Halloween seemed a good time to write about brooms and sweeping. The idea came to me while sweeping up pine needles in our driveway. I decided to look into the connection between brooms, witches, and Halloween.
Broom History Highlights
- Early dwellings had dirt floors and occupants probably used a bunch of twigs, clumps of grass, or broom branches (a flowering shrub) to clear debris out of their homes and fireplaces.
- A besom is an early type of round broom made of straw, twigs, or herbs, tied around a central piece of wood that also acts as the handle.
- In 1797, a Massachusetts farmer named Levi Dickenson made a broom using sorghum tassels (later known as broom corn). The broom swept so well it caught on in the neighborhood and demand grew.
- In 1810, a foot-treadle broom machine was invented which drilled two holes in the handle, pegs were inserted in the holes and broom corn lashed to the pegs and handle.
- During the 1820s, Shakers created a flat bottom broom and began using wire to bind the broom to the handle. This is a broom style often seen in use today.
Broom Legends and Folklore
The central shaft of a besom broom is round and is said to be associated with the Tree of Life, an important ancient pagan symbol. Brooms were found hanging inside dwellings to ward off evil spirits, negative energies, and to protect the home.
Brooms are also associated with the element of air and therefore have power over spirits, thus its use as a tool for flying. Hallucinogenic substances most likely assisted a witch in visualizing flying upon the broom.
Other legends say a broom may be used to hide a witch’s wand or as a receptacle to hold a particular spirit temporarily.
Celtic legends tell of witches gathering on the eve of October 31, All Hallows Eve. They would arrive on brooms to celebrate, cast spells, change themselves into different forms, and perform other magical acts. The association of witches and Halloween has carried forward to modern times.
Brooms and Sweeping are Green
Whether one is a witch or not a broom is useful and green. As a transportation or sweeping device it does not require fossil fuels for power. A broom requires only people power, is easy to use, has no moving parts to break down, and will last indefinitely. A broom is quiet. It can easily be stored in small space with a hook or nail.
I do not know how many calories are burned while flying, but sweeping with a broom burns calories, especially sweeping outside, on an incline, or for a long duration (60 minutes burns 235 to more than 450 calories).
Years ago, we succumbed to marketing and bought a hand vacuum. Sometimes we forgot to put it back on the battery charger and when it was needed again it wouldn’t work. Emptying and cleaning the filter was a yucky job. At times it didn’t pick up what one was trying to vacuum. After a few years, we gave it away and went back to using a low tech whisk broom and dust pan.
Vacuums do have their uses for cleaning debris off carpet in ones house or car and we do have one. For small jobs on hard floors we use a flat bottom broom and dust pan.
It irks me when I see people rinsing off driveways or sidewalks with a hose. Not only does it waste water, it just relocates the dirt and debris down the street.
From the first time I saw and heard a leaf blower, I knew I would never want one. They are either gas or electric and use fossil fuels. They are so noisy people who use them professionally wear ear plugs. Leaf blowers blow dust and dirt into the air and often just redistribute debris.
Give me a broom any day. We live in a Monterey Pine Forest so have an endless supply of pine needles on the driveway and walkways around the house. I use a Libman corn broom that I have had for longer than I can remember. An upright dustpan eliminates bending over. As a collection container, I use a large plastic tub with rope handles (typically used for ice and cans at a party) that I found on sale at a home improvement store.
Sweeping is an excellent aerobic activity—burn calories while performing a useful task. It is also a time to enjoy the outdoors, think, or enjoy music.