fertility; oak leaves for male virility; an eagle or rooster with a heart for strength and courage; hearts and tulips for love, faith and a happy marriage.

Hex signs are designed for healing, accumulating material goods and money, starting or stopping rain and innumerable other purposes. A charm or incantation is said as the hex sign is made. Little is known about hex signs, as it is a taboo for the Pennsylvania Dutch to talk about them to outsiders.

The custom of hex signs comes from the Old World and was brought from Germany and Switzerland by the German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and 1800s. In the Old Saxon religion, it was customary to paint protective symbols on barns and household items. In Germany, tradition calls for hex signs to be placed on the frames of barns, but not on houses; in Switzerland, it is customary to place the signs on houses. The Pennsylvania Dutch borrowed both practices. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, regional customs developed in style and placement.

In the 19th century, hex signs proliferated throughout the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside then diminished along with interest in the folk magical arts. See powwowing.

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