From Academic Kids

Image copyright Westfaelische Saxophoniker, may be used freely with attribution.

A broom is a cleaning tool with a stick, the broomstick.

History of broom design

Brooms have undergone significant changes in their construction, ever since they evolved from ad-hoc use of branches and bundles of various natural fibers. Originally, all brooms were round, a shape that is easy to construct but inefficient for actually sweeping. Brooms could be attached to a handle, either short for a whisk broom, or long for a broom used to sweep the floor or fireplace. The fibers used in modern brooms are from "broom corn," actually a variety of sorghum, and are unusually well suited to brooms. They are long, straight, durable, and bound together in the plant. The most recent major change is the flat broom, invented by the Shakers in the 1800s. This broom has far more width for pushing dirt and nearly all brooms produced today are flat brooms, the round broom being essentially obsolete.

Brooms and witchcraft

Brooms have long been connected with witchcraft, almost universally associated with female witches.

Some people speculate that in the Middle Ages, women publicly accused of being witches (or at least women with knowledge of herbology), did "ride" brooms. They applied a layer of paste made out of trance-inducing plants (such as belladonna) to the broomstick and "rode" it, as a way of applying the hallucinogenic herb to the thin skin of the labia where it might be quickly absorbed into the blood stream. However, due to the witchhunts and the general beliefs of the time, little-to-no reliable information exists to corroborate this belief. Records concerning witches of that time and their behavior are extremely unreliable, often having been extracted under torture.

Anecdotally, the broom served another purpose during periods of persecution. Witches and other magic practitioners would disguise their wands as broom sticks to avoid suspicion. It is also a tradition that brooms have been used by some as receptacles to harbor temporarily a particular spirit.

Today the broom is included in lists of ritual tools in many pagan guide books, where it is often referred to as a besom. A broom is sometimes laid at the opening of some coven's circles. Representing the element air, brooms are utilized in the purification of areas. They are used to symbolically sweep ritual circles clean. The high priestess or high priest walks clockwise, traces the cast circle and sweeps with the broom a few inches off the ground. This practice can be used in place of incense to purify a ritual space. It is often employed by those allergic to incense, and during rituals practiced in smoke free areas. It is also a technique associated with "kitchen witches" who use what's on hand to work spells.

See also: Wicca

In many works of fiction, broomsticks are pictured as a means of air transport for witches.

In the Harry Potter book series, magical flying brooms are used by Quidditch players as a kind of substitute for polo ponies. The brooms can also be used for personal transport, although the rider must take care not to be seen by Muggles.

Many toys and costume accessories have been made in the form of brooms. In some countries, a vibrating Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Broom (tm) toy for 8-12 year-olds was marketed. It became controversial, and was taken off the nl:Bezem


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