Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jumping the Broom

Jumping the broom is an historical ritual with Celtic roots. Like many traditions, exactly how and where it started is brought into question. Some say it started with the Romani Gypsy people living in Wales and others say it originated with the Welsh people themselves. Today variations of this ritual are practiced by Welsh, Celtics and Druids as well as the nomadic Romani. In fact, the earliest mention of this tradition is tied to the Romani and dates back to the 18th century. Today, common-law broomstick weddings are still practiced in some parts of Wales as a centuries-old custom called priodas coes ysgub.

Along with this heritage, some say jumping the broom comes from an African marriage ritual which was practiced in the U.S. during the days of slavery when blacks weren't allowed to marry. However, others attribute this as a practice taken from the whites. Either way, secret ceremonies were held as black couples committed themselves to each other by stepping over a broomstick in front of family and friends.

Now the tradition is practiced as a folk tradition in various parts of the world from Eastern Europe to the Americas.

A Besom Broom Used for Broom Jumping

The type of broom used in these ceremonies was besom brooms constructed by tying twigs or straw together against a strong rod or stick. Back in the 18th century, brooms were found just inside the door to every home with bristles up to ward off evil spirits and to protect the home and all who lived there. Sometimes it was hung over the door with the bristles facing opening of the door for good luck. It was considered one of the first lines of defense for the homemaker.

Today, jumping the broom is thought to represent the couple entering a new life together, and sweeping away their single lives including former problems and concerns.

Jumping the Broom Variations

While we can dispute where and how jumping the broom started, I'd rather focus on variations of the practice as wedding planners have started to include the custom today. Jumping the broom can take place at the church, the reception, the couples' new home, and is often included in neo-pagan unions, too.

  • Place the broom at an angle by the rear door of the church. 
  • Groom jumps first, followed by the bride.
  • Broom laid on floor and couple jumps over it hand-in-hand as high as they can.
  • Broom laid in the entryway to the new home with bride and groom taking turns jumping over it. (Another variation of this one is for the groom to carry his bride over the broom into their new home.)

Another old custom involves the couple jumping over a crossed broom and sword held by the best man and the maid of honor. This practice represents cutting of ties to parents and the ties being swept away as the couple crosses a new threshold to start a new life together.

Some who want to eliminate the broom because of its Wiccan associations may choose to step over a sword instead of a broom.

Photo credits: wikipedia, wikimedia

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

German Bridal Cup Tradition

The legend of the Nurnberg Bridal Cup is centuries old. It is said to have started in Nurnberg, Germany, where a wealthy nobleman lived with his daughter, the Mistress Kunigunde. She fell in love with a young goldsmith who was an ambitious sort. The wealthy nobleman didn't approve of the relationship and he and his daughter were at odds, for her heart was set on the goldsmith and no other for her husband. As a result, one by one she refused many rich suitors who asked for her hand in marriage.

The daughter's behavior enraged her father and so he had the young goldsmith thrown into the darkest dungeon. His daughter cried and cried, but he would not be swayed by her tears. To the nobleman's dismay, imprisoning the young goldsmith in the dark dungeon did not stay her love for the young man. Her broken heart started to show in her pale pallor which grew worse day by day.

Finally, at his wits end, the nobleman reluctantly came up with a proposal. He said, "If your goldsmith can make a chalice from which two people can drink at the same time without spilling a single drop, I will free him and you shall become his bride."

Of course when he thought up the challenge, he thought it an impossible task, but the young goldsmith was motivated by love. He mustered all his skill and crafted a masterpiece. He sculpted a young maiden with a smile as beautiful as that of Mistress Kunigunde. The skirt worn by this damsel was hollow and served as one cup. The second was a bucket which the girl carried over head with extended arms. It was crafted to swivel and so two people could drink from the cup without spilling a drop.

The goldsmith met the challenge. He and the nobleman's daughter were joined in marriage and were said to drink from the romantic bridal cup. Today the bridal cup remains a prized wedding tradition with the cup a symbol of good luck, love and faithfulness.

Photo credits: Amazon