When we associate Halloween with broomsticks, we are usually talking about witches riding them in front of the moon at night. Japan, on the other hand, ditches the witches and leaves the broom all to itself. Today’s yokai is another tsukumogami — this time it is made from a haunted broom!
Hahakigami (箒神, ははきがみ)
Literally translated as “broom spirit,” hahakigami is not the ordinary broom that you and I use to clean the house. Long, long ago in Japan, the broom was not a tool for cleaning trash and brushing dust out of houses; it was a holy instrument used for purification. If you have ever seen a Shinto purification ceremony where they shake an ōnusa (a stick covered in strips of paper), that may be somewhat of spiritual successor (no pun intended) of this ancient broom tradition. The shaking of the ōnusa purifies the space around a shrine (and makes a beautiful sound!), and long ago a broom would be used in much the same way. Although today brooms are pretty much entirely used for cleaning dirt.
A hahakigami is not simply an animated broom, however. It has specific meaning. One is as a charm for safe childbirth. Because brooms are used to “sweep out” evil energy from the air and purify a room, the hahakigami is used as a sort of totem to “sweep out” the baby from the mother safely.
They are also supposedly charms to keep guests from overstaying their visit. Again, when someone has overstayed their welcome, you just want to “sweep them out” don’t you?
Finally, even though old Japanese brooms were not used for simply cleaning, it seems that the hahakigami does, in fact, enjoy running around chaotically on windy days in late autumn, sweeping the dead leaves around.
If you liked this yokai and want to see more, please become a backer of my Kickstarter project: The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits!