what’s that broom?

“What’s that broom for?” my six year old grandson asks, referring to the “witch’s broom” that hangs on my wall to the left of my computer table, alongside some quilted wall-hangings created by a close friend, an icon of Akuaba (a gift long ago from b!X), and a old photo of 19th century “Witches at Tea” upon which I superimposed the faces of my five close friends and myself.

“It’s a witches broom,” I tell him.

“There are no such things as witches,” he asserts.

“Well,” I say, “it’s a magic broom.”

“There’s no such thing as magic,” he again asserts.

I take the broom down from the wall and wave it around, singing Salagadoola, mitchakaboola, bibideebobbedee boo.

“Well, maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t,” I say. “How about if I try to do some magic with you.”

He hesitates. “I don’t know. What will you do?”

I stop and think a minute. What would Granny Weatherwax do?

“OK,” I say. “How’s this: I think it would be really nice if you weren’t so fidgety at the dinner table, if you could sit and relax and join in the dinner conversation instead of getting up and and walking around and then sitting down again. How about if I do some broom magic so that you could relax and we all could enjoy a quiet dinner.”

As he looks at me from his perch on the carpet-covered expensive cat-litter enclosure that sits behind my chair in the corner, I look him in the eye, wave the broom around in circles, and tell him that today he will be more relaxed at the dinner table. And I tell him that he will also have a peaceful night’s sleep.

I twirl the broom like a baton and respond to his skeptical look with a “Let’s wait and see.”

At dinner that evening, except for getting up once to go to the bathroom, he sits and converses and eats all of his dinner.

“See, I say, “my magic worked.”

“I was hungry,” he replies.

The next morning I ask him how he slept.

“I only woke up once,” he tells me.

“See,” I say. “My magic works.”

Granny Weatherwax calls it “Headology.”

Despite her power, Granny Weatherwax rarely uses magic in any immediately recognizable form. Instead, she prefers to use headology, a sort of folk-psychology which can be summed up as “if people think you’re a witch, you might as well be one”. For instance, Granny could, if she wished, curse people. However it is simpler for her to say she has cursed them, and let them assume that she is responsible for the next bit of bad luck that happens to befall them; given her reputation this tends to cause such people to flee the country entirely.

Headology bears some similarities to psychology in that it requires the user to hold a deep seated understanding of the workings of the human mind in order to be used successfully. However, headology tends to differ from psychology in that it usually involves approaching a problem from an entirely different angle.

It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a bat and a chair to stand on.

Hey, I figure. Whatever works.