, and Eric & Johnny Claypoole are also considered to have contributed to this Hex sign revival or adaptation.  An unusual use is the official logo of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Radiation Protection, which incorporates the international symbol for radiation into its yellow-and-red adaptation of a traditional Hex sign design.

There are two opposing schools of belief regarding the derivation of the name. The term hex with occult connotations may derive from the Pennsylvania German word “Hex” (German “Hexe”, Dutch “Heks”) meaning witch. However the term “Hex signs” was not used until the 20th century, after 1924 when Wallace Nutting’s book Pennsylvania Beautiful was published. Nutting, a Pennsylvania native, interviewed farmers about their distinctive design. Before this time, farmers just called the signs “Blumme” or Schtanne” – meaning flowers or stars…

In recent years, non-Pennsylvania Dutch persons such as talismans, have used the signs for “Folk Magic”.

Some view the designs as decorative symbols of ethnic identification, possibly originating in reaction to the 19th century attempts made by the government to suppress the Pennsylvania German Language. Anabaptist sects (Amish & Mennonites) in the region have a negative view of Hex signs. It is not surprising that Hex signs are rarely, and perhaps never, seen on Amish or Mennonite household or farm….The Hex signs are prevalent in Amish Country, but they are not Amish,  The Amish and Mennonites are known as plain folk and their religion prohibits such “fancy” ornamentation.”

read more here

Here are some beautiful designs:

I had forgotten how much I had loved these signs, as a child, we had two large hand-painted signs on our house here in Pennsylvania. So its time for me to adorn PineRidge Hills with one! Here is my favorite….. Unicorns  ….

unicornhex “piety, virtue, love, faith “…
Here are some more favorites:
Dutch Irish Sign
I found this one online – isn’t it beautiful? I don’t know the representation but I’m on the hunt! If anyone knows the meaning please let me know….

2303343279_78dc8acaa5_z I hope I made you smile this morning……..Now go get a Hex sign and hang it proudly! I am also ordering one to put on a wreath for the mantle over the fireplace…..
Tomorrow I’ll be taking you on another road trip to all the beautiful “City Lights” and Landmarks Pennsylvania has to offer! and a few you probably didn’t know about……
Country Hugs,

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Updates in Your Inbox!


  1. Thanks for the lesson on Hex signs. As a person living in PA, I see them often, but never really knew the “rest of the story.”

    • I was raised with them, but heard so many different stories. I just think they are beautiful and the history is just as colorful! so glad you enjoyed the post…..stay warm Beth – we are suppose to get hit again!


Leave a Comment