Helping the besom kami move into their new homes

I wrote earlier about how spirits can move into new vessels, even before the expiration of their old bodies. I wanted to record the process of migrating the kami of my old brooms into my new broomcorn besoms. Maybe this this record will be of use to someone, or at least be of interest.

Weather Wheel Pillar Waltz” by Joe Hisaishi


The besoms arrived the other day. The old synthetic broom and duster have been long expecting this. They accepted it sadly but gracefully, and—I didn’t want to discard them, just like that, so I endeavoured to see if we could migrate their kami to the new besoms. We’d do it right away, before using the new ones, so they wouldn’t start living their own experiences.

Lustration came first. Though a simple quick shower does work, it’s best to take your time to bathe yourself properly. I physically can get very clean very quickly, but mental cleanliness takes time. One has to shed the extraneous thoughts and anxieties of the day, discard any unnecessary thoughts, and locate oneself in a proper, present, clean state of mind. So it’s a washing of thoughts, too. Plus, it’s better for one’s hair if you take the time to condition it properly.

After lustration, vestments! Or what one has for vestments. I’m so grateful I have a special white Japanese blouse for this—my boyfriend had gotten it for me—but now it’s getting much too tight around the arms. That’s what I get for buffing up! So I’m looking to get a new white silk robe… I would like a proper white furisode and red hakama, actually. But I don’t want to cosplay as a miko or priest, I want something, for lack of a better term, “authentic”. There isn’t a jinja nearby I can go to work at and get a genuine set of vestments from, and the imperialised Meiji State Shintou declawed the miko to render them as auxiliary labourers, so I’m actually not very excited by getting “official” vestments that have the imprimatur of a modern jinja.

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The ritual. Ah. After lustration, properly cleansed, I made hot green tea to steep, then moved to clean the old broom and handbroom as best as I could. Though the items themselves are of low quality, they still need to be treated with respect, and gratitude for the service they have given me. I washed my hands after cleaning them, and served the tea in my special shibui meoto yunomi (“married teacups”) that I reserve for communion with spirits. The cups are actually from Manitou Springs, Colorado—a local firefighter makes them as a hobby.

I toasted the larger husband teacup to the besom and drank to share the tea with it, then the smaller wife cup to the handbesom and drank the same. With that done, I brought my ceremonial compact mirror assist in the kami’s transition from one item to the next. (I like compacts for this kind of work because it’s harder for them to get inside if the lid is shut. If you’re mean you can actually trap kami in a compact…)

The compact mirror served a second purpose: I showed the kami their new bodies, holding their old one behind their new one and presenting them with their reflection. It’s possible to do this with any kind of mirror, but the compact offers a closer, more intimate inspection. After all, it’s their new body. They already have a general idea of what the item looks like—they’ve seen it—but a compact or other magnifying mirror really allows for the appreciation of finer details.

The migration complete, it was time to part with the old bodies. Ideally, we’d either repurpose some or all of the old parts, or burn them with the new besoms present at this funereal cremation. The ash would be put to good use in the garden—ash has many uses, from polishing silver to dustbathing chickens to annealing steel (blacksmith’s ash bucket!)—but nothing good comes from burning plastic. So I had to send the old bodies rather unceremoniously to the dumpster. I didn’t bring the besoms with me, it just wasn’t a good sight at all.

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It was difficult for me to leave, after I had discarded the old brooms. There was nothing in them now, and they were just empty shells. I know most people would see them simply as “just garbage”, and indeed, right now, they were just garbage. But going through such ceremonies makes one appreciative of all the labours and energies that went into making even the most unassuming of household objects, be it the earth and sun growing the broomcorn, the men harvesting and working the wood, or the carefully managed industrial manufacturing of plastics. One hopes that the plastics and synthetic fibres can be recycled somehow. I felt a distinct ending of life—not the transience that we all must face, but a distinct breaking of a chain or cycle. Others can easily imagine piles of trash in landfills, floating in the ocean, but… it’s not just “pollution”, where something dirty just has to be cleaned, regardless of how labourious. But a disruption. It’s as if the water didn’t come back from the sky, and it never rained anymore.

I lingered at the dumpster and left with a heavy feeling, but my heart was quickly lifted when I used the new besoms for the first time. We were all so excited and impressed. The kitchen besom was heavier, but felt better balanced and thus easier to use… And the turkeywing besom’s expansive shape and contours make cleaning corners and dustpan gathering so much faster. She was so thrilled at her new curves and larger size. And the kitchen besom loved her bell-shaped base and red fibres.

The materials and design of the broomcorn besoms make cleaning significantly faster and easier—it takes me less than half the time to clean the same area now!—, and it’s actually fun to sweep now. I actually come by to pet both besoms now… Something you would never think to do with poor quality, filthy synthetic broom. It’s the difference between slicing a steak with a sharp knife and spoon. Sure, the taste of the food isn’t really affected either way, but one tool definitely enhances the eating experience whilst the other just makes it a chore!

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