The Hex Factory

Heiden Hexology

‘S PENNSYLFAWNISCH DEITSCH ECK, from the Morning Call, Allentown, Pa., August 6, 1949

Devoted to the Literature, Lore and History of the Pennsylvania Germans
Preston A Barba, Editor

UNSER SCHEIERE Vum PRESTON A. BARBA


Wann fremme Leit darrich unser scheeni Landschraft faahre, darrich Bucks, Northampton, Lecha un Baerricks, dann bewunners sie immer unser grosse Scheiere. Des misse doch karyose Leit sei, meene sie dann, wu so viel Freed an ihre Scheiere hen. Ya, mer sin net yuscht Karyose Leit, mer sin aa maerrickwaerdiche Leit. Mer duhne unser Scheiere net yuscht schee aaschtreiche, mer duhne aa allerlee Sache un Gramansel uff unser Scheiere mole. “Ach.” Saage die fremme Leit, “des waern woll die Hexefiess sei, wu mer schunn so oft gelese hen devun.”

No waerd mol geschtoppt un gfrogt, awwer niemand will vun Hexefiess wisse. No saage die fremme Leit: “Des sin schlaus, schiltzohriche Mensche, die sin net dumm wie sie wellen’s yuscht net zugewwe.” Awwer die Wohret zu saage, mir Pennsylvaanisch Deitsche wiss selwert ferwas die scheene runde Kreis un Schtaerne uff unser Scheiere schtehne. Doyetz hot en Freind zu mir gsaat, er waer uff re Bauerei uffgebrocht warre un hett net emol ge’notice’t, ass so Sache uff de Scheiere schtehne, bis er mol aryetsen Pikter devun gsehne hett, un so geht’s aa vieleicht viel annere vun uns.

Paar Yohr zerick waar ich bei me alde Bauer in Weissebarrick Taunschip in Lecha. Er hot en iwweraussi scheeni Scheier ghatt un ich hab die scheene Schtaerne uff seinre Scheier bewunnert. “Was bedeite die Schtaerne,” hawwich gfrogt. “Die Schtaerne” saagt er, “ya, die sin ewe yuscht fer schee.” “Deel Leit welle behaabde, sell waere Hexefiess,” hawwich gsaat. “Hexefiess,” saagt er erschdaunt, “Ei,



OUR BARNS
by : PRESTON A. BARBA

When foreign people drive through our beautiful landscape, through Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, and Berks, they always wonder about our large barns. These must be curious people, they think, when they take so much delight in their barns. Yes, we are not only curious people, we are also remarkable people. We don’t only paint our barns beautifully, we also paint all kinds of things and flummery on our barns. “Ach.” say the foreign people, “these are the Witches’ Feet, which we have read so much about.”

Now people will stop and ask, but no one wants to know anything about Witch’s Feet. The foreign people say: “These are sly, mischievous, people, they are not dumb, they just don’t want to admit it.” But to tell the truth, we Pennsylvania Dutch know what the beautiful round circles and stars on our barns stand for. Recently a friend said to me, he was brought up on a farm and never once noticed that such things stood on the barns, until he saw a picture with them on, and maybe that’s how it is with other people, too, even some of us.

A few years ago, I was with an old farmer in Weisenberg Township in Lehigh County. He had a very beautiful barn and I observed the beautiful stars that were on his barn. “What do the stars mean,” I asked. “The stars,” he said, “yes, they are just for nice.” “Some people want to assert, they are Witch’s Feet,” I said. “Witch’s Feet,” he said astonished, “Aye, if I had known that, I would have had to shame myself.”


wann ich sell wisst, misst ich mich in mei Hinnerdeel nei scheme.”

Nau, mir Pennsylvaanisch Deitsche sin net die Eensichschte Leit, wu ihre Sache schee gleiche. Wann die gemolte Bilder (un ich meen nau so Pikters vun Beechnut Chewing Gum, odder Mail Pouch Duwack, odder Geil un Vieh un Sei-ich meen selli scheene Kreis un Schtaerne) wann des all yuscht fer schee waer, ferwas findt mer sie yuscht do unnich uns Pennsylvaanisch Deitsche?—Nee, mer wisse nau, ass des alde Zeeche sin, alde Zeeche wu unser Voreldre mitgebrocht hen aus der ald Heemet, well ihre Voreldre hunnerde, ya, dausende vun Yohr zerick, wie sie noch Heide waare, vor Grischtus gebore waar, die Zeeche schunn ghatt hen—die seeme Zeeche, as mer ewe aa schunscht do bei uns sehne uff Debbiche, uff Kischde, Daaf- scheine un Graewer. Awwer ich heer ebber saage, die erschte Scheiere waere net mit so Zeeche bemolt gewest. Ya sell iss waahr—mer hen ken Beweis, ass die Scheiere viel eb 1850 so bemolt sin warre. Awwer mer misse bedenke, ass die erschte Scheiere aus Bleck gebaut waare. Mer misse aa in Bedracht nemme, ass die Zeite sich sellemols arrick verennert hen. Baut 1850 hen die Leit aafange meh un meh maschin-gemachte Sache zu kaafe. Un die Handwaerrickdeit hen immer wennicher Handaerwet geduh: wennischer Gscharr un Heffe gemacht, wennicher Schmitt-un Holsaerwet, wennicher Leine un wollne Sache gewebt.

Die Zeeche, as mer frieher iwwerall gsehne hot uff Schissle un uff Buddermoddle, uff Debbich un Handdicher, uff Kischde un Frakdur, sin als wennicher gebraucht warre un waere schier vergesse gange. En neii Zeit waar an der Dier un die yunge Leit sin meh un meh vun de alde Sache wegkumme. Awwer die Bauere sin reicher warre un die Scheiere gresser. Was dutt mer yuscht mit denne grosse rotaagstrichne Scheiereseide? Die alde Schtaerne uff de Mammi ihre Debbiche, uff de aide Sache un uff



Now, we Pennsylvania Dutch are not the only people that like pretty things. When the painted pictures (and I don’t mean pictures of Beechnut Chewing Gum, or Mail Pouch Tobacco, or of horses and cows and pigs - I mean those pretty circles and stars) if those were all just for pretty, why do we only find them among us, the Pennsylvania Dutch? - No, we know now, that the signs are old, old signs that our forefathers brought with them from the old homeland, well, their forefathers hundreds, yes, thousands of years ago, when they were still heathens, before Christ was born, these signs they already had - the same signs, that we have on our quilts, on chests, baptismal certificates and graves. But I hear some say, that the first barns weren’t painted with such signs. Yes, that is true - we don’t have any proof, that the barns before 1850 were painted so. But we must consider, that the first barns were built out of logs. We must also take into consideration that the times have really changed since then. Around 1850, people began to buy more machine made goods. And the craftsmen had less and less handwork to do: fewer dishes and pottery to make, fewer blacksmith and woodwork, wove fewer linen and wool goods.

The signs, that one earlier saw on bowls and on butter molds, on quilts and handkerchiefs, on chests and fraktur, were used less and less and were almost forgotten about. A new age was at the door, and the young people moved more and more away from the old things. But the farmers became richer, and the barns became larger. What does one do with such large red painted sides of barns? The old stars on mom’s quilts, on the old things and on the tombstones made them think of home, and they went back and took the



de Graabschtee hen em ewe doch noch aagheemelt un mer geht draa un nemmt die aldbekannte Zeeche un abaddich solche wu sich leicht vergreessere un mit me Zaerkel mache losse un setzt sie vanne un hinner uff die breede Scheiere.

Nau wann so Sache yuscht uff unser Scheiere zu sehne waere, dann breichte me runs net lang domit Bekimmere. Ich will heit yuscht vun denne Scheierezeeche schwetze, awwer es gebt aa annere bekannte Zeeche in der Pennsylvannisch Deitsche Volkskunscht un wammer all die Zeeche immer wider iwwerallich sehnt (net immer gans gleich doch im Grund genumme die seeme) un wammer weess, ass unser Voreldre sie vum alde Land mit riwwer gebrocht hen, weil sie sie so gegliche un eschdemiert hen, dann muss mer awwe mer ewe doch glaawe, ass sie ebbes bedeite. Wammer dann ins alde Land geht un sie heit noch darte sehnt, net uff grosse rode Scheiere, weil sie ewe kenni hen, awwer uff de Heiser selwert un uff de Diereposchte, uff Schtee un Eise un Hois un uff ihre Graewer, un wammer denne Sache dann weiter noochgeht un findt, ass annere Velker in annere Lenner aa solche ghatt hen, muss mer zugewwe ass selli Zeeche in friehe Zeide fer die Menschheit en Bedeiding ghatt hen, wie Buschschtaawe aus re alde Schprooch, wu fer uns schpeetere Mensche schier vergesse gange iss. Ich bin selwer paar mol in der Palz gewest, wu so viel vun unser Voreldre herschtamme un ich vergess mei Lewe net wie ich imme alde Schteebruch gschtanne hab, wu die alde Reemer 1700 Yohr zerick Schtee breche henlosse, un ihr Deitsche Schaffleit die saeme Zeeche in die Schteewand neighackt hen, wie mer sie do in Baerricks Kaunti uff unser Scheiere sehne.

Ya, unser Voreldre hen sie mit iwwer der See gebrocht. Do in de neie Welt waare die Zeeche wie Glaech in re lange Kett, wu sie mit der Vergangeheit verbunne hot. Die Zeeche findt mer net yuscht in der Palz. Mer findt sie ewwe



old well-known signs and especially those that could easily be made larger and with a compass could be made large enough to be placed on the front and backs of their broad barns.

Now if these things were only on our barns, then we wouldn’t need to trouble ourselves. Today, I want to only talk about those barn signs, but there are other well-known signs in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art and when we look at the signs more in-depth (not just at face value) and when we know that our forefathers brought with them from the old country, because they liked them and held them in esteem, then one must believe that they had a meaning. If one goes to the old country and sees them there today, they won’t be on large red barns, because they don’t have those, but they are on the houses themselves and on the door posts, on stones and iron and on their graves, and when you go farther back, you can find that other people in other countries also had similar signs, one must admit that those signs in earlier times had a meaning for the people, like letters out of the old language, which for us later on have been forgotten. I have been a few times in the Palatinate, where so many of our forefathers came from and I will never forget when I stood in an old quarry, where the old Romans broke the stones away 1,700 years earlier, and their German workers carved the same signs into the stone walls, which we can see on our barns in Berks County.

Yes, our forefathers brought them across the ocean. Here in the new world the signs were like links in a long chain, which connected it to the past. The signs are not only found in the Palatinate. One can find them also in other places,



aa schunscht un abaddich in Nard-Deitschland. Datt drowwe im dunkle, kalte Nardland waar die Sunn fer selli friehe Mensche en gettlich Ding. Was waer der Mensch unni Sunn? Unni Sunn gaebt as ken Lewe uff daere Aerd!
Hinnich de Sunn waar selli allmechdich Graft, wu alles erschaffe hot, der fer uns Mensche unbegreiflich Haerrgott selwert. Un fer selli friehe Mensche in Heidedum waar die Sunn wull der bescht Beweis vun seller gettlich Graft. Die Sunn geht maryets uff, sie macht ihr deeglich rundi Rees un geht owets unner. Die Sunn macht as ihr yaehrlichi Rees. Winders macht sie yuscht en gleener Buge am Himmel, sie schteicht nidderer un drowwe im Nardland verschwindt sie gand; dann kumme widder selli heiliche Nechte im Disember un die Sunn schteicht widder heecher an Himmel; sie fangt ihr Ring ass; en nei Yohr fangt aa; neie Hoffning Haerz; sie schtraahlt runner uff die gans Nadur; es iss widder Friehyohr; die Sunn dreht sich heecher un heecher—alles waerd lewendich-- es waerd Summer—die Frucht un ‘s Obscht waerd zeidich—die Aern iss verbei—es geht em Schpotyohr zu; es waerd widder Winder. Rund iss die Sunn—rund iss ihr Yohrgang.

Un so iss es aa mit unserm menschliche Lewe. Mer kummt als Kind in die Welt, die Yohr vergehe, mer waxst uff, mer heiert, mer grickt Kinner, mer waerd alt,mer waerd ins Grab gelegt—un—unser Kinner un Kinskinner mache der seem Gang vun der Wieg bis ins Graab, en ewicher Ring vun Zeit bis Ewichkeit. Was des alles gemeent hot far unser Voreldre, in selle friehe Zeite kenne me runs heit wull nimmi vorschtelle. Es waare yuscht Heide awwer do waar Reschpeckt un Ehrfaerricht in ihrm schtumme Haerze. Un wie hett mer des alles besser als Symbol abzeichne kenne als mit me Ring odder Kreis, mit me Schtaern in der Mitt?

Wie schtols muss seller erscht Mensch gewest sei, als er fers erscht Mol mit me Rieme, mit re Rank odder was er ewe in selle fliehe Zeite



especially in northern-Germany. Up there in the dark, cold north country, the sun was a divine thing for those early people. What would man be without the sun? Without the sun there would be no life on earth! Behind the sun was an almighty power, that created everything, for us people incomprehensible God himself. And for those early people in heathendom the sun was the best proof of the godly power. The sun comes up in the morning; she makes her daily round trip and goes down in the evening. The sun makes her yearly trip. In the winter she only makes a small arch in the sky, she rises and sets quickly in the north country; then come again the holy nights in December and the sun begins to climb higher again in the sky; she begins her ring; as a new year begins; new hope in our hearts; she shines down on the whole of nature; it is spring again; the sun turns higher and higher - everything comes alive - it is summer - the fruit and vegetation ripen - the harvest is done - it returns to autumn; it is winter again. Round is the sun - round in the year’s journey.

And so it is with our human life. We arrive as a child in the world, the years pass, we grow up, we get married, we have children, we age, we are laid in our graves - and - our children and grandchildren take the same journey from the crib to the grave, an eternal ring from time to eternity. What all that meant to our forefathers, in those early times, we can begin to understand or imagine. They were only heathens but there was respect and reverence in their mute hearts. And how better can one draw a symbol then with a ring or circle, with a star in the middle?

How proud those first people must have been, when for the first time with leather, with a vine or with whatever they had in those early times,



ghatt hot, en scheener Ring abgezaerkeit hot, wie en Raad, un hot sell Raad noch weider abgedeelt bis er sich der Sechsschtaern erfunne hot. Un wie hett er die Sunn un ihr Yohrgang besser abmole kenne als mit me Raad un vier Schpeech fer ‘s Friehyohr der Summer, ‘s Schpotyohr un der Winder, un wie hett er besser weise kenne wie Sunn sich darrich die Yohre dreht als mit me Hokegreiz imme Ring?

Ya, so Sunnezeeche waare in selle friehe Zeite hoch geeschdemiert. Mit daere schtumme Schproch hot sich der Mensch langsam uff der lang, lang Weg noch em ewiche Licht gemacht. Wie hen sie sich gfreet wie die Sunn ihne dart im Nardland widdere Frucht un Obscht hot wachse losse un zeidich warre. Dankbar waare die Mensche fer der Sege—die Aern waar wider. Gott Lob un Dank, unnich em Dach un dankbaar hen sie en schee Sunnezeeche uff ‘s Haus odder uff die Fruchtkammer un uff ihr Koch-un Schaffgscharr gegratzt. Sie waare yuscht Heide, awwer die Sunnezeeche hen sie gebraucht wie mir schpeetere Grischte ‘s hellig Greiz fer Schutz un Sege aa brauche. Un selleweg hen sie ihr Dankbaarkeet un Ehrfaerricht ausgedrickt.

Awwer was in friehere Zeide als Religion aagsehne waar, waerd dann schpeeter oftmols als Awwerglaawe bedracht. Un doch iss en bissel vun alldem noch bis heit bei uns henke bliwwe. Wisst ihr noch wie der Grossdaadi un die Grossmammi immer im Kalenner rumgschtiert hen? Es hen ken annere Leit so viel Gewicht uff der Kalenner gelegt wie mir Pennsylvaanisch Deitsche. Sell iss alsnoch en Iwwebielbsel vum gross Reschpeckt as mir frieher fer die Sunn un der Mond un die Schtaerne ghatt hen. Es iss ken Zufall, denk ich, ass die astronomers Rittenhouse un Ibach Pennsylvaansch Deitsche waare, un die Kalennermacher Gruber un Koppenhaver. Was hot die Grossmammi als im Kalenner rumgeblettert eb sie ans Gaerdle gange iss; eb die Widderung aa recht waar; eb der Mond im



created a beautiful ring, like a wheel, and divided that wheel until a six-pointed star was discovered. And how could they have better painted the sun in its yearly journey than with a circle and four spokes for spring, summer, for autumn and winter, and how better could they show how the sun travels throughout the year than with a spinning cross (swastika) in a ring?

Yes, such sun signs were esteemed in those early times. With their mute language, the people slowly made their journey on the long, long path towards eternal light. How they must have celebrated when the sun there in the north country allowed the fruit and vegetation to grow and ripen. The people were thankful for their blessings - the harvest was again. Praise and thanks to God, under one roof and thankfully they scratched pretty sun signs on their house or on their granary and on their cooking and working implements. They were just heathens, but the sun signs they used like we would later use the cross of Christ for protection and blessing. And that is how they showed their thankfulness and reverence.

But what was seen as religion in earlier times, would later often be viewed as superstition. And some of us are still hanging on that assumption today. Do you know how grandpop and grandmom always looked to their almanacs? There were never any other people who put so much weight behind an almanac as us, the Pennsylvania Dutch. That is still a remnant of the great respect that earlier was placed on the sun, the moon, and the stars. It is not an accident, I think, that the astronomers Rittenhouse and Ibach were Pennsylvania Dutch, and the almanac makers Gruber and Koppenhaver. What did grandmom do, other than page through her almanac before going into the garden; if the weather was right; if the moon was waxing or waning; if the horns of the moon turned downwards or upwards; and if the signs were



Abnemmede odder im Zunemmede; eb im Unnerschtehende odder im Ewwerschtehende; un eb die Zeeche aa recht schtehne. Un wann die Grossmammi ihre Riewe uff der Hussedaag gsaet hot, waar’s net well der Johann Huss am 6. Tschulei gemaertyrt waare iss, awwer well mer ewe darrich Erfaahring gewisst hot, ass die Riewe besser ausgewwe, wammer sie um selli Zeit saet. Heit lacht mer oft iwwer so Sache. Mer blanst sei Sach nimmi im Zeeche, mer blanst’s in der Grund. Mer sin gescheiter warre— gscheiter, awwer net besser. Hinnich alldem schteckt, wann’s aa ebmols bissel eefeldich laut, der gross Reschpeckt un die Ehrfaerricht fer die Nadurmechte un fer der Weltschepfer. Es schteht gschriwwe: Die Furcht Gottes ist alller Weisheit Anfang.

Iwwerall um uns rum sehne mer viel scheene Scheiere mit Schtaerne. Es gebt Leit wu fer Zeitverdreib die Schtaerne sammle un sie welle sehne wievel unnerschiddliche Sarde sie zammefinne kenne. Sell will awwer nix saage. Un es iss net dewaert ass ihr froge was sie all meene. Ich kennt eich net mol Andwartt gewwe,well sie all uff en paar Grundmuschtere zerickgehn un die iwweriche sin schier all yuscht ausgeaart odder en Versuch gewest die alde zu Verschennerew. Rund sin sie all. Dann un wann, mer sehnt noch devun in Montgomery County, waare es yuscht Greis odder Ring: dann en 4-schpeehich Sunnenrad, odder wann die Schpeech schraegs schtehne un der Reef gebroche, waar’s ewe es weltbekannte Hokegreiz (was mer Swastika nennt) Des Zeeche weist woll am scheenschte wie die Sunn sich dreht. Awwer mer verschteht oftmols net wie des Zeeche meh uff die Scheier zu mole. Es setten immer yuscht zwee sei un nie in de seems Richdung. Sie setten sich gege-nanner drehe, well es eent dann’s zunemmede Yohr bedeit un ‘s anner ‘s abnemmede. Awwer es scheenscht Zeeche un eens vun de zwee bekanntschte un frieschte iss wull der schtraahlende Sechsschtaern, weil er so leicht abgezaerkeit warre kann.



right. And when grandmom sowed her turnips on Huss Day, wasn’t it on the 6th of July that Jan Huss was martyred, but through experience one knows that the turnips do better when they are planted during that time. Today we often laugh about such stuff. One does not plant his stuff according to the signs, one just plants it in the ground. We have become smarter - smarter, but not better. Behind all of this, even if it sounds foolish, is a great respect and reverence for the powers of nature and for the creator of the world. It is written: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

All around us we see many beautiful barns with stars. There are people who pass their time collecting them and they try to see how many different variations they can find. That won’t say anything. And it is not worthwhile to ask what they all mean. I cannot give an answer, there are a few basic patterns, and some can be sorted as an attempt to embellish the old ones. They are all round. If and when one sees one in Montgomery County, it is just a circle or ring; then a 4 spoked sun wheel, or if the spokes stand oblique and the hoop is broken, it was a spinning star (what one calls a swastika). This sign shows how the sun turns. But we often don’t understand how to paint these signs on the barns anymore. There should always be just two, and never in the same direction. They should turn against each other, one represents the waxing of the year and the other the waning. But one sees signs, and one of the two best known and earliest is the beaming six-pointed star, because it was so easy to draw.



Heit hot mer wennich Verschtendnis fer so Sachs un Doch sette mer die alde Zeeche in Ehre halte weil unser Voreldre sie geehrt hen un mit Reschpeckt aagsehne hen als heiliche Zeeche. Nee, sie waare net yuscht fer schee. Selli – Zeeche waare ihne nodwennich aus em Haerz gewachse. Un’s daet uns nix schadde wammer selli alde Zeche aa heitnoch aasehne daet fer was sie mol in friehere Zeide yaare: Zeeche vun sellre mechdiche Graft wu im Winder schlummert; in Friehyohr widder wacker waerd un nei Lewe in die Nadur bringt; in Summer die Frucht un’s Obscht zeldich waare lost; un dann im Winder wider eischloft—imme ewiche Gringel odder Ring; wu selwert widder der scheenscht Beweis in der Nadur iss vun unserm Haerrgott. Un wer des so bedracht, muss zugewwe, ass die gemolte Schtaerne uff unser Scheiere lauder Gebede sin—awwer HEXEFIESS?—Nee—Nee--fui, Deiwel! Nee—Sell losst mer annere un dummere Leit glaawe.




Today we have less and less of an understanding for such things, and still we should hold in veneration the old signs because our forefathers honored them with respect and saw them as holy signs. No, they weren’t just for pretty. Those signs grew out of necessity of the heart. And it doesn’t matter when we look at those old signs today and see them for what they meant in years long past: signs from their almighty power who in winter slumbered; in spring woke again and brought new life to nature; in summer ripened the fruit and vegetation; and then in winter returned to sleep - always eternally in a circle or ring; where one could see proof for themselves that nature comes from God. And whoever contemplates this, must admit, that the painted stars on our barns are prayers - but witch’s feet? No - No - Ugh, the devil! No - one can let the dumb people believe that.


(A paper read at the Berks County Versammling, Reading, PA, April 2, 1948)


Translation by Douglas J. Madenford