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A pitchfork is an agricultural tool with a long handle and long, thin, widely separated pointed tines (also called prongs) used to lift and pitch (throw) loose material, such as hay, leaves, grapes, dung or other agricultural materials. Pitchforks typically have from two to six tines with different lengths and spacing depending on purpose. They are usually made of steel with a long wooden handle, but may also be made from wood, wrought iron, bamboo, alloy etc. In some parts of Englandmarker a pitchfork is known as a prong and, in parts of Ireland, a sprong refers to a 4 pronged pitchfork . The pitchfork is similar to the shorter and sturdier garden fork.

The pitchfork has frequently been used as a weapon by those who couldn't afford or didn't have access to more expensive weapons such as swords, or, later, guns. As a result, pitchforks are stereotypically carried by angry mob or gangs of enraged peasants.

In Europe, the pitchfork was first used in the early Middle Ages, at about the same time as the harrow. The pitchfork was originally made entirely of wood; today, the tines are usually made of hard metal.

Symbolism, literary and artistic references

Pitching hay

Artistic usage

Arguably the most notable American artistic display of the pitchfork is in American Gothic, the painting by Grant Wood. In this painting it symbolizes hand labor. Less famous are paintings by various artists which depict a wide variety of pitchforks and other tools in use and at rest.

Political usage

Because of its association with peasantry, the pitchfork is often a populist symbol and part of the nickname of populist leaders, thus:

The Gangster Disciples, a street gang in the midwestern United States, use a three-pointed pitchfork as one of their symbols.

Religious symbolism

The pitchfork is often used in satire of Christian demonology in popular media, especially in early humorous cartoons where a popular joke was a caricature of an angel and a pitchfork-wielding devil sitting on the shoulders of the protagonist. More seriously, it bears a resemblance to the trident of the Greek god Poseidon and the Hindu god Shiva.

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