"As every school-age wizard knows, the fact that we fly on broomsticks is probably our worst-kept secret. No Muggle illustration of a witch is complete without a broom and however ludicrous these drawings are (for none of the broomsticks depicted by Muggles would stay up in the air for a moment), they remind us that we were careless for far too many centuries to be surprised that broomsticks and magic are inextricably linked in the Muggle mind."
The earliest recorded use of the broomstick was in 962 in a German illustrated manuscript. Only wizards and witches appeared to use broomsticks in the wizarding world. House-elves, for example, Apparate. Broomsticks appeared to have a bit of a personality of their own, as they were able to respond to the simplest of commands, such as "Up!".
Since no spell was devised by wizards to enable them to fly (with the exception of Lord Voldemort in 1997, and Severus Snape a year later), they had to come up with another way to do so. Animagi who transformed into winged creatures enjoyed the sensation, but they were rare.
Long before the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy came into force, wizards were savvy enough to realise that Muggle neighbours would seek to exploit their abilities. Therefore, if they were to keep a method of flight in their homes, it would have to be unobtrusive and easy to hide. The broomstick was ideal — it was portable, cheap, and required no explanation. However, the first broomsticks were uncomfortable.
The first brooms
Records showed that witches and wizards in Europe were using brooms as early as AD 962. A German manuscript of this period showed three warlocks dismounting from their brooms with looks of exquisite discomfort on their faces. The first brooms bewitched were neither comfortable nor aerodynamic (they had rough twigs at the end and unvarnished handles), and in 1107 Scottish wizard Guthrie Lochrin wrote of the "splinter-filled buttocks and bulging piles" after a short ride from Montrose to Arbroath. The charms on the broom were also basic; they would move at one speed and could only go up, down, and stop. Wizard families generally constructed their own brooms, so there was a variation in speed and comfort depending on the skill of the builder. By the twelfth century, wizards began to barter services, and skilled broom-makers could trade their services for goods such as the potions of a neighbour.
Racing brooms and mass production
Until the nineteenth century, broomsticks were of varying quality, although the invention of the Cushioning Charm in 1820 by Elliot Smethwyck greatly enhanced the quality and comfort of the rides. However, they were still handmade by single wizards, and they were generally incapable of achieving high speeds and were difficult to control at high altitudes. They were also designed with styling and craftsmanship in mind, and not performance. Brooms such as the Oakshaft 79, the Moontrimmer, and the Silver Arrow all made an impact on the broom market, but were still made by single wizards and witches.
Universal Brooms Ltd was a broomstick manufacturing company which was very popular in the past, but eventually shut down due to heavy losses.
Eventually, nearly every wizarding household in Britain owned at least one broomstick. Dedicated riders kept their brooms in top condition with a Broomstick Servicing Kit. Large groups of wizards and witches could travel by broomstick without being seen by Muggles, through the use of a dose of the Disillusionment Charm. An earth-bound Muggle would then only see a slight shimmer in the night sky as broomstick riders passed overhead, which could be put down to blurred vision, sleepiness, or a trick of the light.
Instead of broomsticks, wizards in Asia and the Middle East generally preferred to use flying carpets (a notable exception being Japan), which were outlawed in Britain, where they were classified as Muggle objects.
Broomsticks had various magical spells cast on them to help with riding and flying. Over time these spells went from being simple, to being more complex in nature. For example, modern broomsticks were versatile and came with a Cushioning Charm.
When Harry fell off his Nimbus 2000, it didn't fall to the ground but instead drifted away toward the Whomping Willow, suggesting that it may have had some form of enchantment on it to keep it flying without a rider.
Harry's Firebolt, when held and then released, floated at exactly the right height for him to mount it.
Early broomsticks had only simple spells placed on them. A model on display in the Museum of Quidditch only moved forward at one speed and would move up, down, and stop.
In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it is required for one to shout, "Up!" before mounting your broom so that it can take off. While in the first video game, Harry continues to shout "Up!" to get his broom, in all other games, books, and films Quidditch players simply mount their brooms and fly away. It is possible, though, that saying "Up!" is an incantation to summon the broom, and that it is uttered nonverbally in the later books, films, and games.
At least one broomstick appears in every movie.
Although the Death Eaters use brooms to fly in the books, they are shown to have mastered flight in the films and fly in black smoke, but in the books no witch or wizard apart from Voldemort and Snape could fly, so the Death Eaters use brooms.
Culturally, Broomsticks seem to be analogous to bicycles in the muggle world. This can be seen in the variance of builds, capabilities, and incorporation into professional sports, as well as it being normal for wizarding children to have toy broomsticks, similar to how muggle children play on tricycles and other beginner-level bikes in their youth.
According to Rowling, brooms, like wands, are tools to channel magic and that the most gifted can dispense with them.
The Harry Potter Wiki has 334 images related to Broomstick.
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