Tag Archives: broom

Sweeping Dirt in Their Grave

A is 54 years old. She was born in Ft. Waldon, Florida and moved to Sylvania, Georgia at 2 years old. She’d been there all her life until last year (2021). A has a thick Southern accent that’s very pleasant to listen to. She told me about why I should be careful not to sweep over anyone’s feet while sweeping a floor.

“You don’t sweep over anyone’s feet while sweeping a floor because that means you’re sweeping dirt in their grave and that means that you’re wishing them dead, like a curse.”

Another version of this superstition says that sweeping under someone’s feet means they will never get married. For more on Southern broom related folklore, see https://www.weirdsouth.com/post/sweeping-superstitions

Cup of water and broom prank

Informant is a junior at Penn State University who grew up in NJ. Informant tells me that they heard about the prank first from a camp counselor, and then on a TV show which they can’t remember.

The following is a description of the prank and how to pull it off:


“So, it’s pretty easy. All you need is a cup of water, a chair, and a broom. And somebody else in the house with you… to prank of course.

First, you take the chair and hold the cup of water to the ceiling so the rim of the cup is on the ceiling. Then, take the broom and use the stick part to press the bottom of the cup to the ceiling, holding it there. Now you can move the chair back… or have a friend do it or something, because you have to keep the cup on the ceiling.

Next, you just wait until somebody walks by. Ask them if they could hold the broom for a second so you can run and grab something, or go to the bathroom, or whatever you want to say. The idea is that if you get them to hold the broom and walk away, they have no choice but to just stand there or have a cup of water fall on them. It’s foolproof!”


This prank is pretty sinister because of how easy it is to set up, and how dire the circumstances become for the poor soul who falls for it. Ideally this is a prank you would pull on a close friend or family member. Although the intent can be lighthearted, I would imagine this would really drive anybody crazy– especially if he or she had something else to do before being either drenched in water or reduced to standing under the cup helplessly.

“It has to be somebody you could afford to anger and disappoint, like your brother” my informant tells me, giggling.



Jumping the Broom

Background: M.M. is a 43-year-old woman who was born and raised in Chicago to an African American family. She works as a pharmaceutical representative, educating and helping physicians and their staff to know more about the proper use, schedule benefits, costs, and uses of medications. M.M. is married, and loves playing with her 2 kids and also enjoys her busy schedule.


Main piece:

M.M.: So you have jumping the broom. So this was um a tradition that was practiced during slavery and it was the – it was when marriages were not performed legitimately and it symbolized a union between slaves.  Now the reason why they jumped the broom – the symbolism of the broom was kind of two fold – you talk about the spray – which is all the stuff you sweep up that part – the straw –  which was the spray which was the house and the handle was holding the union together. So it’s really simple.  The thing about it though is that there were many years where jumping the broom was not practiced by African Americans because of the association with slavery and in recent years it has become much more popular and a lot of African Americans are- jumping the broom again – there was a movie called jumping the broom.


Q: How did you learn about this tradition?


M.M.: You know, I always have known about it but I didn’t know the actual symbolism – you know why –  you always know about it – why was it was a broom – and I think it was popularized again at the time where Alex Haley wrote Roots and the movie came out so that everyone knew about jumping the broom but you still didn’t know well what did the broom symbolize – you just knew slaves did it so it’s something you grow up and everyone knows “jumping the broom” but you don’t know why you use a broom – so it’s like passed on passed on passed on. Everyone doesn’t do it because probably their probably generations before me – I know my parents didn’t do it and they didn’t jump the broom and they were married.  I know there were generations that did NOT jump the broom at all and then now, I’d say in the last 15-20 years it’s more popularized again. But it’s not the negative association – its more just like ceremonial and it’s more like something to have at your wedding, which is legal, and then you jump the broom which is just symbolic of the union between you now.


Q: And then how do you jump? Do you jump with your husband?


M.M.: You you jump together. You hold hands and you jump together.


Q: What happens if someone trips?


M.M.: They don’t trip.  I don’t know anyone that’s ever tripped. I jumped the broom in the sand – barefoot so.  It’s a small broom.  Some people make their own.  So you can make your own or you can order um – whatever so it’s a small broom.


Q: Are there special brooms for jumping the broom?


M.M.: Yes, it’s a special broom – it’s a special broom. You don’t go to the store and get a broom at Target or Walmart – no it’s small – it’s small.


Q: What did you do with the broom after the wedding?


M.M.: It’s in the same box with my wedding dress.  It becomes part of your, your collecting – you know, whatever you’re collecting


Performance Context: Jumping the broom would be performed primarily by African Americans at the end of a wedding ceremony.


My Thoughts: Jumping the broom symbolizes a liminal state. A wedding is a life transformation from being single to being connected with someone, and is known to be one of the most important events in a lifetime in many cultures. During a wedding, the bride and groom are together in a liminal period of change, not single and not yet married. Jumping the broom symbolizes the passage out of that liminal period and into married life.

Will Hack’s Broom

The informant is describing a piece of folklore from within the quidditch community. Quidditch is an increasingly popular sport among college students. It was originally based on the fictional sport from the harry potter novels adapted to exist without magic. The sport has now taken on a life of its own, having an official governing body in the International Quidditch Association. There is even an annual Wold Cup for the sport. This particular piece is about one of the people who runs the organization.

The Story:

So, I heard about Will Hack’s broom at the World Cup V in New York. And it was during the MSU UCLA game and, where we saw Will Hack illegally, uh, doing a lot of things illegally. And… he made a girl cry! And tackled her illegally, and was being a douchebag. The whole west had a chant going that said “Will Hack’s Broom.” And this is not a new thing. Apparently, the whole United States Quidditch League knows about it. So, and then after UCLA lost to Middlebury, a bunch of USC kids, we just what? reenacted his thing across the pitch. It was fun. Basically, instead of holding his broom upright between his legs like normally you’re supposed to do… upright? sideways? I don’t know. Normally! He has the broom dragging on the floor. Where he, it almost, he almost has it coming out of his legs. So it’s almost illegal. So I feel like it’s an ineffective way of playing quidditch. Especially since he’s one of the people who wrote the rulebook.

Will Hack

This has spawned many pieces of folklore that go with it. There is the gesture of dragging a broom which instantly identifies someone as a member of the quidditch community. There is also the chant which unifies someone as a member of the western region.

Tradition – African-American

Newlyweds jump over a broom at the end of the wedding ceremony.

At my informant’s wedding in 2004, she and her husband jumped over a broom after they were pronounced man and wife and before they walked back down the aisle.  When I asked my informant about this tradition, she said it was an African-American tradition.  She said it began during the times of slavery when slaves could not legally marry; they used jumping over the broom to signify the beginning of the unofficial marriage.  The broom my informant and her husband jumped over was a regular plain broom, but more festive, decorated brooms can also be used in this tradition.

My informant says that this tradition is primarily used by African-Americans who take pride in their historic roots.  She says both her mother and grandmother jumped over a broom at their weddings.

Annotation: Dundes, Alan. “’Jumping the Broom’: On the Origin and Meaning of an African Wedding Custom.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 109, No. 433. (Summer, 1996), pp. 324-329.

Dundes talks about popularity of “broom-jumping” among African-Americans, the variants of the “broom jumping” ceremony, and also the history of the tradition.  Dundes says there is no evidence that the “broom jumping” tradition can be traced back to Africa, but it can be traced back to the Gypsies of England and Scotland.