There are many interesting historic and symbolic ideas connected to the ritual known as ‘Jumping the Broom.’
The story that slaves invented this ritual is common, but we now understand that it was actually a custom brought here by enslaved Africans. Historians are not in complete agreement, but most agree that Jumping the Broom dates back to before the first Europeans visited West Africa. According to the African-American Registry the broom, as a wedding symbol, originated in Ghana.
The questions is – for slaves was it used because they were not legally allowed to marry, or were they simply following their traditional customs? I’m not a historian but I’m thinking it could be a combination of these ideas. Either way it is both an act of defiance and cultural identity. I like that!
Jumping the Broom was given a big pop culture boost when it was included in Alex Haley’s “Roots,” the popular book and TV series in the late 1970’s.
What do you need to know about incorporating this custom today?
In jumping over the broom the couple physically and spiritually crosses a threshold into the land of matrimony. It marks the beginning of making a home together. It symbolizes the sweeping away of the old and the welcoming of the new; the sweeping away of all negative energy, making way for all things that are good to come into your lives. It is also a call of support for the marriage from the entire community of family and friends. You might say they begin their new life together with a clean sweep! It does not, in our modern world, represent the woman’s agreement to clean the house!
Sometimes couples create their own brooms, or you can purchase a decorated broom ready-made. The brooms are usually outfitted with silk ribbons, fresh or silk flowers, bows, beads and more.
You don’t have to be African-American – you might be Caribbean, or from other countries where people of color wound up after the African diaspora and Middle Passage when Africans were stolen and taken to many places
I recently officiated for a bride and groom from Jamaica and Barbados where Christian traditions and ancestral rites from Africa blended a bit more harmoniously and they were excited to jump the broom.
If you are not African or African-American, can you Jump the Broom? Some people feel it is offense and that cultural appropriation – the borrowing customs from another culture and using them – is disrespectful. Others disagree and feel it is a way to honor and respect another culture, by sharing their rituals, symbols or styles. I can’t answer that question for you, but I do feel when something is done with a spirit of love and respect it can’t be too bad.
Interestingly broom jumping is also practiced by other groups and in different religions around the world with variations. Wiccans and Gypsies are among some of the groups who developed their own broom-jumping tradition. I love how diverse groups have come up with similar symbols, whether they borrowed from another culture, or come up with them on their own. The Irish have a tradition of jumping over an oak branch. There are many shared and universal symbols. Rings, for example, are used in almost every culture, religion and tradition. I recently wrote about the universality of circles.
Before marriage equality became the law of the land, giving marriage rights to all couples, I had a straight couple who chose to Jump the Broom as a statement of support for same-sex couples. It was a powerful part of their ceremony, and as in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”
Jumping the Broom is a joyous ritual and I love putting it at the end of the ceremony and seeing the couple jump into their new life together as a married couple!
Thank you Garth Woods and weareforeachother.com