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A very common trope in witchcraft-themed fictional narratives is the iconic Magic Broom, a magical object made from wood and straw to fly and serve as a vehicle for witches. Witches generally fly with the broom between their legs, although sometimes women fly sitting sideways with both legs together (some men do too, but so far I've seen more women riding the broom like this, like riding a horse in sidesaddle form). That said, I ask: What would it be like to ride a broom? Because the broom stays in the air (except when it goes up), but your body, according to the laws of physics, tends to go down. It's like sitting on the handrail of a ladder with your legs spread and the handrail between them. It shouldn't be very comfortable, especially for a man.

Note: with no answers involving magic used on the witch or person who will ride the broom, the only magic allowed is the one that makes the broom fly and does not break under the weight of a human being on it. Also no saddles or anything that makes the broom more motorcycle-like, the point is a broom that is true to its broom design. My question is whether it would be comfortable, whether it would hurt, etc... Not about how riding a broom.

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    $\begingroup$ the practical witch might tend to use layered and padded underwear. which would also be useful to protect against the cold, rushing air at high speeds. as for how it would feel: try it for yourself by sitting on a fence. $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ No an answer, but it probably is appropriate to point out that (patchy) historical evidence suggests that the besom's handle (or a similar rod) was used to apply hallucinogenic ointment to the mucosa of the vagina and/or anus for transdermal absorption. In other words, they did not actually fly, only believed that they did. (Thankfully that part has not made it into Harry Potter...) $\endgroup$
    – frIT
    Nov 22 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ I actually had to try riding a broomstick when I read this question. It is indeed very uncomfortable, especially in the gender-nonspecific parts (an educated guess tells me that female parts would suffer quite a bit, whereas my male parts weren't in contact with the broomstick). I also concluded that the flying magic should be supplemented with magic which prevents the broomstick from spinning sideways, lest you fall off. $\endgroup$
    – gustafc
    Nov 22 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @gustafc thinking of bike saddles and tree branches, an unusually thick handle would be enough. Perhaps a magical enhancement of thickness both for strength and comfort, while it still looks thin and the weight isn't increased $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 22 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ especially for a man? It could be more uncomfortable for women, because parts can't be pushed to one side - they are where they are, and I expect are no less sensitive (no empirical data). $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Nov 23 at 5:57

14 Answers 14

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Perfectly comfortable, since witches weigh very little

It's widely known that witches weigh as much as ducks. And ducks are already very light creatures, to allow flight, with adults weighing up to 3.5 kg.

The discomfort from riding a broom is due to the pressure of an adult's weight over the few square centimeters of area the person is sitting on. A witch is at least 15 times lighter than normal humans, and therefore can sit on a broom with no discomfort, even when carrying additional accessories, pouches, and a familiar.

This is also why they have to tightly hold the broom while flying, otherwise they'll be blown away by the wind.

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    $\begingroup$ Who are you, who is so wise in the ways of science? $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ Weighing as much as a duck would also help them minimize injury for the times when they fall off their broom, since their terminal velocity would be much lower than a normal person's. $\endgroup$
    – Martin
    Nov 23 at 21:31
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Like riding a skateboard.

Most witches ride a broom with one foot in front of the other, standing atop the broom. Young witches often go barefoot and might hold their arms out to the side for balance. Occasional witches ride with feet at right angles to the stick, and look sideways over their shoulders.
Old witches nod and smile, and stand on their brooms wearing their clunky shoes, arms folded in front or behind them.

Images drawn of witches sitting on brooms are drawn by ignant people. Sure you could do that, but it would be uncomfortable.

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    $\begingroup$ Granny Weatherwax thoroughly approves of standing with arms folded defiantly and most definitely wearing boots. And three pairs of socks. sniff Don't hold with all this barefooted nonsense. Arms flailing about like a vulture in distress. Undignified. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 22 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ It is the same with Chinese XianXia (magical martial-artists who fight demons) who ride their swords the same way one rides a skateboard $\endgroup$
    – Faito Dayo
    Nov 23 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ @FaitoDayo Now I imagine a person riding a sword the 'common' broom riding way. even sitting on the flat side would slice open both tights. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Nov 23 at 12:36
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Witches don't actually ride on the broom as your would ride you stick-horse or motorbike, their weight is not exerting any pressure on the broom.

They use the broom:

  1. as a conduit for the magic power that allows them to fly
  2. as a way to control their flight course and manage the acceleration while in air

Even a rotten heirloom broom stick with barely any mechanical strength, passed down the generations, from the witch-mother to their witch-daughter, is good. It's even better than a newer one, since the magic veins (allowing the magic to flow) of the old ones are already formed and fined tuned for the purpose.

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Slide back until you're seated comfortably on the cushion of bristles.

I just experimented with a broom in my garage, and, by sitting on the upper end of the bristles, was able to balance easily on a rail.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Well, I guess there's no point me offering the exact same answer now. Have a +1 :P $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Nov 23 at 1:28
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in an old crone's cackling voice

Comfort? This is magic, the absolute subjugation of physical laws by indominable will power. It is technically impossible, yet it happens because the caster demands it to. It is pure misery to push a human mind that hard, yet you're troubled about having to rest your delicate parts on a hard wooden staff. I bet you brew your curses in an aluminum caldron because cast iron is too heavy and tough to clean.

I'm seriously worried about this next generation of witches and warlocks we're raising. They are too soft to survive.

Okay, let's get back to the basics...

Every spell requires a power source. Not surprisingly, the ecstatic sensation of flying draws from the ultimate ecstatic realm of the erotic. Hard wood between legs... it's pretty obvious symbolism. If it hurts a little while getting airborne, that only contributes to the metaphor. Once things get off the ground, there's plenty to distract you from any minor discomfort. The broom and its rider, soaring ever higher to reach new heights.

So in answer to your question, yes, brooms are uncomfortable... but it won't bother you near as much as you fear it will, once you get used to it.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Kinky if I'm allowed to say so. Does age have anything to bear to the satisfaction of the flight, only is it only the stiffness and playfulness? $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 4:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi, witches' brooms have always been a sex thing, in the old wood cuts they're sometimes flown with bristles forward, sometimes bristles down. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Nov 22 at 10:04
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Hanging upside down, screaming for help.

Most witches know about the other magic required for a broomstick besides just flying, the magic that gives you some invisible seat, but occasionally a young witch is self-taught for some reason and tries to use a broomstick flying spell without any extra spells. She inevitably ends up hanging upside down from the broomstick, screaming for help.

Broomsticks are narrow and round. The roundness means there's nothing to stop them from rotating (or, more precisely, you from rotating around the broomstick) except for friction. The narrowness means that there isn't that much friction available. The center of mass of a human is generally somewhere above what you sit on a broomstick with. If you're very careful and don't make any sudden movements it's possible (just barely) to keep your balance by keeping your center of mass directly above the broomstick. But the first solid gust of wind that comes along, gravity will take over, your center of mass will go downward, and you just spin around the broomstick until you're hanging upside down, holding on for dear life, hoping there is someone nearby who can get you a ladder. (You could try to land upside down, but really since you never fly without the seat spells twice the people who find themselves in this predicament aren't exactly skilled fliers who can navigate under upside down circumstances.)

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    $\begingroup$ As amazing as this answer is, evidently you haven't seen the woman who dances on a single stick of bamboo in a river. youtube.com/watch?v=UV8V5y3w0Nc Yes, she has a balance pole, but that doesn't rule out the bamboo from rotating under her. $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @computercarguy I'm really amazed that the bamboo doesn't rotate under her way more, honestly. I did a log rolling class and not only were we using a gigantic plastic log, they even had paddles strapped to it so that it rolled much more slowly and it was still hard! But they even show her falling. I stand by my assertion that while it is technically possible to just keep your center of mass over top of the broomstick, in practice you're going to end up dangling upside down on a regular basis, especially if you want to ride the thing on a "dark and stormy night". $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you to a limited extent. There are ways to fly the broom that would allow you to effectively get back on top of the broom, such as a barrel roll type tactic, and those would likely be taught to witches for when they do get blown around their broom. Kayakers are taught how to right themselves so they don't drown when they flip, so I'd imagine the same things being taught for broom flying. Gymnastics and wire walking also show how broom riding is possible without a seat. BTW, I definitely enjoy how your answer and comment produce visuals in my head of the situations you describe. $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @computercarguy the difference is that in rolling a kayak we have water to push against We're also buoyant in water, which can help you to body roll (no paddle, not even pushing against the water with your hands) - something I've managed in the past but never mastered . Air is much softer and more compressible, so you'd either need a lot of area (a wing) a lot of speed, or magic $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 23 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi from the Q "the only magic allowed is the one that makes the broom fly and does not break under the weight of a human being on it". Does magic to keep the witch upright on the broom count as making it fly? Maybe, maybe not. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 24 at 8:23
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Two Legs on Same Side.

This is the more comfortable and common way to ride the broom. The misconception that witches ride with one leg on either side (straddling) is because (a) they do this on takeoff and landing for extra stability and this is when they are most visible and (b) It is sexually suggestive and sex sells.

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    $\begingroup$ Both legs on the same side is called sidesaddle, and is not exactly an uncommon illustration. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Nov 23 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ Straddling the broom would make landing more, not less, difficult. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 at 11:36
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There is a technique for crawling along a narrow pole or rope - you lie down flat and hang one leg down. That lowers your centre of gravity below the rope, making you stable.

Person crawling along a rope

If there's no magic in use other than that making the broom fly, this technique would allow you to stay on top of the broom, and spread your weight enough that's not painful. It's fairly aerodynamic too!

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    $\begingroup$ While reading the His Dark Materials trilogy I used to picture witches flying like this. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 at 16:36
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Just attach a bicycle seat to the broom.


Bicycles have a similar build to a broom; most of their mass is made of thin tubes. A bicycle seat, while not necessarily comfortable, is much better than riding on the bare tube itself.

Also, you could attach stirrups to the broom as well, to hold the rider's feet in place, and possibly even increase the rider's control of the broom.

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    $\begingroup$ In other words, see several Harry Potter movies... $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Nov 22 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ Although the OP specified that it needed to be done without design changes like adding saddles... $\endgroup$
    – colmde
    Nov 23 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ I rode a "real" road bike once. The seat was "concrete". Not in quality, neither in weight. In the "comfort and cushioning" department. I'd say it was even harder than a softwood broom handle would be. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 at 12:36
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It is a common misconception that the broom is providing lift. Witches fly by casting spells. However, to sustain flight, they need a focus object, so their spell doesn't fizzle out, crashing the witch to the ground. Brooms just happen to be the best focus object for the flight spell.

Since it's the witches providing the lift, there is hardly any pressure between the broom and the spot between the legs of a witch.

Young Californian witches are sometimes spotted to ride their brooms while standing on them.

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Like 0G.

The witch's weight does not rest on the broom. It is the witch that holds the broom's weight.

The broom is just an instrument that helps the mind focus its magic, akin to the wand of a fairy godmother or the staff of a mage. Where she points the broom she goes. The more experienced crones are able to fly using other paraphernalia, without the need for something pointy - Baba Yaga is famous for flying in a mortar, and I remember something about Nanny Ogg flying naked in a bathtub.

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It would be very painful...

Sitting atop a narrow wooden bar while experiencing the g-forces of flight... ouch! Other than that, if you've ever sat on a bar before, you'll know the only thing keeping you from swinging sideways is your ability to grip the bar. You need to tightly grip it either with your hands or thighs to prevent yourself from rolling sideways. It will be tiring to both your legs and hands, even more than horseback riding, since the thing you're griping is a narrow wooden bar.

Speaking of rolling sideways, there needs to be some magical force preventing the broom from spinning or riding the broom will be like log-rolling down a river. Without any second force preventing the broom from rotating, there is no chance for the witch to stay atop the broom, the slightest imbalance will cause the witches center of gravity to skew off center, which will immediately tip them over. Flying upside-down is also very painful, the blood rushing to your head will cause head-aches and even make you pass out after a few minutes.

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Some bicycle saddles are very narrow and unpadded.

To be fair they are only comfortable (somewhat) because most of the rider’s weight is borne by the legs and arms.

Still, sitting on a stick of similar diameter would be entirely possible without damaging your genitalia.

For added comfort you’d shape it, add stirrups, add arm-rests etc.

enter image description here

Tune Speed Needle

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Flying on a single broom is very uncomfortable... So they prefer to fly on top of a raft made of brooms

Nothing prevents a witch from using more than one broom to fly. So they could tie more brooms together to build a vehicle that is more balanced and comfortable to sit on

Of course, if a witch wants to ride a single broom, in order to have a better balance and avoid rolling, I think they would ride it with the back downside, with the legs crossed around the rod (like people crossing a river on a rope)

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