Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Do Witches Fly on Brooms?

One of the most popular images of witches, especially at Halloween, is the witch soaring through the sky on a broom.  Where did this idea that brooms are a witches favorite mode of transportation originate?

History seems to be a little fuzzy on this one.  There seems to be many theories and ideas of how witches became so closely associated with the broom.  A common thread however is women and their brooms.  Long before robots could vacuum our floors by themselves, the broom was a woman's main cleaning tool.  Woman did the cleaning, not men.  Hundreds of years ago women were just as likely to have a broom in their hand as a baby in their arms.  There are several theories, I think it is probably a combination of all.

  • One of the earliest recorded association was sometime in the 1400's.  Oddly it was a male who claimed he was a witch.  He claimed to be able to fly into the sky on a broom.
  • In the days of long heavy skirts women sometimes would put a broom between their knees and use it to lift their dresses.  This was to avoid mud puddles, dirt, etc.  If it was raining they might even run.  Making it to "appear" they were flying on a broom.
  • Women would even use their brooms as a vaulting pole to cross small streams, etc which might make it appear they were flying over the stream on a broom.
  • The idea that "witches" used their brooms to disguise their magic wands grew into using them to fly by anointing the broom with magical lotions.
Over time this evolved into the modern flying witch, an icon of Halloween.  Wiccans use brooms today for some of their religious ceremonies.  Of course no one can really fly on their broom.  But it would be a lot more fun than using it to clean my kitchen floor.  Plus it would be great in traffic jams!

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