Broom Folklore in Rural Cultures

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The broom is one of those tools that most people have in their home – whether they’re a witch or not! In many rural cultures, the broom has become a source of legend and folklore. Here are just a few of the many beliefs people have about brooms and sweeping.

James Kambos says in Llewellyn’s 2011 Magical Almanac, “When misfortune was thought to have entered a home, one old German custom was to sweep the home, thus sweeping away any negativity. Each family member would grab a broom and begin sweeping. Starting at the center of the home, they’d sweep outward toward all exterior doors. As they swept, they’d open the front and back doors and sweep out the negativity.”

In the Appalachian region of the United States, many customs were brought over from Scotland, England and Ireland. It is believed that laying a broom across your doorstep will keep witches out of your house. However, be careful – if a girl steps over a broom by accident, she’ll end up becoming a mother before she gets married (this belief may have originated in Yorkshire, as there are similar warnings in that area).

People in parts of China say that a broom should only be used for household chores like sweeping because it is so strongly tied to the household spirits. It shouldn’t be used for playing or whacking people with, because that is offensive to the household entities.

There’s an old tale in the Ozarks that you should never sweep a house while there’s a dead body in it – although one would assume that if there’s a dead body in the house, you’ve got other things on your mind besides housecleaning.

Some African tribes believe that men should leave the house while women are sweeping. The reason? Because if they are accidentally struck by the broom, it could render them impotent – unless they take the broom and bang it on the wall three times (some legends say seven times).