Witch’s Broom: A History, Uses & How to Make a Besom
Witches are nearly always depicted with their trusty broomsticks. Brooms, also called besoms, have a long history in magic and continue to be used by witches today. Here we discuss witch broom history, magical uses and how to make a besom yourself.
Why Do Witches Use Brooms? A Sweeping History
For as long as there have been witches, witches have used brooms. But why? In the Dark Ages, many women were accused of witchcraft…and a broom was a household tool women used on a daily basis. The earliest depiction of a witch flying on a broom is a mural of the goddess Frigga in the Cathedral Schleswig, Germany (pictured below) dating to the late thirteenth century.
In Witch Trial documents, witches who “confessed” to witchcraft admitted to using their brooms to fly to their sabbaths. Guillame Adeline, a French male witch in the fifteenth century, confessed to flying on a broomstick to the witches’ sabbat. In addition to the idea of witches “flying” on their broomsticks, witches were said to also dance with them around the ritual fire. The infamous Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie confessed to using a broomstick in a clever way: she’d place it in the bed so as to trick her husband into thinking it was her while she was out and about at night.
The Broom As a Fertility Tool
The broom is indeed a phallic symbol, but according to Judika Illes, it’s both male and female. The stick is the male of which is inserted into the twigs/plant matter, which is representative of the female. Interestingly, a slang term for a dildo centuries ago was a “broomstick”. And to have intercourse it was said you were “riding the broomstick.” Some traditions claim witches anointed their broomsticks with flying ointments and inserted the broomstick into their vaginas. This topical ointment contained hallucinogens which resulted in witches visions of “flying” or potential astral projection. This could also be the origin of the phrase getting “high”.
The broom as a male and female symbol may also have given rise to it as a fertility symbol. In one town in England, a broomstick sat atop the Maypole, to be danced around on May Day ensuring fertility. Some folks also jumped the broomstick on May Day to ensure fertility. In England, a common law marriage could be sealed by the couple jumping the broomstick. This is a tradition that was also common with slaves in the American South and is becoming a popular wedding tradition among African Americans and pagans today.
Magical Uses for the Witch Broom
Aside from flying ointments, the witch broom has one main magical purpose – to purify. Physically, we use brooms to sweep away dirt and debris. Magically, we use brooms to sweep away negative energy in our home and sacred space. Some traditions require a witch’s broom to be dedicated solely to magical cleansing, whereas another broom is used for house cleaning. In American folk magic, the same broom is used for house cleaning AND purifying a space. The witch’s broom can be used to cleanse your space, your home, and even a person or object of negative energy. In addition, the witch’s besom will function as a wand and brings prosperity and peace in one’s home.
You should NEVER sweep on a Monday, else you sweep all your money away! Also, never sweep at night, lest you disturb the spirits who walk the floors while a home’s human inhabitants sleep. ~ Scott Cunningham, The Magical Household
How to Use the Witch’s Broom to Cleanse Your Home
To cleanse your home of negative energy, take your witch’s broom and start at the back door. Sweep each room, moving in a counter-clockwise fashion from room-to-room, then ending at the back door where you started. Sweep any debris out the back door OR dump your dustpan out the back door. To dump or sweep dirt out the front door invites negative energy back in. According to Scott Cunningham, when you acquire a new broom, the first use should sweep something positive into your home. Old English traditions call for salt to be laid down on the floor then swept up. This absorbs and sweeps away evil spirits.
How to Cleanse Your Sacred Space with a Besom
Similar to how you cleanse your home with the witch’s broom, you can cleanse your sacred space before ritual. Instead of touching the bristles to the floor, sweep slightly above it and move in a counterclockwise, circular pattern. Counterclockwise “un-does” things AND clears negative energy. If you dedicate one besom to your magical practice, keep it near your altar.
Pro Witch Tip: Keep your witch’s broom bristles pointed up and next to the front door to welcome good fortune into the home.
Old Witch’s Broom Magic and Lore:
- Hide your brooms on Walpurgis Night, lest another witch come along and use it to fly to the sabbath
- Hang a cinnamon broom above the door during the Autumn season to sweep away bad luck and welcome prosperity
- If your broomstick falls over, company is coming
- Jumping over a broom signified marital union in the Old South and in England
- Never sweep under someone’s feet, it causes bad luck
- An “invisible broom” was removed from the house of Sarah Good, according to the testimony of William Batten and William Shaw during the Salem Witch Trials
- Some traditions say to sweep from west to east then throw the dust out the back door
- The witch’s broom is used to summon winds for weather magic – throwing a broom into the air off a cliff summons the wind while burning one stops the wind
- Witches shake a wet broom above their heads to summon storms
- Lay a broom under the bed for protection (or a small broom under a baby’s pillow)
- There’s a Chinese broom goddess who presides over the weather – her name is Sao Ch’ing Niang
- The child’s antique toy hobby horse is linked to the witch’s broom
- The straws of a broom are thought to have magical powers and are used in healing spells
- Jumping over a broomstick 9 times will bring a suitable spouse within one year
- Laying a broomstick across the threshold ensures only good visitors come by
- Decorate your besom for each sabbat including Samhain and Yule
Plants and Herbs That Make A Broom
Certain types of wood and plants have traditionally been used to make brooms for centuries. A professional broom maker is called a broom squire. Broom squires were prone to using specific native plants and trees in their area. Traditionally, in Germanic lands, a bundle of birch twigs was bound with willow wands around a young ash branch. They were also made of broom plant, heather, forsythia, hawthorn and pussy willow. But writer Linda Raedisch claims it’s bad luck to make a witch’s broom out of rowan or elder. Elder is home to spirits including witches, goddesses, and fairies. Cutting one down without permission invites misfortune.
How to Make a Besom
Learning how to make a besom isn’t difficult. It’s best to collect the supplies from your own garden or a natural place like the forest or fields. Ask the plant or tree’s permission before taking a cutting. I recommend using branches that have already fallen to the forest floor.
What you need to make a besom:
- A branch or stick between 1/2 and 1 1/2″ in diameter, approx. 3-4 ft long (serves as the handle – should be relatively straight unless you want a crooked besom. Sand the stick down if you prefer a smooth handle)
- Plant material such as lavender, rosemary, broom, rue, cedar, pine, heather, pepper tree (this will be the bristle part of the besom)
- Raffia or twine (approx 3 ft in length)
- Hot glue and glue gun
- Accessories (optional): charms, pendants, ribbons, etc. (to personalize/decorate your besom at the end)
How to Make Your Besom:
- Gather your materials.
- Set the mood with incense and music.
- Start by tying the raffia/twine around the bottom of the stick a few times, hot gluing it in place, and leaving the ends loose to tie around the plant material.
- Take 5 or 6 pieces of plant material (or more) and place it circularly around the stick, then wind the raffia/twine around it a few times (use the hot glue to adhere the raffia/twine to the plant material). During the process, visualize purification in the form of white light radiating from your besom stick and bristles.
- Then repeat the last step by placing more plant material over the others and then tying the raffia/twine around it.
- Repeat until you feel your besom’s bristles are full enough. Then push the loose raffia/twine under the last few loops and tie it tight. You can hot glue the raffia down again, if you’d like.
- Now decorate your besom with ribbon and charms, if you feel called to do so.
- Hold the besom between your hands and close your eyes. Visualize using the besom for purifying your sacred space and dedicate the besom in the name of your god/ancestors/universe, etc.