Broom

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A broom is a cleaning tool consisting of stiff fibres attached to, and roughly parallel to, a cylindrical handle, the broomstick. It is commonly used in combination with a dustpan.

In the context of witchcraft, broomstick is likely to refer to the broom as a whole. A smaller whisk broom or brush is sometimes called a duster.

An old form of broom was the besom, which was made simply of twigs tied to a handle, and was relatively inefficient as a cleaning implement. Flat brooms, made of broom corn[1], were invented by Shakers in the 19th century[2]. Today, they are also commonly made with synthetic bristles. Another common type is the push broom, consisting of a wide brush with short bristles, to which a broomstick is attached at an angle.

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Other uses for brooms

  • In baseball, when the home team is close to accomplishing a sweep (having won the first two games of a three-game series or first three games of a four-game series), some fans will bring brooms to the ballpark and brandish them as a way of taunting the visiting team.
  • During World War Two, American submarine crews would hoist a broom onto their boat's foretruck when returning to port to indicate that they had "swept" the seas clean of enemy shipping. The tradition has been devalued in recent years by submarine crews who fly a broom simply when returning from their boat's shake-down cruise. This tradition no doubt stems from the action of the Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp, who in 1652 tied a broom to his main mast after defeating the British admiral Robert Blake, and claim that he would sweep the British from the seas.

Brooms and witchcraft

Brooms have long been connected with witchcraft, almost universally portrayed as medieval-style round brooms and associated with female witches. Despite the association with women, in 1453, the first known case of claiming to have flown on a broomstick is recorded, confessed by the male witch Guillaume Edelin.[3] There are, however, prior records of witches flying on sticks or similar objects, usually that had been first greased with a magical flying ointment.

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.

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