Jumping the broom

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The practice of having couples "jump the broom" during wedding ceremonies is both an African American custom as well as a neo-pagan custom.

In contrast to many West African traditions recognized and included in African American wedding ceremonies, the practice of "jumping the broom" is a wholly American addition that developed out of the institution of African slavery in the United States. Shortly after the introduction of slavery to the country, the right to legal marriage was taken away from the enslaved. Slaveholders considered the Africans property, and as property, they had no rights in the eyes of the law. The owners also feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals were important events to the Africans who came from numerous richly ceremonial cultures. When faced with the loss of the right to marry, many, ingrained with the significance of the marriage since childhood, created new rituals with what was on hand. Taking vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Incorporating "jumping the broom" into modern weddings is just one way African Americans today celebrate their cultural heritage.

Neo-pagans have borrowed this simple practice from the African American community, and have incorporated it into their handfastings. Many pagans, as well as non-pagans, now associate "jumping the broom" with pagan handfastings. For pagans not of African American decent, including a broom in the ceremony is appropriate. The broom represents a threshold. The handfasted couple, although still individuals, begin a new life together. Jumping over the broom represents crossing this threshold into new territory, a life vitally connected to another?s. The leap that the couple takes over the broom is also symbolic. Starting a new life with another person does require a "leap of faith". But by taking the leap, the individuals make a gesture of dedication to working together through the tough times ahead. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. The broom also holds other significance specific to Neo-pagan and Wiccan beliefs.