Friday, September 09, 2005

Jumping The Broom

This is to answer Christine's question on my last post. I forget that most people don't know what the heck a Jumping Broom is. So don't feel bad Christine.

Jumping the broom is a tradition that had it's origins in Africa and then came to the US during the days of slavery. Slave unions were not legally recognized and so the usual ceremonies were a little different. For the African slaves the broom was a symbol of the household and a symbol of sweeping away the past. So to announce to the community that they intended to live as man and wife from that point on they would jump hand in hand over a broom placed on the ground.

The tradition slumped a bit after slavery. But it gained popularity again after Alex Haley's Roots mini-series brought it back into the spotlight. However some families like mine have been doing it for generations. Incidentally the same tradition was common in Europe at one time. However to my knowledge the only people of European descent who still do it are practicioners of wicca. I don't know much about the traditions or ceremonies there so I defer to anyone who knows more.

African Americans who jump the broom will typically buy a very ornately decorated broom or decorate one of their own. I'm well known in my family for decorating brooms. I've done six or seven for different relatives. So I have the added pressure of doing something spectacular for my own. Originally I was going to actually try to MAKE the broom but that prooved a little too much. So I opted for the standard craft broom and I'm just going to decorate it. When I'm done, I'll post a picture.

The Jumping ceremony is done differently for different families. Some families do it in the church after the bride and groom have been pronounced husband and wife or just outside the church as they leave. A friend of mine whose husband is Jewish combined the broom jumping and the glass breaking in one ceremony which was cool. (I'd like to somehow combine traditions like that. If Michael's cousin Charlie follows through with his idea we could be jumping the broom to Scottish bagpipes. Charlie is coming all the way from Scotland and he's promised to wear a kilt at the very least.)

In my family we jump the broom at the start of the reception when the newlyweds are announced upon their entrance. One of my uncles usually gives a short speech explaining everything I just wrote here for the benefit of those who may not be familiar. And then it's 1-2-3... and over we go!!!

By the way we have saying in our family: "the first one to hit the ground rules the house." So far it's proved true. I told Michael about that and he just laughed and said, "don't worry honey you can be the first one over. It's okay by me."
Now did I pick a good one, or what!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I added a little something a few years ago to our family tradition. During the bridal shower I bring the broom and have all the women write a prayer or wish for the couple on tiny note cards that they tie to the broom. It looks amazing to have all those tiny whisps of white paper fluttering away on the broom. I did that for my friend a few years ago and the effect is really powerful.


gone said...

That is amazing. Why is it that my whitebread family doesn't have any cool cultural traditions. They lost them all on Ellis Island.

Girl With An Alibi said...

I'm all for making up your own traditions personally. I love the idea of passing something tangible along to future generations that has a value which isn't based on material things.

Christine said...

Neat. I did read about this when I was reading the Slave Narrative series a few years back. Totally slipped my mind. I think it is so awesome to have a tradition dating back for generations. Maybe I need to start one of my own!!!
Don't forget the pic of the broom and congratulations!!!

Becky L said...

I love the part that whoever lands first rules the house. thats awesome.
i once heard about a tradition somewhere in Asia (not sure anymore where its at) where the women arent as free to express their thoughts to their husbands, especially when people are around.
SO, they have ducks: one for the wife, one for the husband. and they face eachother if they're both happy with eachother (kiss-kiss). but, say the wife is mad at the husband, she turns her duck so its looking away in the opposite direction. if she's feeling just so-so about him, it faces forward, not towards and not away.
i want to start doing this! i think its hillarious! what fun.

Dex2177 said...

That's cool. Thanks for sharing. I never knew anything about that.

Brookelina said...

I love this tradition, thank you so much for sharing. And I love the idea of combining the glass breaking with the broom. I wonder if my future husband will be willing to do that? I'll have to ask him when I meet him.

Deadly Female said...

That was so interesting!

I'm a witch (pagan not wiccan, yes there is a distinction, but its complicated and I won't go into it)and you're quite correct, we do jump over brooms as part of our handfasting ceremony.

Here's how it goes...

In actual fact, this part of the ceremony was taken from the African American community in the first place, and is used as a representation of passing over a threshold.

Of course the broom has particualr significance for pagans (I'm using that term generically, to cover the multitude of aspects of witchcraft/wicca/paganim/now-paganism). Nowadays it is used largely symbolically, although it may be used at the start of a ceremony to clear the energies prior to casting a circle.

There are many explanations for the idea that witches can fly on broomsticks, one popular belief being that witches often used the mandrake root for pain relief. And to be graphic, menstruation pain.
(Mandrake contains scopalamine, which is (along with atropine) also found in thorn apple/belladonna. Both were commonly used in 'witches potions' to induce out of body experiences.)
The root would be concocted into a paste which seeped through the skin when applied to relieve the pain. It was often rubbed in the armpit area, or for vaginally, applied with the handle of the broom. Being highly hallucinogenic, this may have given the feeling or "flight" or "riding the broomstick".

It is also said that in the times of the Witch hunts, that the Church wanted to spread fear surrounding Witches, and during those times, what better way that to accuse them of having the ability to fly.

Just my little addition, hope you don't mind?

Girl With An Alibi said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed the information. And a special thanks to Deadlyfemale for the corrections and fascinating info on the pagan history. Very interesting stuff.

Princess Steph said...

please do be sure and post pictures!!!

Dottie said...

what a beautiful tradition! I found your blog thru another one and enjoy reading! Best wishes on your upcoming marriage.

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