Debunking Witches Flying on Brooms

Alex Williams
6 Min Read

The historical depiction of witches flying on brooms has its origin in the pagan fertility ritual says Anthropologist Robin Skelton. Rural farmers would leap and dance with poles and brooms in the full moon to encourage the growth of crops. Another reason for this saying might be witches brewing cauldron and delivering it using the broom.

1. How did People define Witches’ Broom?

Witches flying on brooms are traditionally seen in the form of a hand-held stick with a flat end. A witch’s broomstick is typically called a besom. The term now is mostly reserved for a traditional broom constructed from a bundle of twigs tied to a stout pole. Witches would have traditionally used a besom to sweep their house clean in preparation for Halloween. It was believed that they would travel at night and leave traces of their passage in the form of soot on household items. The first person who witnessed the phenomenon of witches’ broom was Leonardo da Vinci. When he first saw it in 1480, he thought that it was caused by the flight of witches.

2. What are Other Names for Witch’s Broomstick?

It has been debated many times but the most popular theory is that witches’ broomsticks are called Hag’s Rope or Witch’s Staff. The name of the broom is not specified in the Harry Potter Universe, but there are various speculations. Some call it Spruce, others call it Aspen. It also comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Brosc, meaning to sweep. The word broomstick might be a reference to witches flying on brooms or it may be an old English word for pole or plank. (See Where Do Leprechauns Live?)

3. How do Witches Use broomsticks?

Witches can use brooms for many different things such as sweeping the floor, dusting furniture, or carrying buckets of water from place to place. The tradition of witches flying on broomsticks comes from the time when people thought that witches could fly. At present, in Wicca, besom is a tool that is considered to be used to cleanse & purify the area before beginning any ritual. During cleansing, the broom doesn’t touch the ground and stays a few inches above it. (See The true story behind Conjuring 2)

4. What is Correlation between Witches’ Broom & Plant Disease?

Witches’ broom is the symptom of plant disease that occurs as an abnormal brush like a cluster of weak shoots arising at or near the same point. It is characterized by a proliferation of shoots growing close together looking similar to the witch’s broom. Thus, the name witches’ broom was termed for this disease. It is caused by fungus, viral, or phytoplasmas. (Also read Why Lucky Number 9 is Auspicious?)

A besom which is also known as a broom is a tool that is used in Wicca. Besom being used in the Wicca made many perceive it as a tool for witches although in Wicca perception it belonged to fairies. According to MacGregor Mathers, witches would mount upon besom and leap through the fields to teach the crops to grow higher. But, he added that the witches might be hallucinating thinking that they are flying on a broom. (See Why Are Rabbits’ Feet Lucky?)

6. How do Movies Portray Witches?

In the Harry Potter series, witches and wizards use a broomstick as a means of transportation. In other stories, witches ride around on a magical broomstick. Moreover, the broom is portrayed as a housekeeper, where the witch would command the broom to look after the house and clean it while they are gone. It would also chase away intruders if any. (See 6 Abracadabra Origin Facts)

7. What is the Stereotype behind Witchcraft?

Negative perception about witchcraft started around the 12th century as the spiritual leaders began to view their rituals as worship to devils and condemned them. This led the belief to the current stereotype. Szynmanski-Lockett, a high priestess of the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona, describes witchcraft as a method to use energy in the universe to help people achieve their goals. She further says that it is more about healing and being grateful for the beautiful planet. All-in-all, it is nothing like what we see or hear.

8. How does Folklore describe Witches?

Ancient mythology and folklore include the Bible’s witch of Endor and Russian folklore, Baba Yaga. These witches are known for their mischief and magic. One of the best-known mythological witches is Circe. She was well known for her magic and had quite a reputation for her knowledge of plants and potions. In the story, it was told that she turned men into pigs. (See What is Devils Kettle Waterfall?

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