The First Confession
Although brooms were often a symbol of female domesticity, it appears as though the first witch to confess riding a broom was a man! Guillaume Edelin was a priest in France who was arrested and tried for witchcraft back in 1453. He was tortured until he confessed that he was indeed a witch and that he flew on a broom, and was then imprisoned for the rest of his life.
Long Before Edelin
However, the image of witches riding around on brooms seems to go further back than Edelin’s confession. Robin Skelton, an anthropologist, believes that the original idea may come from a pagan fertility ritual. The “broomstick dance,” as Skelton calls it, involved farmers leaping and dancing astride poles, pitchforks, and brooms. Another theory suggests that the brooms were the ideal vehicle for all of the potions and salves witches needed to fly. They’d lather the broom handle in a potion and away they went!
Brewing a Potion
David Kroll, a pharmacologist, explains that alleged witches back in the Middle Ages would brew potions made from things like deadly nightshade and mandrake. These are known to produce hallucinogenic chemicals – perhaps these people really thought they could fly after taking such a concoction! It’s thought that they didn’t want to ingest these potions and would instead rub them on their skin, to avoid digestion issues.
Are witches real? Can they actually fly on broomsticks? Well, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know the full story. However, there are some fascinating legends and theories as to why a broom became the witches’ symbol.