In the 2017 TV Series, Broomsticks have a cloaking spell so that non-magical people cannot see the Broom and its rider.
Flying Broomsticks were invented by Edna Farthingwand. Before Edna, witches used whatever was sitting around to fly on. Legened has it that Edna was sweeping up one day when a rival witch attacked her with a thunderbolt. Edna leapt into the air to avoid it, and enchanted her broom to escape. She found that the broomstick was good for flying, and the idea caught on.
The spell for enchanting Broomsticks to fly is taught in the fourth year at Cackle's Academy. The spell can be used turn any kind of brush into a flying object; you just have to get the measurements right for the spell to work. Mildred, Maud and Enid use the spell on toothbrushes, yard-brooms, a dustpan and brush, a hairbrush and even a feather duster. If the spell is not de-activated, anyone can use the broom or object, even if they are not a witch or wizard.
Flying a Broomstick
To ride a broom, you first order the broom to hover, and it hovers lengthways above the ground. Then you sit on it, give it a sharp tap, and away you fly. Once in the air you can make the broom do almost anything by saying, ‘Right! Left! Stop! Down a bit!’ and so on. The difficult part is balancing; if you lean a little too far to one side you could easily overbalance, in which case you would either fall off or find yourself hanging upside-down and then you would just have to hold on with your skirt over your head until a friend came to your rescue.
It took Mildred several weeks of falling off and crashing before she could ride her broomstick reasonably well, and even then she isn't that good at it.
BehaviourWhen broomsticks are near the water their magic powers are far less efficient- they don’t work so brilliantly when their magic is damp. For this reason it is difficult to keep a broomstick stable directly above water. However, if the broomstick is hovering a good few feet above the waves, it will be strong enough to pull you along behind on water-skis, a sport called Broomstick water-skiing.
Magic broomsticks that are owned by one person for a very long time (Miss Hardbroom had hers for twenty-five years) develop a strange kind of intuition about their owners. In the same way that a dog will stand at the front door and wag its tail when its master is getting off a bus at the end of the street, a broomstick can sometimes sense that its owner is nearby, and if the owner is in trouble, that sense is even more acute. In such cases a broomstick is able to locate and fly to its owner. Miss Hardbroom's broomstick does this in The Worst Witch All at Sea (book), and The Dragon's Hoard (TV)
In the 1998 TV series and The New Worst Witch, students at Cackle's Academy must pass the Broomstick Aptitude Test in their first term in order to continue at the Academy. Mildred only just passes the test, and Sybil Hallow also struggled, with Ethel being asked to tutor her sister. Henrietta Hubble passed her Broomstick Aptitude Test, but her friend Cressie needed some help as she wasn't feeling confident.
In the books and 2017 TV Series, the Broomstick Proficiency Test (BPT) is taken outside of school, prior to or during a witch's education. Maud took her Broomstick Proficiency Test prior to starting at Cackle's, and her parents bought her her first broomstick for passing the test. Mildred took her Broomstick Proficiency Test in the summer holidays between her second and third year, and also received a new broom from her mother, though it was broken shortly into the term, ending up with tape around it like her first one.
In the episode 'Miss Softbroom', The first years are studying for their Broomstick Attainment Tests, or BATs.
- In the original series, only witches rode on brooms while in the 2017 both witches and wizards fly on brooms.
Behind the Scenes
When making the 2017 TV Series, the flying sequences proved to be the biggest challenge to bring to the screen. This was made slightly more complicated by the fact that in the books everyone rides a broom side saddle and it was something both Jill and the production team were very keen to preserve. Riding side saddle presents two unique problems, firstly one of balance and profile, as unlike a horse a broomstick is only five centimetres wide.
Turning to the right, or the side your legs are on, is much harder than turning to the left, both in terms of how tight a corner and the speed at which it can be done. The solution was to think of the flying as you would riding dressage on a horse. They had different broomstick rigs built to accommodate different flying requirements, each was fitted with a small seat and a foot rest for comfort and to help maintain a pleasing flying style.
Anyone who has read The Worst Witch books will also know that the cats ride on the back of the brooms. Initially they thought to solve this problem with animatronic cats but in the end opted to use real cats filmed against green screen and added onto the brooms in post. It gave more performance variety than they could have had with animatronic cats.