The Witch’s Broom: A Flying Myth That Cleanses

A Pagan friend and I sat in a bookstore staring at the front door. It was Witches & Friends’ first meeting and we had no idea what to expect. We sent out emails promoting a group where experienced Pagans, and people who were new or friendly to Paganism, could get together and learn about the belief system in a nonthreatening environment. Prospective members started to show up, and my friend and I could barely hide our excitement. 

Thirty minutes later I broke the ice… 

“My name is Magaly and I’m an Eclectic Witch. My friend Dayanara and I started this group because we want to share ideas with likeminded individuals while having a good old Pagan time! Now, let’s go around the circle and please tell us your name and why you want to be part of this group.” 

“Hi I’m Dayanara” said my dear friend looking as nervous as I felt. “I’m here because I miss my coven. We were together for 7 years, but I had to move across country because of work. I joined this group because I miss the company of other Pagans.” 

A young woman sitting next to Dayanara smiled shyly. “I’m Briana and I’m Methodist. I’m taking a philosophy of religion class, and one of my assignments is to go out and learn about other religions critically. I got the information about this meeting from your website.” Briana pointed at me. “I hope you don’t mind, but if you do…” 

“Of course we don’t mind, girl!” I told Briana, hoping my excitement didn’t make her run for the woods. “It would be great if you could become a permanent member of the group. I was raised Catholic, did you know?” Briana shook her head and I continued without letting her say a word. “You don’t have to be Pagan to be here. I can’t wait to get your input. Goodness, I’m sure we’ll learn tons from each other. Don’t you think guys?” Everybody agreed and I continued on a blissful roll. “What about you?” I chin-pointed at a guy sitting next to Briana and across from me. 

“I’m Grim Thunder… that’s my magic name. Aren’t we supposed to have magic names?” 

“Magic names are okay.” I told him. 

“Good,” he continued. “Well… my real name is Dixon, just so you know. And I joined Witches & Friends because I really want to learn how to fly a broom.” 

My jaw must have hit the floor at the same time I swallowed my tongue. I couldn’t utter a single word. I stared at the man and then at everyone else, hoping someone would say something. 

Briana broke the silence with a very appropriate question: “Wow! You can fly brooms?”

“No, we can not.” I answered as soon as my jaw and tongue returned to where they belonged. 

***                                                                                                                  
I would love to tell you that I made up the whole story. But the reality of the situation is that the only fiction in it relates to the names of those involved. A grown man did attend a Pagan meeting, at his local Barnes & Noble, expecting “to learn how to fly a broom”. For the record, I’ve never met a Witch who can fly a broom. In actuality, most of us use our broomsticks for the mundane activity of sweeping the floor. So where does the broom flying myth come from? To be honest I couldn’t begin to tell you! But according to Lynn Smythe’s article, Flying Broomsticks and Plant Lorein the old days “[Witches] would go out into the fields and dance and leap high into the air while astride their brooms…. It was thought that this would cause the crops to grow as tall as they were able to jump into the air.”

And although Lynn didn’t say this, I’m inclined to believe that such an act seen through the eyes of an outsider might have been enough to start the flying myth. 

I use my broom for cleansing and protection. When I feel my house overflowing with negative energy, I sweep the entire place from back to front while visualizing all the negativity running out the door. The protection part came from my maternal grandmother. She was a devout Caribbean Catholic who practiced Witchcraft. She used to take two brooms and form a cross on the floor in front of my bed. She believed that kept evil spirits out of my dreams. Also, whenever there were rumors about evil witches lurking around town, my grandmother would spill small seeds by my bedroom door. She would then place a broom close to the seeds, and it was her belief that any evil witch would be so compelled to sweep away the seeds that he or she would never make it to my bed before awakening the entire house with the sweeping noise. That meant that my grandmother would come to my rescue before evil got anywhere near me, but as you just read there wasn’t any flying involved. 

Do you have any old tales about witches and flying brooms? Do you believe that the secretive nature of Witchcraft has contributed to the rumors flying around? Do you have a personal story where brooms have unconventional uses?
I borrowed this image from someone’s Facebook profile. I don’t know who it belongs to. If it’s yours, please let me know and I’ll give your credit… or remove it, if that is that what you prefer. Thank you!

17 comments:

  1. Of course you can't fly on yours because you didn't buy the de-luxe version with the Rolls-Royce engine ....;)

    Theories I've come across about brooms include:

    That the twigs conceal a phallus shape that the witches 'ride' on , but that's probably a male fantasy

    That the 'flying' is experienced via hallucinogenic drugs (but why is the broom necessary?). The drugs idea is often also advanced by anthropologists with regard to shamanic trances, after all the shaman can't possibly actually be travelling in the Spirit World, can he ....?

    That the broom is a symbol and its physical form could be anything but that it represents the witches ability to do magical things of which flying is an example.

    That it is the witches wand and takes the form of a broom because this would have been a common object in anyone's house and so is a method of disguising the wand as an innocent object. This sounds plausible to me.

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  2. Heron-

    I've heard about the hallucinogens theory and about hiding the wand too, but never the one about it representing a phallus. How interesting... and disturbingly funny, if you think about male and female Witches flying around on such thing ;)

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  3. I've heard that the stick part of the broom is the phallus, and that the bristles are supposed to represent the pubic hair around the vagina. I've found that theory a little... unconvincing.

    I agree, I think that idea that it was just a ritual tool qua common object makes the most sense.

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  4. Christa-

    WOW! Can you say '70s? Can you imagine that much pubic hair? Okay, lets not! lol

    Like Heron said, I think the phallus part is just male wishful thinking ;)

    At the end, I think you are right, when it come to rituals I use whatever is handy. I don't prepare elaborate altars or anything like that. I use whatever is available and "makes the most sense" like you suggested.

    Thanks for sharing dear.

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  5. Oh my goodness, what weird emails! I'm so sorry about that, I hate jerks who feel the need to tell me how to live my life. Anyway, I think you have a neat blog!

    I found you through SITS :)

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  6. Future Mama-

    Thanks for the words, they're so cool that I'll forgive you for replying on the wrong post. Hehe.

    I also recent people telling "me how to live my life" that's the reason why I stay happy 24/7. Just to piss them off. Also because it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

    Oh, I like your blog as well--love all the pink ;)

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  7. Its funny that your grandmother would spill seeds as a form of protection from evil witches. There are similar myths surrounding ancient myths about different types of vampyric entities who were believed to be obsessesed with counting and or categorization.
    These myths involve either spilling different types of seeds on the floor of a sleeping person causing the vampyric entity to sort and count them before doing anything else or leaving dried corn unground and thus upsetting what many ancient peoples believed was the demonic or evil spirits sense of order. The tales involving the grind stone would, like your grandmother hoped, cause a sound or noise loud enough to alert the sleeping members of the household to danger.
    Sadly this superstition lead many familys to leave such food items, like wheat, barely, or corn, out far past their prime. The types of fungus able to grow in moist climates was responsible for a number of mental and hysterical disorders of which the primary symptoms included vivid hallucinations thus perpetuating these myths and in many famous cases causing widespread panic and executions due to the false belief that either witches or evil spirits were amongst the villagers.

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  8. Congent Ascending-

    You know what? People around my hometown in the Dominican Republic used to spill the seeds for vampiric witches too! And for the same purpose. This gets a bit gross, deep into psychological disorders, and it shows solid proof that evil witches can't do math.

    According to some, there were witches who sucked the blood from newborns--through their bellybuttons *eeeek*. Although, I don't think they would get much blood through there.

    Anyway, they would spill the seeds in front of the cribs because the witches had to count all the seeds before moving on, and the thing was that they always lost count and had to start over, so there was never any actual sucking done.

    My diagnosis is complex: 1. Evil witches suffer from severe OCD 2. Their math ability sucks, and 3. They don't know much about human anatomy.

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  9. LOL it's clear these witches are not only mentally unwell but clearly unwilling to learn from experience.
    Although if you want to know a nasty bit of family background my grandmothers grandmother used to declare she was something of a self styled boca and saved all of the dried umbilical droppings from her many children and grandchildren later using them as a kind of cure all for just about everything ever.
    This was of course until modern standards of sanitation caused later descendants to conform to more effective and less icky methods of curing things with stuff like aspirin and penacillin.

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  10. Cogent Ascending-

    That is hilarious! Are you sure we are not related? I remember the day I found my mother's treasures: all of our baby teeth and of course, our "dried umbilical droppings". It looked questionable to say the least.

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  11. The information about where the idea of riding on broomsticks came from is quite interesting. I can't believe that guy was serious, but it makes for a great story. Sounds like otherwise the meeting went well.

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  12. Jennifer-

    We had a blast! I made great friends in the group too. As it happened, the guy learned about Paganism and realized that it wasn't for him. He wanted to find something that only existed in movies, but he did come to every meeting after that and we never let him forget that first meeting lol.

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  13. I'm Lakota (Native American)and also a practicing witch for over 15 years.
    I just wanted to comment on the belly button cord thing.
    Before the Lakota were placed on reservations, pregnant woman would make a small leather bag with a beaded turtle on it, and a leather strap so that the bag can be worn around the neck. When the child's bellybutton cord would drop off, the mother would then sew it inside the turtle amulet to wear for his/her whole life. It is thought that the loss of the bellybutton cord means the loss of the person it belongs to (not a physical loss but a spiritual one). The belly button cord is also thought to hold strong personal medecine. There are turtle amulet bags in a small museam in Montana and the Smithsonian have several on exhibit as do several other museams.
    Saving the cord is still practiced today in modern times by traditional Lakota women.
    These days there is alot of stem cell research & the use of the umbilical cord to possibly cure cancers and other diseases.
    With that in mind, I believe that Lakota mothers and Cogent Ascending's "self-styled" Boca ancestress must have known something that scientists are just now beginning to discover and understand.
    I am thinking the lore Magaly posted regarding witches "sucking blood from bellybuttons" is possibly based off the idea that the bellybutton cord was a form of medecine rather than a literal sucking of blood through the naval itself.

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  14. This is extremely interesting. I love it when different cultures share similar beliefs; it brings up our, well, similarities.

    My mother keeps my bellybutton and my brothers' too. We don't wear it around our necks, but my mother says that having them is like having us, near her, regardless of how far away we might be.

    You've inspired me to do some research, Taisha. I want to see what other lore is attached to bellybutton cords. I just thought about a song by a Dominican artist. It says "the vampires of my land have no bellybutton." That might be implying that they have no soul, which would match common vampire mythology.

    I think your ancestresses custom was incredible, and the fact that they knew things (way back then) that scientists are getting to, makes me feel very proud. I know this is not an uncommon thing, but still, it's a reminder of how much we (as Earth loving people) can gain if we just remember our roots.

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  15. Magaly, I too think it's wonderful that ancient cultures share many common beliefs! I also think scientists should go back and re-read their folklore. Even tho much of the folklore doesn't make sense there is some truth in it.
    When I first became interested in witchcraft I was 9 years old, but could not find materiels close to me to learn.
    Eventually as I aged I found a teacher. And I learned quickly from her because most of what is found in Witchcraft magickally/spiritually is already practiced by my people in a mundane every day way.
    I would be very interested to see what you find in regards to your newfound interest in bellybutton cord research.
    oh ya I was gonna say: member the lore regarding mandrake roots screaming? Lakota believe that too!

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  16. I'm always amazed by the ways all of us find/get to Witchcraft. I was practicing Witchcraft before I had any idea of what it was.

    You are going to laugh about this, but I just got back from the library and the computers were down. I asked the librarian about a book that had to do with "body parts mythology, particularly belly buttons" and she looked at me and frowned lol.

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  17. Heron-

    I've heard about the hallucinogens theory and about hiding the wand too, but never the one about it representing a phallus. How interesting... and disturbingly funny, if you think about male and female Witches flying around on such thing ;)

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