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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The "The Death Of Hexology In Paradise" Story

It was an ordinary day. Checking Amazon for a book to read during an upcoming vacation when up popped a book titled "Hexology" by Jacob & Jane Zook. The book told the history and meanings of hex signs. Then all of a sudden I remembered the store along US Route 30E where the Zook's sold their handmade hex signs. Not really a beach read, but I clicked on the book anyway and ended up paying $1.87 for a book that sold for $.50 when it first came out in 1962. Now, my original intention was to buy a book for my Kindle, but after seeing this book (actually only 14 pages long) I just had to have a copy.  
Sign in front of Jacob Zook's Hex Sign store in Paradise
Book came in a few days and as soon as I opened it I knew exactly where the place was located. Hopped in the car so I could make a visit and take a few photos of the hex signs they had for sale. For those readers who have no idea what a hex sign might be, I'll give you a little background into hex signs.
Sign "For Sale" on the Zook Hex Sign business.
About 300 years ago, groups of religious refugees from the Rhine region of Gernamy, found their way to south- eastern Pennsyl- vania. Most were farmers who sought the religious freedom offered on land owned by William Penn. The refugees, known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, who were mostly Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans and Reformed, brought along with them their custom of decorating their barns with large, colorful geometric patterns. Their Dutch folk art had many meanings or "legends" and the colorful symbols that told their stories of birth, marriage, love, weather, and a variety of other topics were based on both its aesthetics and meaning.  
Professor Johnny Ott with some of his hex signs.
Their artwork was first called "blumme" or "schtanne" meaning flowers or stars. One farmer called his artwork signs "Hesefoos" and that term finally stuck in the 20th century. Actually, the Amish and Mennonites have a negative view of hex signs and any barn displaying a hex sign is most certainly not an Amish or Mennonite farm. Hex signs were often produced for the tourist trade with Johnny Ott being known as the Professor of Hexology.
Top left: The Double Distlefink is for good luck.
the trinity tulips for faith in yourself as well as
faith in what you do and faith in your fellow man.
Top right: The Mighty Oak is for strength in mind,
body and character while the border is the ocean
for smooth sailing in the autumn of your life. Ctr.
left: Good Luck is known as Lucky Stars. Ctr.
right is The Sixteen Pointed Rosette is one of the
very first hex signs which was cut in stone in the
Byzantine Christian times and was to keep away
bad or ill luck. Bottom left: The Irish Hex displays
a shamrock for good luck for the Irish. The heart is
love for fellow man, the distlefinks are for double
good luck, the tulips are for faith in yourself and your
fellow man while the scallops around the border are
for smooth sailing. Bottom right: Love, Romance and
has the added protection of the Doves of
Peace to insure a long blissful marriage. The tulips
are for faith, hope and charity while the laced
hearts are for love.  
Here is a guy who would go to bed after breakfast, wake late afternoon, paint his hex signs all night, eat breakfast and ... well you get the idea. Some examples of symbols used are the sun wheel for warmth and fertility, hearts for love, birds (called Distlefink) for good luck and happiness, tulips for faith and stars for luck.  Colors also had meaning with red for emotions, yellow for love of man and sun, green for growing things, blue for protection, white for purity and brown for Mother Earth. Well, getting back to my story, I found the Zooks store along 30E, but also saw a "For Sale" Sign in front of it. Seems the business, opened in 1942 by Jacob and Jane Zook who screen-printed their hex signs, closed in 2009 after Jacob died. I parked and took a few photos. Looked in the vacant store and the only thing I saw was a rack displaying books for sale. There in one of the holders was "Hexology", the same book I had just received in the mail. Since the book is no longer covered under the copyright law, I will show you a few of the hex symbols shown in the book and give you some info on them. Maybe you have seen a hex sign during you life, but if not, they are truly an art form of Pennsylvania immigrants. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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