There are images, even behaviors, we sometimes experience on a superficial level that often have deeper, more spiritual origins. An example of this is a witch flying on a broom. Let’s take a brief stroll back in time to explore two aspects of one question. Why would a witch ride a broom? And, why would she ride a broom?
Throughout human history, plants have been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes. During the middle ages in Europe, an ointment with hallucinogenic effects was present and in use by those still worshiping the ancient gods of the Old World. Witches were part of this group and they used a hallucinogenic compound to create transcendent spiritual experiences.
There was a problem though. The agent had severe gastrointestinal side effects if taken orally. Eventually, it was discovered that if the ointment was absorbed under the arms through sweat glands or vaginally, the side effects were significantly reduced. You know where this is going, right? Yes, witches eventually began to rub the ointment on a broom stick – sliding it along their pussies or inserting the hard, thick staff inside them. Sorry, I do write about sex 90% of the time.
The effect of this hallucinogen was to induce the sensation of flight. The broom gave flight to witches and that is why they are often depicted in flight, “riding” a broom. Their depiction as naked or partially clothed also supports this method of administration. As odd as this sounds, it seems like a plausible explanation for the “riding” part of my inquiry. Still, there must have been other tools available to administer the ointment. Why did witches choose a broom?
The answer to this dates back to the ancient Celts. The Celts were among the early tribes of central and western Europe, Ireland, and Britain. As the Roman Empire battled to conquer these tribes, the Celts resisted both military and spiritual conquest. Ultimately, Rome conquered and controlled most of western Europe (though uprisings were frequent) for centuries. However, by 500 AD Rome’s western empire was collapsing under the continued assault of these “Barbarian” tribes. The city of Rome itself was captured by Germanic tribes in 476 AD. After that, 500 – 1000 AD, Europe descended into the Dark Ages – notable for the disappearance of Rome’s influence in western Europe.
While the Roman Empire had been an ever-present military and cultural force in western Europe from ~ 300 BC to 500 AD, it wasn’t necessarily driving European spirituality. Christianity didn’t become the official religion of Rome until 380 AD and was, instead, spread by missionaries prior to Rome becoming the Holy Roman Empire. During the final centuries of Roman control and into the Dark Ages, the traditional gods of the Celts and other “barbarian” tribes continued to be worshipped publicly and privately among western Europeans along with Christianity. Some tribes (such as the Vikings) worshipped the Norse gods and goddesses well into the 12th century before converting to Christianity.
The reason I bring this up is because the spiritual path of the early Europeans (including the Romans and Hellenistic Greeks) is complicated. Sometimes, it seems as if people think Jesus was born and that was when all time began – nothing existed before or after. In reality, gods of the Old World existed and were worshipped for thousands and thousands of years before Jesus and even for many centuries after by Europeans. The religious conversion wasn’t as instantaneous as flipping on the light switch for a new religion and flipping it off for an older religion. Spiritual traditions lingered and were often blended with the new.
The broom frequently depicted in images of witches is one example of spiritual significance to the Celts that lingered. They associated it with Faeries and other spirits of the forest. Celtic lore includes tales of witches entering the forest and being guided by Faeries to the perfect tree to secure a staff for her broom. The Faeries involvement ensured the spiritual properties of the broom.
Still, of all things, why the broom? The broom was symbolic of home to the Celts and represented the divine balance of of masculine energies (the phallic handle) and female energies (the bristles). It was often placed at doorways to ward off undesirable spirts. As I think about my own broom, it is also near one of the doors to my home. It makes me wonder if this is a utilitarian placement on my part or if it something passed down through generations and now simply an ingrained behavior? Certainly, the spiritual meaning has vanished, but there is my broom…near the back door.
In traditional Celtic marriages, said to still be in use today, a broom is ceremoniously placed behind the couple being married. It creates a doorway or wall that separates the couple from the world outside and negative energy. The staff (masculine) is placed behind the bride and the bristles (feminine) are placed behind the groom – this balances the couple’s energy. The space is now considered sacred and keeps unwanted spirits at a distance. After the ceremony, the couple steps beyond the broom to the outer world as newlyweds.
Okay, at this point, I think my curiosity is satisfied. I have learned enough to appreciate that brooms once had spiritual meaning to my ancestors. I’m not sure the link is perfectly linear in my mind, but it is good enough to link brooms as a potentially spiritual shaft for witches and satisfy my curiosity about why witches of the middle ages once rode them.
24 thoughts on “Witches Riding…Brooms?”
I think the only bit you missed out was that witches even made it into the bible, I think it’s four times. The most famous one being the Witch of Endor who summons the spirit of the Prophet Samuel for Saul. She was never depicted as having a broom or a staff, but then her story was apparently questioned by theologists in late Christianity because of the inference in the bible that she had actually managed to call up the spirit of Prophet Sam. Something to do with man should believe in the presence and almighty power of God (who we couldn’t see, touch, hear or speak to) but not in magic and witchcraft. I’m assuming this was because it put the balance of power and manipulation of people firmly in the hands of women. Who knows 😛
As a raving atheist and anti-theist, I have always been of the opinion that hallucinogenic potions were being freely handed around between people way back when! Just the episode of the burning bush. That was a mighty trip! Mushrooms anyone?
We Celts are a tough lot, it took a lot of work for the English to conquer Wales. Our Druids were fierce!
Brilliant post Michael, really enjoyed reading it.
I certainly missed far more than the bible reference – there is sooo much to explore down this rabbit hole. I was actually doing some casual research on Dionysus and horned gods of antiquity when a Celtic version of Dionysus emerged. The Celtic version led me to witches which made me think about the Maenads of Dionysus who also used mind-altering goodies. Your comment touches on so many topics and just lights up my mind – so much to learn and so little time. Celtic history is definitely on my list for a deeper dive. And, as you suggest, there does seem to be a rich story about what witches actually were vs. how they portrayed by men and institutions that wanted others to fear witches…and even kill them. Thanks again – your comment is magical ✨
Celtic mythology is a rich and vibrant subject for sure. The Mabinogion, The White Book of Rhydderch and The book of Taliesin are my go to for all things mystical and magical in Wales. I’m from the North of Wales and where I live is steeped in stories of witchcraft and druid magic. There is a cave of stone carvings buried deep in the hillside behind my village that has some fabulous stories attached to it and in particular how it came to be a witch’s coven. The walls are decorated with carvings of brooms around the opening, I never paid much attention to them before but after reading your post I may just have to do some further research of my own. I do know the land was originally owned by the church and was home to a family of nuns for a very long period of time, what’s more interesting is that the graves of those ‘nuns’ are on unconcentrated ground and the church has disowned the site and all bodies buried there. That got my attention! As far as riding brooms go, I think I would rather ingest the potion than ride a wooden staff! Splinters must have been a rather major concern! 🤣🤣
I’ll start with the splinters first…I’m sure they only needed to grip the hard, stiff pole and work on it a bit to make it ready for insertion. Though, some might have preferred something a bit thicker.😉 The part of this referencing Wales will be a nice point of reference for future excursions on this subject. You have already taught me so much! The cave story is incredible…and that there are actually broom carvings. Must have been to keep away the unwanted spirits from their sessions. 🤔
Michael, Any witch would prefer a big thick stiff pole for insertion purposes, potion or not! 🤣😂
Anytime you want a conversation about all things Welsh feel free to ask, it’s one of my favourite subjects!
As for the cave, the stanchion in the centre of the cave is carved into a stone dragon, the eyes are made of green sea glass and it’s stunning in its detail. The interesting thing about this is the snout of the dragon reaches to the cave opening which overlooks the hillside and the Irish sea. The belly of the dragon is a fire pit and when a fire is lit in it, assisted by bellows you can actually build the fire high enough that the flames will appear out of the dragons mouth. An honest to goodness fire breathing dragon! Made this girl happy! Inside the cave is a carving in the wall of a long haired screaming skeleton draped in what appears to be rags, and made to look like it is nailed to the wall by its hands. Whoever the sculptor was, he was very particular about detail. He had carved holes in the centre of the skeleton palms and sinus holes between the eyes, perfectly proportionate too. At a passing glance you would think it was a real skeleton.
There are 13 graves on the grounds just outside of the cave and set away from the Hall. These are the graves that are considered to be on unconsecrated ground but all carry the mark of PAX which is meant to be a sign of peace within the realms of catholicism. The Catholic church are adamant that they have no ownership to them and refuse to discuss the history of the graves. I keep pushing them but so far all doors are firmly closed on that subject!
There are four major carvings 2 on either side of the opening to the cave and they are staff and birch in design so witches brooms is the immediate thought. The cave as far as I can tell dates back to around 1600-1700’s. 😀 Anyway, apologies, I have waxed lyrical on my other favourite subject, ‘the cave’. xx
I adore your words…….
Gem is amazing with such great command of her writing prowess.✨
What?! LOL this is too good to be true. Although, it’s been a while since I rode a broom 🤔
Still, how interesting!! Lol
Been a while since you rode a broom? 😅Well, we may need to take care of that once the world becomes a little safer for flight 😈
Ciao Michael, interessante questo tuo post, questo spiega perché in italiano si usa la stessa parola per dire “scopa” come oggetto per pulire, ma si usa questa parola anche quando si parla sporco a letto si dice “ti scopa” come vedi, se non traduci, si scrive esattamente allo stesso modo…..il tuo post spiega questa cosa, molto interessante abbiamo imparato qualcosa anche oggi Ciao
(Translation) Hi Michael, this post of yours is interesting, this explains why in Italian we use the same word to say “broom” as an object to clean, but we also use this word when talking dirty in bed we say “fucks you” as you see, if do not translate, you write exactly the same way… ..your post explains this, very interesting we learned something even today.
Tom, thanks so much for sharing this. Wow! It is fascinating to see how this still lingers in some languages after all these years. I am feeling extra happy about this but really do think it is so interesting! 😃
Thank you for sharing this, Michael! I’m sorry to say, but I really am a naughty girl so it is to be expected…when I read what you wrote and saw that first picture of the naked witch with the broom handle between her thighs…well, that just really gets me going 🙂
Something about riding wood must be a trigger, ha! 😈☺️
Lol 😂 sliding on dat broom.. great research 🧐🤪
Haha, thank you! 😄 It was a surprising find and too good to just sweep under the carpet. 😋
This was really interesting! And I liked how you italicized the two words in the same question. I didn’t notice at first, and got to the fourth paragraph and then scrolled back up to them. Hehe. 🙂
You are a lover of words ☺️I enjoy a lil’ word play now and then…thanks for noticing ✨
I’m moving my broom to my doorway now… very interesting, thank you
Haha, better safe than sorry 😃Glad you enjoyed and appreciate your visit.
Thank you, it was a fun one…love creating art when there is a little story or them to it.